The Washington Redskins come into tonight’s contest against the Cincinnati Bengals with a lot of room for improvement from every facet of the game. Last week against the Cleveland Browns in preseason game number one, they were scored on defensively, offensively, and on special teams; not to mention, there were entirely too many miscues that led to penalties throughout the game. There are some that will look at their performance from a “it’s just the first preseason game” point of view, but then there are others that will say “same ole unprepared Redskins”. Myself, I’m kind of a “tweener” where I believe the first game provided a lot of content to help coach some of these young kids up going forward, but at the same time, I’m a little concerned about the lack of preparation and competition. There were a few bright spots in the game to include rookie cornerback Jimmy Moreland who lived up to the hype in his first live NFL action with 2 forced fumbles and 3 passes defended. Defensive lineman Tim Settle also did some good things as he provided a constant disturbance in the Brown backfield while he was on the field. There were others defensively like Cassanova McKinzy, who is fighting for a roster spot, that provided some compliment worthy moments as well.
Offensively, there wasn’t much to talk about. The Redskins struggled to move the football against the Browns and managed only one touchdown on a Case Keenum pass to Robert Davis resulting from a busted coverage. Rookie Dwayne Haskins played like just that...a rookie. He did some good things using his legs in the pocket and made some very accurate throws. He did however throw two picks that will serve as great learning experiences for him leading up to Cincy. The depth chart list Colt McCoy as the current starter, but Colt is yet to see preseason action, and will not play tonight. There is much discussion about just how healthy or unhealthy Colt really is. After Josh Woodruff tore his pectoral muscle last week, the Redskins signed quarterback Jalen McClendon who may see some immediate action this week with the Redskins unsure about their quarterback situation. Case Keenum looks to be the current front runner with Colt still unable to play, and Dwayne Haskins trying to establish his footing as a NFL quarterback.
The offense this week will need to improve vastly in the area of assignment recognition. There were numerous times throughout last week’s game where Redskin quarterbacks took unnecessary punishment or had to rush throws as a result of offensive linemen not recognizing their responsibility. We saw much of the same in the running game. The Redskin offense will have to get back to the basics this week against the Bengals by cutting down on pre-snap penalties, and by just becoming more familiar with recognizing defensive fronts in order to get a proverbial “hat on a hat”. In their defense, there has been a lot of offensive line shuffling throughout training camp, and the majority of the starters did not play last week to include starting left tackle Trent Williams who is still holding out. Veteran left tackle Donald Penn who was signed just two weeks ago, and second year tackle Geron Christian look to fill the large void Trent has left. If the Redskins do not get Trent back in the fold before week 1, Gruden is going to have his hands full game-planning for an exceptional Eagle defensive front seven. The offensive line has some position battles going on up front. Starting left guard is currently being occupied by veteran Ereck Flowers, but rookie Wes Martin is pushing hard to overtake him.
This week, the Redskins hope to have some more clarity in some of these position battles because last week’s game provided a minimal amount. Right now, it’s going to be easy for the coaching staff to make cuts across the roster with the exception of a few positions. The wide receiver position is one of those to watch. Terry McLaurin, who only played one snap last week as a rookie, looks to be guaranteed a spot on the roster as of today. After that, Trey Quinn is your slot, and Cam Sims looks poised to make some noise this season. You can add Paul Richardson into the mix, but after that, it’s just a cluster of names. Josh Doctson is listed as a starter, but I’m still not convinced the Redskins are sold on him being a member of this team for the 2019 season. He has tremendous talent, but this is a contract year, and the likelihood of his return past 2019 is slim at this juncture. This could open up the door for a Robert Davis, Darvin Kidsy, or Brian Quick who they may feel can provide similar production for less money this season to occupy that roster spot. I am a Doctson fan, but at this point, if they make the decision to move him because they have no plans of utilizing his skill set, then I’m all aboard. No point in carrying around dead money.
Defensively against the Bengals, the Redskins will try to gain some clarity on the roles of a lot of these younger players heading into the season. Rookie Cole Holcomb who showed some toughness last week during a goal line stand, and second year linebacker Shaun Dion-Hamilton are going to receive plenty of opportunities to get better in these preseason games leading up to opening day. It’s an invaluable experience to be able to play a lot of snaps as a rookie or second year player. Coaches find out what they have, and players find out who they are when they have the opportunity to watch film, practice, and then put it together in preseason game 2. For the players that played well last week, they will be focused on building off of that performance, and on proving it wasn’t an isolated incident. You don’t want to regress after a strong outing. The overall defense looks like it has the potential to be strong, and may possess a decent amount of depth, but it’s yet to be seen against in-game competition.
The coaches are going to be locked in on position battles this week because next week's preseason game 3 is the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. They want to have a legitimate idea of what the final roster will look like after preseason game 2, and they would like to see any close position battles work themselves out. I understand that the last few years, the Redskins Achilles heel has been injuries. I also recognize that the Redskins have gone into 4 of 5 season openers under Jay Gruden unprepared and put up lackluster performances. Coach Gruden has had a history of resting players during the preseason, but this may be counterproductive. They may need as much work as possible considering the Redskins haven't won anything, or proven they have the ability win despite missing opportunities to get better. If they were the Patriots, I would understand. Even if they were the Los Angeles Chargers. They aren't. They are the Washington Redskins who finished last season 7-9, and lost seven of their last eight games. Gruden has an immense amount to prove, and I hope he has an EFFECTIVE plan for making sure this team is prepared for the season. I don't envy his position albeit he has done his part to create the circumstance, but I'm sure he is doing the best he can to put everything together.
Tonight, I would like to see the projected offensive starters go in for a possession or two, and establish some cohesiveness. Their efficiency should dictate how much they play. Defensively, I would like to see Montez Sweat receive some significant snaps, and for some of these young defensive backs to play a lot of snaps like Jimmy Moreland, Fabian Moreau, and Greg Stroman. That may be the most competitive battle on the team at this point, and all of those kids deserve a chance to prove their value. Ultimately, the main idea for game 2: GET BETTER. That's the bottom line for this team; continue to improve, and build off of that success going forward. There is no better time than the present to erase their mistakes of the past, and they can start by having a quality showing at home against the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night at FedEX Field. As you were...
Photo Credit: Garrett Campbell/Washington Redskins