Redskins preseason opener: Ten Observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

1. Ryan Kerrigan’s first sack was a total team effort. Brian Orakpo (coming from a four-point stance) pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick and forced him to step up. However, the interior had collapsed the pocket enough so that there was nowhere to go and the relentless Kerrigan pounced on him.

2. More on the offensive line Friday, but there was a mixed bag. Saw a lot to build on with the rookie linemen, however.

3. My problem with Brandon Banks wasn’t the slip. Sometimes that happens. But it’s the plays that weren’t made because of his size; that’s a worry that won’t change. On one play a defensive back jarred the ball loose after Banks caught it on a hitch route. Later on a deep ball Banks jumped but could not do much against the defensive back. It was a jump-ball situation that he lost. Banks did get open deep but the pass was underthrown by Kirk Cousins (a timing issue, not an arm one). Oh, and Banks had one good run block but there was another time in which he was overpowered near the line. That stuff matters. You can love a guy all you want, but sometimes love isn’t enough. Man, I now sound like a relationship therapist. It didn’t help Banks that Aldrick Robinson had a nice showing in the second half. Granted it was later in the second half, but he flashed nonetheless. Like Banks he was underthrown on a go-route in which he was open. It’s good to see Robinson’s speed, something we didn’t see last year – in practice or games.

3. I’ve liked Richard Crawford since the early days of camp. Always around the ball and seems to play well with his eyes.  But he showed me some wiggle on his 18-yard punt return, making two defenders miss and nearly a third. Excellent feet. Crawford did what coaches tell you to do on his interception: He played with his eyes. Good read of the quarterback.

4. The thing that jumped out early in camp with running back Alfred Morris is the same thing that flashed Thursday night. His body lean. Every single time the kid ran the ball he leaned forward for more yards. Doesn’t matter if it was at the line or if it was downfield, he falls forward after contact. Not every back was like that Thursday.

5. I love how physical Pierre Garcon played. OK, really it was just on one catch (the 18-yarder) but he broke a tackle and even sought out the contact. Not sure the Redskins have had a physical receiver like him in a while. You obviously still need to see more of him, but even coach Mike Shanahan told reporters afterward, “You can see his big play ability.” On his touchdown run, Garcon made a nice cut inside and then back outside. But he received excellent blocks, too. First from Santana Moss and then from left tackle Trent Williams, who obstructed two defensive backs downfield. Garcon topped it off with a nice flip, though I’m not sure how the Russian judge would have scored it.

6. Leonard Hankerson starting for Santana Moss? Well, the coaches want to use Moss in the slot and Hankerson as the Z so it makes sense. Also, the concern with Moss is the toll that 16 games will take on his body. Yes he has looked fresh and spry in the spring and summer, but he’s 33 and has wear and tear. They want to keep him fresh. Hankerson has had a solid camp. He’s dropped a couple passes in camp, but it is not even close to last summer when it was much more noticeable. This summer it’s actually been normal. I’ve seen every receiver drop passes.

7. Was told that tight end Chris Cooley would play quite a bit in the preseason, but  he came out rather early Thursday night. But the Redskins also need to get Niles Paul a lot of action at this position. Paul and an uneven night; he needs to show better hands as a target. His blocking, at least on first glance, seemed fine. Saw him drive back a linebacker on an inside zone and saw him take care of another linebacker on another inside zone. Did see him miss one block, but overall he was good here. But he needs to show he’s a legitimate threat with his hands.

8. Meanwhile, Logan Paulsen did a good job as a blocker, especially moving forward. These tight ends seem to have a tough time when they’re asked to block just going down the line; saw Paulsen get moved back one time off the line. But just one time. It happened to Fred Davis a few times. Davis started out sloppy as a blocker; allowed too much penetration. He improved later in the quarter, but it continues his pattern of inconsistency.

9. Nose tackle Chris Baker just makes plays and clogs lanes. What you saw tonight is what we’ve seen most of training camp. He was instrumental in the goal-line stand, not just with his ability to clog the middle. He didn’t make the tackle, but his strength inside made the play. Also during that series, did you see Jordan Bernstine fly in to take on the lead blocker a couple yards deep? Bernstine sold his body to take out the blocker. The coaches will love seeing that on film. Or tape. Or whatever it’s called these days.

10. Kirk Cousins at times looked excellent. Other times he did not. Though his debut won’t cause a stir like Robert Griffin III, it provided moments where you think the Redskins have a chance to turn this position into a strength. Imagine that. Cousins showed his arm strength and he’s able to move a little bit. Liked one throw in which there was pressure so he pumped; stepped up and reset and threw the ball. He stood in well vs. pressure. He does have a tendency to throw interceptions; that’s been true all summer.

 

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