The 10 most important items from the Redskins’ preseason-opening win at the Browns.
Redskins begin their preseason with a 20-17 win at Cleveland on Thursday night (Aug. 14, 2015)
1. Robert Griffin III didn’t play enough
He played for just two drives and totaled just eight pass attempts. I wanted 15-20 pass attempts minimum.
Let’s first establish this: the Redskins should be conducting an open and honest quarterback competition. That they are not is a function of many things. But given Griffin’s struggles over the last two seasons and that neither Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy has done enough to claim the job, all three should be competing right now for the no.1 spot. I had no problem bringing all three back given a) the lack of viable options this past offseason and b) the relative low cost for each guy. But I wanted an open and honest competition.
So if we’re not getting that, then we should at least be getting a lot of RGIII in the preseason. Last preseason was a joke: 20 total pass attempts over three games, during which it became pretty clear that he was struggling with the offense. Far more established quarterbacks had far higher pass-attempt totals last preseason. Peyton Manning: 54. Alex Smith: 52. Joe Flacco: 45. Russell Wilson: 42. Andrew Luck and Eli Manning: 41. Griffin, again, had 20.
And yet this preseason has begun in a manner that suggests that RGIII’s 2015 total won’t be much higher than his 2014 total. He needs the work. We should have seen a lot more of him at the Browns. Aaron Rodgers had 19 pass attempts on the same night on which Griffin, again, had eight.
2. RGIII did fine in the little that we did see of him
The first drive of the game resulted in a Tress Way punt but should’ve resulted in a touchdown. RGIII had a third-and-five nine-yard shotgun completion to Ryan Grant and then two plays later threw a deep ball to Pierre Garcon on a second-and-five I-formation play-action pass that Garcon flat out dropped. The pass was to the wrong side of Garcon but was more than able to be caught.
The Redskins’ second drive, which resulted in Kai Forbath’s late-first-quarter 33-yard field goal, included a decisive third-and-two three-yard shotgun scramble through the A-gap and a second-and-eight play-action-boot 22-yard completion to Grant. This was a rough play, as RGIII was limping off the play-action boot thanks to bumping into Alfred Morris and took a hard shot from Paul Kruger. It’s worth noting that the hit was avoidable, as RGIII should have thrown the ball sooner.
3. Cousins was terrific
He went 12-for-14 for 154 yards and had a second-quarter four-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun.
Cousins on his first drive: 4-for-4 for 73 yards and the four-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun. Among the standout plays:
• First-and-10 19-yard completion to Andre Roberts off offset-I play-action despite the throw being a bit behind Roberts
• Second-and-11 11-yard shotgun completion to Matt Jones on a play on which Cousins did a nice job of buying time
• Second-and-seven 28-yard shotgun completion to Roberts
• Second-and-nine 15-yard play-action-boot completion to Roberts
4. The injury situation, especially at tight end, has become worrisome
Niles Paul, who had recently overtaken Jordan Reed as the starting tight end, suffered a season-ending fractured and dislocated left ankle in the first quarter. He was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 16. Just an awful development for a guy known for being a hard-worker and good dude and someone who made strides as a tight end from a pass-catching standpoint in 2014.
Paul’s injury came in a game in which neither Jordan Reed (hamstring) nor Logan Paulsen (big toe; was also placed on injured reserve on Aug. 16) played and in which Je’Ron Hamm suffered an eye injury. The Redskins were down to Chase Dixon and undrafted rookie Devin Mahina at tight end in this game and so signed D.J. Williams and Ernst Brun on Aug. 16.
Silas Redd suffered a torn right ACL and torn right MCL on an early-third-quarter lost fumble. The Redskins waived him (designated as injured) on Aug. 16.
Jones had to be evaluated for a concussion but was cleared.
Others not playing on offense in this game were DeSean Jackson (AC joint sprain) and Jamison Crowder (hamstring).
Those who did not play on defense in this game: Ryan Kerrigan (precautionary as he returns from knee surgery), Junior Galette, Bashaud Breeland (sprained right MCL), David Amerson (shoulder), Jeron Johnson, Will Compton (groin) and Trevardo Williams (hamstring).
5. The first-team defense was disappointing
Again, the Redskins were without Kerrigan, Galette, Breeland, Amerson and Johnson. But the Browns did not play 19 guys in this game. And yet the Browns scored their two touchdowns on two of their first three drives.
The Browns’ first drive went for nine plays and 75 yards and culminated in a two-yard touchdown reception by an open Travis Benjamin off some nifty scrambling by Josh McCown. Also on that drive was a missed tackle by DeAngelo Hall on a 12-yard reception by Brian Hartline, a 35-yard pass-interference penalty by Chris Culliver and a third-and-four seven-yard reception by Taylor Gabriel.
The Browns’ second drive, sparked by an early-second-quarter Andre Roberts lost fumble on a 10-yard punt return, resulted in a third-and-four 12-yard touchdown run by Johnny Manziel on a scramble on which the middle of the field opened up big time.
6. The running game looked good
Morris had a great fourth-and-one 18-yard under-center-handoff run on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 33-yard field goal. Morris had very little to work with and yet yielded the lengthy run.
Jones had under-center-handoff runs for 23 and 12 yards on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s late-second-quarter 52-yard field goal.
Morris and Jones totaled 80 yards on 13 carries.
Thompson had a 14-yard read-option run out of the shotgun on the drive that resulted in Trey Williams’ third-quarter third-and-goal one-yard under-center-handoff run.
7. Special teams had some familiar problems
Roberts had the early-second-quarter lost fumble on the 10-yard punt return. The ensuing Browns drive resulted in Manziel’s third-and-four 12-yard touchdown scramble.
Thompson had a muffed catch of a punt in the second quarter, though he recovered the ball and engineered a nine-yard return.
The Skins gave up a 54-yard return by Virginia product Darius Jennings on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Tress Way had a first-quarter 36-yard punt and a fourth-quarter 35-yard punt in addition to a fourth-quarter 47-yard punt. All of them, though, went out of bounds.
8. Kai Forbath did have a good night
We’ve heard that he has struggled during training camp. He again has competition, this year in undrafted rookie Ty Long. But Cobra Kai went 2-for-2 on field goals, connecting on a 33-yarder in the first quarter and a 52-yarder late in the second quarter.
Forbath and Long shared kickoff and extra-point duties in this game.
9. There were multiple read-option sightings
There were, in fact, three read-option plays, all with Cousins in the game.
• Cousins had his second-quarter first-and-goal four-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun
• Jones had a second-quarter first-and-10 three-yard read-option run out of the offset pistol on the drive that resulted in Cousins’ first-and-goal four-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun
• Thompson had a third-quarter second-and-six 14-yard read-option run out of the shotgun on the drive that resulted in undrafted rookie Trey Williams’ third-and-goal one-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run
There were no read-option plays with RGIII in the game, though that may have simply been a function of him playing on just two drives. There is tremendous irony in Cousins running the read option in a game at the Browns, because it was the Cousins-quarterbacked win at the Browns in 2012 that reportedly infuriated RGIII and his camp because Cousins did not run the read option in that game.
10. This was a surprisingly clean game
Each team had just three accepted penalties.