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Redskins vs. Colts: Ten observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

1. Andrew Luck is a stud. That’s some insight for you, huh? But it’s clear why many thought Luck was the best quarterback coming out of college since Peyton Manning. His pocket presence is outstanding and he’s adept at throwing from different angles as well as making decisions under duress. He seemed to make a half-dozen plays that make you realize how far ahead he is than most rookie quarterbacks. We haven’t seen all of Robert Griffin III’s game in the preseason so it’s unfair to say how far ahead Luck is than the Redskins’ rookie. But there’s no doubt he’s ahead when it comes to life in the pocket; it’s what made him a great college QB as well.

2. Luck was somewhat Peyton-like in taking what the defense gave him, especially early in the game. He also slides out of the pocket well as his athleticism, by some at least, was underrated. I loved the seven-yard throw he made to Donnie Avery in which he displayed great body control. Luck, under some pressure, quickly got his shoulders around to make an accurate throw, going across his body. Impressive. And the 31-yard touchdown was beautiful. If the Colts had somehow taken Griffin, then Mike Shanahan still would have been a happy man. That’s not to say Griffin won’t be better eventually, but right now as passers there’s a difference. When you talk to longtime football guys about him right now there’s a different tone in their voice than when they talk about any other rookie.

3. When he had Terrell Davis as a rookie, coach Mike Shanahan said he knew after the fourth preseason game that he’d be the starter. Will that be the case with another sixth-round pick of his? Before we go crazy on Alfred Morris, who deserves praise, let’s remember that the Colts’ defense is not good. However, 107 yards on 14 carries is tough to beat. The key for Morris is that he also blocked well and he made mention several times after the game that he did not miss any assignments. He seemed as pleased with his blocking as his running. Did we learn anything about him as a runner? Not really. This is what he’s shown all of camp. Body lean. Extra yards. I’ll have more on him in a sidebar, so look for that later.

4. Tight end Niles Paul continues to show what he can do. Really, he and Lorenzo Alexander would be a vicious two-man team because the two of them could combine to play just about every position. Paul reminded everyone that he used to be a solid kick returner at Nebraska, taking the opening kick 42 yards. He might lack the pop of a Brandon Banks, but there’s no reason he couldn’t be an effective returner. And he’s a smart kid so you’d expect him to make good decisions. But he also got downfield a couple times as a gunner. So the Redskins have a gunner who weighs approximately 233 pounds. Not bad. Guys like Alexander and Paul are major assets in a salary cap era. Think of how many guys it would take to replace what they do. Used to say the same about Brian Mitchell.

5. Leonard Hankerson hasn’t had a big problem with his hands since training camp opened. At least not like last year. And the problem isn’t his hands anyway. It’s his eyes. Whenever Hankerson drops a pass, replay it and see where his eyes are. Good chance they’re turning upfield and that’s what happened again today when he dropped a ball. I know the coaches love his ability, but he hasn’t exactly jumped out this summer. On the deep ball he missed I happened to watch him as he ran downfield and it almost seemed like he slowed up midway down and sped back up when he realized the ball was being thrown his way. Josh Morgan has looked better at the Z position.

6. Santana Moss volunteered for punt return duty. Why? Because it’s how he entered the league and this is a guy who stays true to his roots. But think about how many 33 year old receivers would want to go back to doing this job. If Brandon Banks doesn’t make the roster Moss will get chances to field punts, I’m sure. He’s still quick enough to make a defender miss. Heck, it’s about the same thing when he runs those smoke routes as far as trying to dodge tacklers. I wouldn’t put too much on Moss; I know he’s down 15 pounds from last year, but you need to keep him fresh all season. Playing in the slot and an occasional punt return is fine.

7. Free safety Tanard Jackson showed up big-time as the starting strong safety. It’s a misnomer to just say he played strong safety as he and Madieu Williams both took turns as far as who was deep. Jackson played some single high safety at times. He nearly took the head off receiver Kris Adams on the last play of the first half too.  He jarred a ball loose on one slat pass to Donnie Avery. Jackson also made some stops at the line. I’m curious to see more when I re-watch the game, but he looked active.

8. Williams was beaten on the touchdown by Hilton when he fell for an out and up.  The one area that’s a concern with him is speed. Williams is smart and plays with good instincts. But one reason the Redskins want to try DeAngelo Hall at safety is to get more speed on the field. So what happens when Brandon Meriweather returns? Does Jackson challenge Williams? You can’t base it on one play, but is that play an indicator? Jackson’s biggest issues haven’t been talent, they’ve been injuries and drugs. When healthy he’s been a good player. Williams might be more consistent.

9. Tough to know what to make of the receiver battle. But what I do know is that Dezmon Briscoe’s size helps. Rex Grossman (who played well, but he’s a veteran passer facing backups) hooked up with him for two passes, a total of 49 yards (one for 37 yards). He may have pushed off; maybe he didn’t. But with a guy that big you can throw it up to him. “He’s an agile tall guy, but he runs good routes and he’s got a good feel for the game. Obviously he’s long, has long arms and just makes plays,” Grossman said. Can the Redskins afford to keep a receiver who doesn’t play special teams? He’ll certainly have to learn.  Mike Shanahan does a good job of giving receivers long looks in a game (it’s why some wideouts don’t play in some games). It gives them a chance to make plays. Anthony Armstrong had one catch over the middle (but he bobbled it; have seen that a bit too much). The other pass thrown to him looked a little late. Right now, Briscoe is a better receiver, but Armstrong’s value as a gunner can’t be underestimated. Paul can handle this role and if they feel they have someone else who can do it, then Armstrong could be in jeopardy. This race is intriguing because each guy involved offers something of value.

10. Linebacker Chris Wilson continued to show exactly what he’s done all summer. He’s made plays in camp, he’s made them in games and Saturday he made them vs. the starters. He’ll be another guy who’s tough to cut. They tried Bryan Kehl at outside linebacker for the first time and, all things considered, he fared well. Makes him a little more versatile and valuable. Both players can play special teams, too. If one or both make it then Markus White could be headed to the practice squad.

Plus one: Center Will Montgomery’s shotgun snaps were off. He’d snapped relatively well through the first two preseason games as they’d had a lot of work in the shotgun in practices. But on some of these designed rollouts that three-tenths of a second delay can make a big difference. Robert Griffin III’s speed can help recoup that time, but this will bear watching given how much they’ll want to use this formation in 2012.

 

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