First of all, I wasn’t planning on doing this. Secondly, it IS just preseason, so any hype and hope and heaped praise I latch onto these topics, you’ve got to remember it is just preseason. I’m excited to have football back, and I’m excited with the change in culture in Washington, so I’m excited about how guys perform right now, no matter if they’re facing first or second team guys.
My initial thought after the game: damn that looked like an actual team out there. I didn’t see much of anyone exposing their own weaknesses and leaving teammates hanging out to dry (except from the safety position, which I’ll get to later). I was astonished at how well both lines clicked… especially the defensive line (they worked tremendously with the linebackers). And it’s nice seeing a QB come into the same system with some familiar faces and work the field the way the coordinator likes seeing it done.
QB – Grossman played his ass off… whether it was 1st team without Polamalu, or second team with nobody familiar (keep in mind that which you’re not familiar with is often your greatest enemy). Grossman was accurate, and though he didn’t put up TD’s every redzone trip, he did find a way to not make critical mistakes trying to force the ball into the endzone (bar the dropped INT at the 3 before the TD pass to Moss). Segway: That TD play was absolutely everything you want out of a quarterback… it gets him in trouble, but Grossman’s gunslinger mentality can be extremely beneficial in situations like that. Defenders are taught to abandon the pass on low snaps because QB’s tend to bring their eyes down and won’t make plays. Grossman not only kept his eyes up off of the bad snap, but he was aware enough to find his second target in his progression for a TD. If Grossman has that, along with the rest of his 1st half performance, for even 10 games this season… we’re in a phenomenal position to win some games. Clemens didn’t stand out much to me at all, but I can say I was pleased with how quickly he’s picked up some of the offense in such a short period of time, and drops aren’t his fault.
HB – Hightower is everything I advertised on Twitter after the acquisition. He’s deceptively quick and shifty, but he runs with force and power on top of that speed. His pass-blocking and receiving are an attribute as well… he can definitely be the guy on 3rd down. If Torain makes this team and comes back healthy and building on last season… they’re a nearly identical style of running, so you don’t miss a beat. Royster performed well in pass-pro, and he made some very good runs at times, though he seemed less willing to be a one-cut back, but in the first preseason game, I think he was just having fun back on the field. The limited action from Helu showed some good decision-making on his cuts, and he finished runs strong as well. Overall, I like what we have at the position… a lot of youth, a lot of power, versatile weapons, and deceptive speed.
FB – Darrell Young was the one-man show at FB with Sellers looking more and more like he either doesn’t make the team or transitions into a 4th TE. Young was very solid blocking, and he showed a very good display of talent on his catch-and-run.
WR – Moss looked better than he did last year, and was noticeably quicker and faster… he showed an uncanny ability to find holes in the zone where he could turn after the catch and look to pick up extra yards. He definitely made the game easier on Grossman. Gaffney is a very likeable player who makes the reception… he’s got very sure hands. Armstrong did some good things with his opportunities, as well as Terrence Austin. Niles Paul had a spectacular catch, and Stallworth showed great speed and got good separation. Hankerson looked as though he was more focused on perfecting his routes rather than focusing on the ball. He spent too much time thinking and too little time playing. He drops passes, but he can correct that by simply focusing on making catches and letting the routes be second nature. Does look scared over the middle, however… and it’s an area where you know if Kelly could get on the field and be healthy, he could prove his value. Hankerson’s got plenty of time to grow though. Exceptional corps.
TE – Fred Davis is a fascinating talent. I was a bit disappointed he wasn’t utilized more last season, but this offseason he showed up in great shape, lost weight, and looks to have added some speed to his arsenal, which was already a strength. He was good blocking, but not great… and his routes were crisp and helped ease the defense’s zones to allow the WR’s to find space. Paulsen had some good catches as well and I think he’s a strong player at making this team… and I would NOT be surprised if Cooley doesn’t become a bargaining chip in trade talks in the coming weeks (sorry guys, I’d miss him too, but business is business).
OL – Jammal Brown was a beast. Last year, it was known he wasn’t 100%, but we needed a guy and he played anyways… add that to the fact he switched to RT after spending years at LT and having to refocus his form… this year he came back saying he’s bought in to Shanahan, and he looked as comfortable and dominant as ever last night. Trent looked very good as well… those OLB’s destroy higher regarded tackles, and Trent held his own on the edge. He also showed a few great blocks downfield for Hightower on the stretches, and even got down past Moss on a 7-yard hook before Moss turned to run after the catch to level the initial defender. Chester’s speed was amazing on the stretches… when he got a chance to pull, he was out in front of the back and leading the way, but he was good in pass pro 1 on 1 standing strong. The line as a whole played well… limited knockdowns and pressures, and didn’t allow a sack. Very few plays for a loss as well, and that’s saying something against the Steelers.
DL – There were very few combinations that they put in that didn’t look like a good unit. Carriker struggled a bit here and there, but did well at times. Jenkins played high a lot, but he still found a way to hold up blocks and create lanes (especially the Barnes sack). Bowen was dominant as well, at all three positions.
LB – I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think Kerrigan may be one of the better pass-rushers in the league… he dominated tackles, and on a couple of inside blitzes, he manhandled the Guard. He did make some rookie mistakes, and took bad angles on a couple plays, giving the back a hole, and we didn’t see much out of him in coverage, but his ability to bull rush and use some finesse technique on the pass rush really intrigued me. London Fletcher is London Fletcher. Rocky McIntosh is a lock at ILB again… I truly believe he’s the most underrated Redskin, and I’m glad he’s still here on the team. He played smart and physical, showed up with a great boost to get in position to break up a pass on the sideline which, a step slower, he’d have missed… and he was extremely physical in the trenches.
CB – Hall got beat a few times, he looked like he made some bad decisions pre-snap and focused back on the QB when the receiver was making a double move. Wilson was on his guy most of the night but allowed a few catches, but he was solid in making tackles. Barnes was very good on the blitz from nickel (which, like Charles Woodson) could be his calling card to making him a star defender.
S – Landry and Atogwe were both out, so Horton and Doughty started. Both are physical tacklers, but not great in deep coverage. Hall got beat when he thought he had help over the top, and it hurt when Horton was beat at the same exact time. Doughty got beat as well, but he was, as always, precise in his responsibility vs. the run. Horton on the other hand took a few bad angles vs. the run as well (Redman’s TD for example).
K – Shayne Graham was horrible… in competition… and he overcompensated on a 29-yarder and kicked it wide left from the right hash, and on a 45-yarder kicking it wide right from the left hash. He clearly couldn’t handle the pressure in that situation. Gano was as solid as can be on FG’s… kicking three 40+ yarders. He also put every kickoff through the back of the endzone (which shouldn’t be a difficult task under the new, stupid rules). Shayne Graham has since been released.
P – Rocca was solid, and did a great job holding on FG’s. Not much more needs to be said.
KR – Aldridge muffed 3 returns… Banks on the other hand handled them well… his 20-yard punt return was spectacular as he cut all the way across field (with a great block from Young) and started up the sideline. His kick-return… he took the ball from 7-yards deep and took off with ease finding space he wouldn’t have found without his incredible speed. Something I noticed about Banks on that return is his willingness to try and run through tackles… and he’s still tiny, but looks a little bulkier than last year, but his quickness, speed, and his acceleration from a near standstill on his cut-back to full speed… Banks HAS to make this team because he has that special factor and ability to set you up with incredible field position. You don’t trade that potential away.