5 Observations from the Washington Redskins' Preseason Opener vs. Buffalo Bills
The Washington Redskins' first preseason game is in, along with the highly-anticipated debut of Robert Griffin III. During the regular season, there wouldn't be much to say about a 7-6 win over the Buffalo Bills other than "here we go again."
Of course, the preseason is a whole different animal. The games themselves are rarely exciting and this was no exception. That is, aside from watching RG3 go to work. But we will get into that a little later.
I could go on all day about the performances of everyone that stepped on the field. But, respecting your time, I've narrowed my thoughts down to five observations.
Cousins Should Back Up Griffin
No, that's not Beck.
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Good ol' Rex Grossman was right back in form—and that's not a good thing. There are plenty of words I could use to describe his performance, but for the sake of my job I will just stick with "awful." Oh, and here is a positive: Rexy didn't have a singe interception or fumble!
How about that?
Ok. I'm all out of positives. He was actually almost intercepted on his first pass, throwing out of the end zone. That sounds familiar.
In his four drives, I only counted one good pass. Unfortunately that one good pass was dropped by Brandon Banks—who appeared to be Grossman's favorite target—after taking a shot in the back. Perhaps that was his thanks for Banks swatting away what would have been another possible interception on the same drive.
None of his other seven attempts were very receiver friendly, either. Rex went 2-of-10 passing and one was an excellent catch by Redskins newbie Josh Morgan. The pass was thrown behind him, but he managed to tip it with his extended arm and haul it in after a little bobble action.
All night, Grossman was high, long and wide. He even had a McNabb-like screen in the dirt to Roy Helu. He was 10 yards away, Rex.
Now I'm not going to go as far as to say that Kirk Cousins was outstanding, but his showing was much more solid than the 10-year vet.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan had Cousins come out firing on his first drive, throwing five passes in six plays. He was on target with the first four, but threw the last behind Morgan which resulted in his first interception. Niles Paul also dropped an easy pass and whiffed on another up the middle.
That's pretty much how the rest of the night went for the rookie—some good passes mixed with some bad. He finished 9-of-22 for 74 yards.
What stood out to me was his presence in the pocket. At Michigan State, he had a tendency to get jittery with pressure but he stood strong in this game. He also displayed good arm strength and a nice touch.
This game wasn't anything for Cousins to write home about, but it was definitely enough to put him in consideration for second string. I've read the Rex Grossman story too many times and there is no alternate ending. He is who he is.
This game showed nothing different.
Starting Running Back Is Still Up for Grabs
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Evan Royster started the game at running back, but failed to produce much of anything. That isn't all to be blamed on him, however. The blocking wasn't exactly spectacular while he was in the game.
There is no one else to blame for his fumble, however. It appeared Griffin put the ball right in his chest, but Royster lost the exchange and the Bills recovered at the Redskins 21.
He did manage to redeem himself on the next series with a nice run up the right side for 12 yards, shaking a couple defenders with a nifty juke in traffic. Royster followed that up with five-and two-yard runs to set up the lone touchdown of the day. The second year running back from Penn State finished with 21 yards on seven carries.
Roy Helu didn't blow anyone out of the water, either. He only carried the ball four times for 17 yards, as the coaching staff was more focused on getting Cousins some reps.
Where he shines the most is the open field and he didn't get much opportunity for that, either. There was the toss in the dirt from Grossman, which was open enough for a big gain. The only catchable one went for negative three yards.
Neither back really impressed in this first game. Helu's blocking seemed slightly improved, but I believe that is where Royster still has the edge. There will be a lot of passing with RG3 under center, so solid blocking from the back is a priority.
Receiving Corps Looks Solid
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As expected, Pierre Garcon was Griffin's top target. The former Colt hauled in three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Garcon showed off his playmaking ability, taking the screen pass 20 yards—with the help of outstanding upfield blocking from Trent Willimas and Santana Moss—and flipping his way into the corner of the end zone.
