Following the Redskins’ 33-31 loss at Chicago:
1. OK, have to start with Kirk Cousins. When the Redskins drafted him, I was all for it because there was no tackle in the fourth round who could have helped them immediately. And if you have the chance to draft a good backup QB or a good backup offensive tackle, which would you rather have? It’s a no-brainer. Let’s not go overboard and anoint Cousins as the next great … what exactly? He’s not going to be the starter, that’s for sure. But can he really unseat Rex Grossman? There’s a ton of value in having a veteran in that meeting room. I’ll also say: Anyone who watched Cousins play in college has seen him play this well. Too often he’d follow this sort of night with a much different one. But he’s showing good intangibles and that’ll help.
2. Cousins continues to play like a veteran in the preseason. There’s a different comfort level for him in the pocket than even for Robert Griffin III because of the style of offenses they ran in college. What I like is that Cousins plays with terrific poise. I also like that he throws from a consistent base, something he said the other day that was not emphasized to him in college. But look at his feet; when he plants he’s always ready to throw the ball and because of it he puts excellent zip on his passes. On the 49-yard catch and run touchdown by Aldrick Robinson, the ball was actually tipped. But Cousins threw it strong enough that it didn’t matter. I also like the way Cousins stands in under pressure. And he threw a nice ball to tight end Niles Paul on the bootleg. It’s not just a matter of getting your hips around on that throw, it’s about not hurrying it as well. Paul was open; Cousins was patient. Touchdown.
3. Osaka, Japan. It’s a reminder of what the second half of preseason games mean. That said, I still like what I’ve seen of Cousins. Mainly because he’s made a steady improvement. And he’s a rookie who’s doing well.
4. The receiver battle is officially interesting. As had been pointed out in several places, Dezmon Briscoe started to show up more during practice over the past week or so. Against the Bears he used his size well, getting inside position. There was one time in which he didn’t compete as hard for the ball as you’d like, but there was a (questionable) pass interference penalty called that negated the incompletion. So it didn’t matter. And that size was a big factor on other routes. Ironically on the touchdown it wasn’t about his size, it was his hands. Made a nice grab of a lower throw.
5. Then there’s Robinson and Brandon Banks. Both make plays. Terrence Austin is a consistent player, but he does not have that explosiveness shared by Banks and Robinson. What we don’t know is this: How much does it really matter that Banks can’t help much at receiver? And what can Robinson do as a punt returner? If Robinson makes big plays at receiver then it doesn’t matter. The difference between the two at receiver is that Robinson gets open more consistently underneath, creating space so his lack of size isn’t an issue. And it provides him a chance to run after the catch. Banks’ return for a touchdown is a reminder of why he’s difficult to unload. But if you keep both guys, and perhaps a Briscoe, then where do you trim the fat? Do you then keep just two QBs and three tight ends? What if you want to sneak a fourth RB onto the roster? So it’s not just about one of these guys beating out the other.
6. Bottom line on Robinson: He’s a draft pick from 2011 who is much better in 2012. They hung onto him all last year on the practice squad and promoted him late in the year to keep from losing him. Now that he’s showing improvement, do you really get rid of him? Of course not.
7. Have to say a quick word about a couple backup linebackers: Rob Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander. Jackson continues to play with power. He is not as good as Brian Orakpo (who sprained his pectoral muscle) all-around and he does not have his athleticism. But he does have power and it showed on some run fits. Alexander showed some speed coming forward, drilling Jay Cutler as he threw one time. Another time Alexander took on a block at the line, shed it and made the stop. He’s still learning to play inside, but he’s a quick study and you can see his instincts at the position growing.
8. Too many big plays allowed again. A missed tackle by DeAngelo Hall led to one. This was a theme in 2011 and if that continues this season it’ll go differently than they hope. It’s also great that they’re in position to make big plays, but man they keep dropping them. Josh Wilson dropped a pick vs. the Bears. Bryan Kehl has dropped two in two games, though he’s a backup at best. Linebacker Perry Riley missed a tackle on a touchdown run; whiffed at the ballcarrier. Looked like his head was a bit too low. And the Redskins didn’t generate enough pressure out of a four-man rush. It’s tough to live with sending extra guys all game. Ryan Kerrigan did not seem to have a consistent night vs. the run. And at times his pass rush was mediocre; got too straight upfield and at times he was rounding off his path to the QB. Makes it difficult. Do like the continued effort of rookie Richard Crawford; he looked good in the slot last week and again this week. He reacts with much patience and that enables him to stay tight with his man.
9. Trent Williams did not have his best night and it’s clear he was not 100 percent. Williams did not look good in practice this week because of his bruised foot, but give him credit for playing (I suppose). However, Julius Peppers had a good game against him. At times Williams looked a little slower than usual (again, saw this in practice) and he allowed Peppers to gain more penetration. But there was one time in which Williams was able to get his feet around and seal Peppers inside, only to have the Bears end muscle him back. Peppers is a freak athlete and it showed.
10. The young linemen had their ups and downs. Adam Gettis needs time to develop. At 6-foot-2, 298 pounds Gettis can’t afford to ever be too upright, yet there were times when the Bears defenders were able to get into his pads, stand him up and drive him back. He was beaten inside and called for holding. Tom Compton was OK, showing again when a defender makes an athletic counter that he’s still slow to react or stop it. But that’s about where he should be at; no shame in this. It didn’t help that center Will Montgomery also allowed too much penetration on some of the stretch zones, forcing Alfred Morris to make quicker than desired cuts, sometimes with Williams also getting moved back.
Plus 1. Morris got off to a strong start with a 21-yard run on the opening play of the game. He really does well cutting in the backfield and avoiding traffic. Some of his best runs gain little yards because of the (lack of) blocking. But on the first play, Williams got to the linebacker, Maurice Hurt sealed the end, Chris Cooley threw a block. And Morris did the rest, gaining 20 yards after first contact. Do I need to say more about the lean? Didn’t think so. But I love how he makes himself smaller upon contact. Had one defender bounce off his shoulder pads on that first run. Morris only gained 13 more yards on his next nine runs, but the line did not help him out. I’ll be curious to see how many times someone was two yards deep on the backfield when he got the ball. Morris is still learning to pick up blitzes, however. He admitted after the game that he missed one on the sack-fumble. That was clear; he carried out his fake, but needed to anticipate faster and pick up the outside blitz. It’s a play that Clinton Portis used to routinely make. Morris needs to show that he can do this consistently and that hasn’t yet been the case. It is a major point of emphasis with these coaches — and especially so with a rookie quarterback.
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