5 Biggest Takeaways from Washington Redskins' Preseason so Far
Through two preseason games, there are several reasons for fans of the Washington Redskins to be excited.
From the improvement in the secondary to the impressive pass rush, head coach Mike Shanahan appears to have made multiple adjustments that could help push the Redskins over the top in 2013.
Of course, much hinges on the health of quarterback Robert Griffin III and Washington's ability to run the football.
Will the Redskins stick with the read-option offense? Will Alfred Morris carry the ball 335 times again?
Those answers could potentially have been answered in the first couple of preseason games.
Here's my take.
Roy Helu Should Take Some Pressure off Alfred Morris
After climbing to the top of the depth chart in camp last summer, Alfred Morris shocked the football world by establishing himself as one of the game's elite young rushers in 2012.
He finished as the NFL's second-leading rusher and solidified himself as one of Washington's franchise centerpieces beside Robert Griffin III.
But Morris' ascendance to stardom didn't come easy. And there is no question he could use some help in the backfield in 2013.
Only Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson carried the ball more frequently than did Morris a season ago. His patient running style helped him avoid any devastating injuries; however, there is no denying the physical toll that comes with being a running back in the NFL.
So the emergence of a complementary, third down option might preserve Morris' effective shelf life in the league. And the Redskins are hoping that guy is already wearing burgundy and gold.
Roy Helu Jr. was thought by many to be the back of the future a couple of years ago. Though injuries have hindered his opportunity with the team, Helu could offer Kyle Shanahan a change-of-pace back in 2013.
So far, Helu has compiled 87 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in two preseason games. He started the opener against the Tennessee Titans and added a 14-yard reception in Monday night's win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By no means is Helu a threat to unseat Morris as the starter anytime soon. In fact, Morris may benefit from the competition and relief. But Helu's ability to catch passes out of the backfield is something Morris doesn't bring to the table.
Don't be surprised if Morris' totals drop slightly from his rookie campaign. Helu Jr. may very well be the primary option on third down come Week 1.
The Read-Option Is Here to Stay
Part of Washington's success on offense last season can be attributed to the element of surprise. After running a traditional offense for the duration of the preseason, Robert Griffin III and Co. came out with the read-option Week 1 against the Saints, taking the entire city of New Orleans off guard.
Discussion about eliminating the system surfaced following RGIII's knee injury at the conclusion of last season, and critics argue that the league will adjust to the offense as they did the Wildcat a couple years ago.
But anyone with sufficient knowledge of the game can tell you that the read-option is far different from the Wildcat.
In reality, the two can't even be compared.
The Wildcat is simply a formation, whereas the read-option is a complex offensive system. When teams line up in the Wildcat, they are essentially telling the defense they are running the ball. With the read-option, not a single soul in the building knows what is going to happen until after the ball is snapped.
Pat White, a long-shot to make the roster, ran the offense fairly effectively with second-, third- and fourth-string players against the Titans and Steelers. And while your quarterback is indeed at risk of injury anytime he carries the ball downfield, the read-option doesn't expose him more so than any other designed quarterback running play.
If the first two preseason games are any indication of what is to come in the regular season, the read-option is here to stay in Washington. Let's wait and see if the league can successfully adjust to one of football's most powerful offenses in the nation's capital.
Rex Grossman Is the Best Third-String Quarterback in the NFL
It's hard to believe that the Redskins' third-string quarterback once started a Superbowl for the Chicago Bears. But seven years later, Rex Grossman serves as one of the most unpopular, yet efficient, benchwarmers in the NFL.
His short stint as a starter in Washington from 2010-11 left fans anxious and frustrated.
A trigger-happy turnover-prone gunslinger made a name for himself throwing interceptions at critical times in D.C., but still possesses the talent and knowledge to get the job done.
For his career, Grossman has thrown 56 touchdowns and committed 82 turnovers—a ratio few quarterbacks have hung around long enough to compile.
He is better known for his consistency in the local nightclubs than his consistency on the football field, but Grossman still stands as one of only a few serviceable third-string quarterbacks around.
Hopefully, the Redskins won't have to resort to the veteran out of Florida anytime soon. Both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins are starting quarterbacks in this league.
However, if it came down to it, Grossman is capable of moving the offense down the field. And the fans in Washington have to feel confident knowing they have great depth at the most important position on the field.
Bacarri Rambo Is Your Starting Free Safety Despite His Tackling Issues
Heading into the 2013 season, the most glaring concern in Washington was quite apparent. The secondary struggled tremendously a season ago, and the Redskins' most recent draft addressed that weakness.
Bacarri Rambo, out of the University of Georgia, is one pick that has a chance to receive playing time for the 'Skins this year. David Amerson was the first player selected by Mike Shanahan, but the competition at cornerback and free safety respectively means that Rambo might be the most likely to start Week 1.
On the surface, Rambo's performance in the team's first two preseason games would be suspect to the casual fan. A few badly missed tackles have had fans calling for his demotion in favor of DeJon Gomes. However, many fail to realize Rambo is an above average coverage safety.
As such, Rambo is likely Washington's best option at the free safety position one season after the Redskins surrendered more passing touchdowns than every team but one.
There is no question he needs to work on his angles and fundamentals, but tackling is something that can be improved much quicker than coverage skills.
Both Amerson and Rambo could potentially find themselves in the starting lineup at some point this season. Each have the skill set to succeed at the highest level in the NFL. Only time will tell if the pair of rookies can beat out their competition.
Washington's Pass Rush Is Much Improved
Part of the reason the Redskins struggled in pass coverage last season was because of their inability to create pressure on the quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the rest of Washington's staff are hoping that will change in 2013.
The return of Brian Orakpo from a torn pectoral muscle will undoubtedly make a difference for a unit that produced just 32 sacks a season ago. Whether he is 100 percent or not, his mere presence on the field will help free up the rest of his teammates.
One man that will benefit from Orakpo's return is Ryan Kerrigan. Washington's first selection in the 2011 NFL draft recorded 56 tackles, 8.5 sacks and one interception in his sophomore season with the Redskins.
This season, many expect those numbers to increase.
Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers gave us a preview of Kerrigan's ability when he intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown.
A game that witnessed heaps of pressure from the Redskins featured a strong performance from Barry Cofield as well.
Sure, it is tough to gauge success during the preseason when teams are experimenting with personnel and strategy alike. But if all goes as planned, there is no question the Redskins will have a much improved defensive line and pass rush.