That's exactly what we should see throughout the season from the young star.
Another newbie to the squad showed up big last night, too. Josh Morgan seemed to be a favorite for the quarterbacks, as he was targeted seven times. Only Banks was targeted more with nine.
As I mentioned before, Morgan had a nice catch on a Grossman ball thrown behind him. His routes appeared flawless and his hands sure.
The only mistake I saw from Morgan was misjudging a deep ball from Kirk Cousins. He pulled up short, as the pass sailed over his head. If he kept running, it might have been a good connection.
That's just being picky, though. Morgan looked very solid.
I was hoping to see more from Leonard Hankerson, but he finished with one 12-yard catch up the sideline for a first down. That's not necessarily his fault, considering Grossman became obsessed with Banks. Hopefully we will see more of Hank next week against Chicago.
I was pretty impressed with Banks, though. He ran much better routes than last season and burned a couple guys deep. Unfortunately his quarterbacks failed to connect. By no means is Banks a starter, but it looks like he has a shot at making the squad again.
Garcon, Hankerson, Moss and Morgan will all be tough to contain if the line allows Griffin time to throw. This could be the best squad of receivers in Washington since The Posse.
The Defense Is Even Deeper
Richard Crawford Returns Interception
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
There weren't many big-time "wow" plays to talk about on defense. But the D is looking even more comfortable in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. And the depth we saw last season looks even deeper in 2012.
The defense started out with a sack from second-year phenom Ryan Kerrigan. He also ended up with a pass deflection and was constantly in the face of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Redskins' front lines pretty much camped out in Buffalo's backfield, as one should expect. That was the case from the starters on back. Pressure never stopped.
The cornerbacks were shaky last season, past Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall. Things are looking up this season, even after losing Chase Minnifield to more knee problems—the reason the UVA product went undrafted.
Cedric Griffin got the reps that would have likely been Minnifield's. He locked on to his receivers pretty well, but did lose some ground on the in routes. He didn't get burned, but he was only saved by the replacement refs missing a couple interference calls.
Griffin was definitely a little grabby.
Rookie Richard Crawford also showed some promise, pulling in an interception off Buffalo's second-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen. The longball was underthrown and Crawford snatched it out of the air, returning it for 16 yards.
I wouldn't say the secondary is locked down, but they look like they could be a little more reliable than years past. They should get more of a challenge from Chicago next week, so this topic will be revisited.
Robert Griffin III Is What We Expected
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Sorry for the wait, folks. I know this is what you were waiting for. It's what we were all waiting for.
Robert Griffin III has officially arrived.
As ESPN's Adam Shefter had pointed out earlier in the day, the Shanahans weren't about to show their hand during the preseason. That speed everyone is waiting to see on the NFL gridiron will have to wait for New Orleans on Sept. 9.
Griffin didn't so much as roll out on a boot, like we consistently saw from Cousins. No need in losing your future before it begins.
What we did get to see from Robert Griffin III was accuracy like no other quarterback on the squad. His first pass was a beauty to the sideline, but Garcon couldn't quite get his second foot down on the drag.
Griffin went on to go 4-of-6 for 70 yards and a touchdown. That's good for an 11.7-yard average, compared to Cousins' 3.4 and Grossman's 2.2.
His passes looked effortless and landed on the numbers. The weren't high, long or behind—just perfect. He seemed poised in the pocket, whether under center or in shotgun.
And what was the talk of last week, wasn't the case here. According to ESPN, the word out of camp was that Robert Griffin was taking too many sacks. Well, on Thursday he wasn't even touched.
People will be looking for the Redskins' next fail. They will point out every error and blow it up to it's highest proportions.
Griffin will make his mistakes one day, but don't read too much into it. He is a rookie and bound to cost the Redskins a game or two in the toughest defensive division in the NFL. But he will not bring down the franchise or get the Shanahans fired.
Robert Griffin III is everything we thought he would be. And eventually he will be more.
Redskins fans can finally rejoice. Our savior is here.