10 Things We Learned After Redskins vs. Buccaneers
Another preseason is in the books and it is time now for Washington to make its final cuts and get ready for the regular season.
The Redskins have looked good so far, winning three games and scoring at least 30 points on three occasions. However, the season has yet to begin and we have only just learned what the true identity of the team is.
Let's take a look back and see what we've learned.
Kirk Cousins Is Good, but There's No Controversy
Kirk Cousins has looked sharp in the pocket every game he's played this preseason. He stands with poise, makes great decisions and delivers accurate throws to make the play.
While he does make the occasional rookie mistake and tends to have a small problem with interceptions, I've liked everything I've seen from the Michigan State prospect this preseason.
Rex Grossman is still the backup, but that might change later in the season. Cousins has the ability to come in and manage a game should anything happen to Robert Griffin III. Hopefully that doesn't happen, but in the NFL you never know.
Cousins still has a few years to develop before any kind of trade talks happen, but right now it'd be better to have a solid backup to Griffin than whatever could be gotten from a trade (the Kevin Kolb robbery of Arizona aside).
There Are 4 Good Running Backs on the Roster
It seems that every week the perception of the Redskins backfield changes. Had you asked me last week what I thought of Roy Helu, Jr., I would've told you that I didn't know if he was top dog anymore. Two touchdowns and a few big runs later, I'm not sure.
Evan Royster also had a good game, but I don't think he is as talented as the other backs on the roster. Alfred Morris runs like a man possessed, but has his share of question marks. Tim Hightower is the veteran of the group (though only 26) and when healthy is the coach's choice.
Mike Shanahan will play all four running backs at some point to see who can carry the load, but there is something unique about each back that should help differentiate them in game situations.
Roy Helu Jr. Is Shaking Off the Rust
Roy Helu has spent most of the preseason battling injury—not a good sign considering that he already had injury concerns from last year. Add that to a fumble on a toss play at the beginning of the final preseason and you get legitimate concerns about Helu's role on the team.
But as the game wore on, Helu started to look like the game-breaker he was last year. He showed some nice explosiveness on a few runs outside and managed to find the end zone twice.
Before this game, it didn't seem like he had the quick first step that allowed him to succeed in the zone scheme. With that back he could very well end up as the starter. He is the only home run threat in the backfield, but needs to stay healthy.
Brandon Banks Is a Playmaker
Regardless of what you think about Brandon Banks, he can make the big play.
He had two of those such plays on offense against Tampa Bay—a deep ball and an end around that both went for over 45 yards. With his return skills, he can break a play open from pretty much any position.
The problem is that he is inconsistent and lacks the size to be a truly successful receiver. He can't keep corners from driving through him to break up passes on most routes. The only route he can really be successful at is the go route.
He did have a fumble late in the game, but that was from the running back position where he has basically no experience. He also muffed a punt, but was the only one performing those duties and had three good returns earlier.
There's no guarantee that Banks will make the team, but he definitely helped himself tonight.
The Competition at Receiver Is Closer Than Ever
Aldrick Robinson, Dezmon Briscoe, Anthony Armstrong and Brandon Banks are all battling for just what will most likely be two roster spots. All have plenty of reasons to think they deserve one.
Briscoe is a big target who excels in the end zone, Armstrong has experience in the offense and can take the top off the defense, Robinson is a speedster who can return punts and play receiver, and Banks is a return specialist who can make plays in a utility role on offense.
This position is the hardest to predict at this time. Every player has shown something this preseason that normally would be enough to get a spot.
Competition like this is a good thing. No matter what, the Redskins will get two promising players that can contribute to the team. No one will know the last two receivers until Friday.
Richard Crawford Is a Bright Spot at a Weak Position
Richard Crawford has been my favorite defensive player this preseason. As a seventh-round pick, Crawford had no expectations coming in. Now he has two picks, both coming on great plays, and has moved from bubble player to roster lock.
There was a scare in the second half when Crawford went down with injury, but it looks as though it's just a knee sprain. He should be good to go for the opener.
With Barnes traded to Detroit, Crawford has the chance to beat out Cedric Griffin for the nickle spot. I think he can easily accomplish that task, especially with the weak play of Griffin this preseason.
The Defense Will Bring Pressure No Matter Who's Starting
On nearly every play in the first half, at least one Redskin was able to get into the backfield against Tampa Bay. In just over a quarter of play, Ratliff was sacked four times and seemed to get knocked down every other play.
Even with Marlon Favorite, Kedric Golston and Delvin Johnson lined up along the defensive line the Redskins were able to pressure Tampa Bay early and often. Proof that Jim Haslett's system works in bringing the heat.
With Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins defense is poised to be at least in the top 10 in the league in sacks. That should take a ton of pressure off Robert Griffin III and maybe even help Washington surprise a few teams.
Keenan Robinson Might Be Better Than Expected
Keenan Robinson was excellent at recognizing the run against Tampa Bay, something he needed to work on in practice. At one point he made a spin move on the center and was in the backfield almost at the same time as the hand off.
Robinson still has at least a year to learn under London Fletcher before he'll be called upon to fill in his place, but so far he has been promising in limited action. He's been solid so far in coverage and looks to be transitioning inside well.
He's still some time away from being a serviceable starter, but so far so good for the rookie out of Texas.
Billy Cundiff Will Be the Most Scrutinized Kicker in the League
Billy Cundiff might be the most hated person in Baltimore. After missing a field goal to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl last year, Cundiff was cut and picked up by the Redskins in lieu of incumbent Graham Gano.
That negative attitude appears to have spread to the Washington fan base, who let the boos rain down after Cundiff missed a 46-yard attempt against Tampa Bay. It's safe to say that anytime Cundiff misses, he'll face the same fate.
Cundiff is far from a bad kicker. In fact, just two years ago he was a Pro Bowler. He has a much deeper kickoff than Gano, and is more consistent from within 50 yards. There are concerns that he will fold under pressure, but we'll see if that manifests itself in Washington.
The Redskins Are Finally Establishing Depth
In every preseason game this year, the Redskins substitutes have dominated. From the 30-3 demolition of Tampa Bay to the 27-point comeback against Chicago, Washington's reverses have been better and it hasn't been close.
Obviously the play of reserves means very little, but it has to be a good feeling to see so many players making plays on the field. This time last year the reserves struggled in what seemed like every game, despite playing about the same level of competition.
The offensive line and secondary are still quite weak, but the defensive line, running backs, receivers and linebackers all could survive a major injury, which is the true mark of a deep team. Depth has always been a concern for the modern Redskins, but since Shanahan took over that has changed.
Even if they don't succeed this year, Washington is definitely on the right track.