Redskins vs. Titans: Observations and Analysis

Tom NataliCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2013

Redskins vs. Titans: Observations and Analysis

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    For those who read my Washington Redskins postgame columns last year, I’m coming back with the same approach, just a different format.

    Last season, I would submit a rather informal analysis after each Redskins game (the majority of them). I basically have a notepad on me during each game and scribble my observations.

    This year, I will break it down by position, thus making this article a bit more organized.

    Hope you all enjoy it.

Quarterback

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    Kirk Cousins looked great. He’s fundamentally sound and was very decisive in his approach last Thursday.

    What impressed me the most was his command of the offense; he looked comfortable as the starting quarterback and read his progressions properly.

    For example, his touchdown pass to Fred Davis was actually his second progression. His first read was in the flats, which was covered, thus leaving Davis virtually wide open.

    Rex Grossman was himself as usual. I could not entirely blame him for his inaccuracies, however. His offensive line struggled in pass protection, and Grossman could not throw accurately as a result of that.

    On the positive side, Grossman did move the chains productively, but this has been his modus operandi in the preseason.

    Now on to Pat White, he absolutely surpassed everyone’s expectations. He made the right decisions, improvised when needed and utilized his athleticism, which are major components to RGIII’s style of play.

    With that said, one quarter of preseason football (roughly one quarter) should not dictate the Redskins' depth charts just yet.

    While logistically it makes sense for the Redskins to keep a highly athletic quarterback on the roster, Rex Grossman has established himself as a quarterback in this league and is very familiar with the offense.

    The best solution to this is competition. Pat White has earned the right for increased reps in the preseason, and I would expect the Redskins to do their due diligence in the former West Virginia product.

    Pat White is a great story. He was a two-sport athlete and had a tremendously successful collegiate career; however, his first stint in the NFL was a major bust. Despite his name recognition, I’m not ready to move mountains for him just yet.

    On the contrary, if Rex Grossman never took a meaningful snap again, I’m pretty sure all Redskins fans would rejoice.

Running Back

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    They were great. Roy Helu showed the burst that he had in his rookie season. Evan Royster quietly had a productive night, and even Keiland Williams flashed something.

    I was surprised not to see rookie Jawan Jamison on the field; perhaps he’ll get his turn next Monday. The same goes for Chris Thompson.

    What I loved about Helu was his ability to create his own space. If a hole is closed, Helu has the speed and elusiveness to make a cut elsewhere.

    The main question is if Helu can stay healthy; if so, then he’s the perfect complement to Alfred Morris.

    Royster has definitely been under the radar since the start of training camp, and with the draft selections of two additional running backs, his job might be in jeopardy.

    With that said, Royster had a very good game as well, rushing for 62 yards, and had the same yardage per carry as Helu did.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see four running backs make the final roster.

    I also wanted to point out that Niles Paul basically spent the entire second half playing fullback. As a backup, it’s great to have versatility in your game, and Paul absolutely has that.

    This is a bit nitpicky, but Paul is still developing as a tight end, and I would have liked to see as many reps as possible for the third-year player.

Tight End

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    Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, the previously mentioned Niles Paul and some guy named Emmanuel Ogbuehi—this group may have performed better than anyone else last Thursday.

    It was great to see Fred Davis included in the offense. Prior to his injury, Davis started the season slowly; however, his rapport with Griffin appeared to improve on a game-to-game basis.

    Even though he’s on a one-year contract, Davis should be heavily relied upon this year.

    Paulsen continued to go about his business while being the team’s best blocking tight end and catching underneath routes.

Wide Receiver

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    Let’s start with the good. Josh Morgan had a solid evening by showing a quick burst and playing that possession-type receiver role well.

    Lance Lewis had a couple plays that stood out, both of which were negated by a penalty, however.

    I also liked what I saw from rookie free agent Nick Williams. I understand that he's a long shot, but he fits the slot receiver role well, and I also saw him directing his fellow receivers at the line of scrimmage, which is a good sign. Maybe a potential practice-squad candidate.

    Leonard Hankerson had an up-and-down night, which happens to be synonymous with his career thus far. On the opening drive, Hankerson caught an underneath crossing route and was tackled just short of the first down, which appeared to be realistically attainable. It also led to a lashing from Mike Shanahan.

    It’s plays like that that frustrate me about Hankerson. That first down could have been converted if he were more consistent.

    Afterward, he led the team in receptions and also scored on a screen pass. So the mystery of Hankerson continues.

    Aldrick Robinson has been one of the flashes of training camp thus far; similar to Hankerson, he showcased some inconsistencies.

    I understand that this was the first preseason game, in which the quality of play is overall sloppy, but Robinson had a pass that hit him squarely in the chest.

    Drops were more common than anyone would like to see. Robinson, Dezmon Briscoe and Nick Williams all had crucial ones.

Offensive Line

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    Both Roy Helu and Evan Royster averaged over four yards per carry, so the offensive line must have been doing something right.

    The starting group (besides Tom Compton) looked great; they’re chemistry between one another is evident.

    Tom Compton is in the running to earn the “swing tackle” role on the roster, meaning he can play both left and right tackle and can enter the middle of the game in case one of the starters goes down with an injury.

    Compton performed OK—nothing spectacular, but overall did a solid job considering that he’s got a long way to go in his development.

    I'd like to see rookie free agent Xavier Nixon challenge him for that spot.

    If there was one lineman who stuck out, it was Josh LeRibeus—and not in a positive light. He struggled in just about every facet of the game.

    I would consider LeRibeus to be on the bubble, but since he was a high draft pick, that might buy him some time.

Defensive Line

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    The starting defensive line appears to be set. Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen aren’t going anywhere, while Kedric Golston will fill the void as Jarvis Jenkins serves his four-game suspension.

    Out of all the defensive linemen to enter the game, Phillip Merling was the one who stuck out on a few occasions.

    The Miami Dolphins selected Merling in the second round back in 2008, but he never panned out. Given his size and potential, the Redskins are giving him another shot.

    In his first game as a Redskin, Merling was active on the defensive front, and since the defense will be without Adam Carriker and Jenkins, Merling has a shot at making this roster.

    Aside from that, it was good to see Chris Neild get on the field again. Even though Neild won’t have an opportunity to start, rotating him in for Cofield could prove to be beneficial.

    I kept an eye on former nose tackle, now defensive end Chris Baker. It’s going to take some time to get adjusted to that role, but he remains a stopgap against the run; it’s his pass rush that will need to tremendously improve.

Linebacker

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    Let’s start with Brian Orakpo. He did record a sack on a four-man rush, which is great to see. He did, however, struggle on multiple occasions.

    He overpursued Chris Johnson on his long touchdown run. He also committed a penalty and was stonewalled by Michael Roos on a few occasions.

    With that being said, Orakpo looks to be in impeccable shape; he just needed to shake the cobwebs off, and there shouldn’t be an issue.

    On Ryan Kerrigan’s sack, he was lined up on the inside, which was interesting to see. Given Kerrigan’s brute strength, that might be something we see more of this coming season.

    If anyone else can be credited with Kerrigan’s sack, it’s rookie Brandon Jenkins. Before getting injured while at Florida State, Jenkins was a projected day-one or -two draft pick.

    He’s got a high upside, and I loved his tenacity while on the field. Quite often, rookies appear to be overwhelmed in the preseason; Jenkins looked like he fit right in.

    I could see him taking Rob Jackson’s role as he serves his suspension too.

    The front office appears to be set at starting inside linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley. On the other hand, their depth has been substantially reduced with the departure of Lorenzo Alexander and the injury to Keenan Robinson.

    Even though he didn’t see the field, it will be interesting to see how veteran Nick Barnett fits into the scheme because if one of the starters goes down with an injury, they may be in trouble.

Cornerback

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    It only took one play for David Amerson to make himself noticed. I admit that I underestimated his athleticism.

    On that first play, he baited Jake Locker into that throw, and he has the ability to recover from that separation.

    He’s physical and doesn’t appear to shy away from contact—so far, so good for our second-round pick.

    Richard Crawford remains active in the secondary too. He made a great play in the corner of the end zone that was nearly an interception.

    Chase Minnifield was impressive too. He made a couple good breaks on receivers and nearly picked off a pass too.

Safety

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    This unit overall had a poor game. First and foremost, Bacarri Rambo definitely had his “welcome to the NFL” moment, as Chris Johnson broke his ankles.

    Should Rambo have made that tackle? Yes. Was he on an island against one of the fastest and most elusive running backs in the league? Yes.

    Despite Rambo’s impressive training camp, it goes to show you that he still has a long way to go if he wants to shore up that free safety spot.

    Fellow rookie Phillip Thomas didn’t play particularly well either and now may be sidelined for a while due to his foot injury.

    DeJon Gomes might be on the bubble this year as he’s continuing his inconsistent approach. He has a habit of missing tackles, and plays like that will drive coaches crazy.

Special Teams

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    It was an uneventful night for Kai Forbath and Sav Rocca.

    Richard Crawford and Niles Paul weren’t able to get anything going in the return game either.

    Skye Dawson had a nice return, but he’ll have to do it a lot more if he wants to make the team. Can I just say that my life as a Redskins fan is much easier without Brandon Banks teasing us with his return abilities?

    Punt coverage was a concern, but when you lose the best special teamer in the league (Lorenzo Alexander) and your longtime coach (Danny Smith), there are going to be some bumps in the road.