Washington Redskins: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Training Camp
Preseason is now upon us, and Week 2 of training camp helped us learn a few things about Jay Gruden's Washington Redskins.
The New England Patriots came to town, and Tom Brady let the Washington defense know that it still has some work to do. The running back situation didn't get any clearer. Hopes were raised once again.
Players are fighting for roster spots everywhere, and performances in camp don't always translate to the regular season. Nevertheless, it's vital for evaluation purposes, and a solid showing will always help a player's chances of remaining with the team.
Let's take a look at five things we can take from the last seven days.
Jay Gruden Won't Abandon the Run
When Mike Shanahan left the nation's capital, there were fears that the running game would suffer—that Alfred Morris would somehow go to waste.
While we still don't know quite how it will play out, the first preseason game seemed to suggest that the new head coach would still lean on the Pro Bowl running back and the rushing attack in general. Gruden was patient with his use of the offense, using the ground game to control the time of possession and eat up yards.
Morris carried the ball five times during Robert Griffin III's one and only series behind center, while Roy Helu, Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk, Silas Redd and Evan Royster all got a chance to impress.
Gruden has a decision to make on who will work behind Morris as the starter, but it's clear that Seastrunk won't simply be handed the job as a Gruden draft pick. The former Baylor back showed flashes of big-play ability but remains a work in progress as a blocker and pass-catcher. Helu is still the best option there, and it's difficult to see that changing.
Third running back might not be the most glamorous of position battles, but it's clear that it will be important to the offense. Redskins fans can take heart from that.
Aldrick Robinson Remains a Camp Standout
Aldrick Robinson has some prior knowledge of inconsistency, so it's very difficult to make a prediction about his future with the Redskins. He has also had a good training camp in the past, most notably last year.
Has Robinson turned a corner in his development? Has he become the receiver that Washington thought he could be?
These questions will go unanswered until the regular season gets underway, but for that to happen, Robinson must make the final 53-man roster.
With DeSean Jackson absent from the preseason win over the Patriots, Robinson made a real case for his inclusion. In place of Jackson, he had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Gruden will be unable to leave him out of the team if he continues this form, but within a stacked crop of receivers, Robinson has to do everything right, every time.
Kai Forbath Has Some Real Competition
The kicking competition will come down to the wire, so it's obviously important to remain realistic about what has happened over the last seven days.
It's impossible to judge kickers in training camp, so the preseason game was vital to understand how the battle is going so far. With Kai Forbath the only one with real NFL game experience, you could have been forgiven for assuming he would handle the occasion better.
Instead, it was rookie Zach Hocker who came out with his head held high, connecting on both of his field-goal attempts as well as registering a touchback. Forbath, meanwhile, missed a 46-yarder and sent one of his kickoffs out of bounds.
Drafting a kicker is always going to put pressure on the incumbent, and Forbath doesn't appear to be handling it as well as he should.
Again, it's still too early to make a real judgement, but Forbath is under even more strain than before. If he is to remain the kicker in Washington, he absolutely has to do better against the Browns on Monday.
Bacarri Rambo Has Improved His Tackling
It was the only thing that would keep him on the roster, but Bacarri Rambo appears to be conquering his issues with tackling in the open field.
Rambo registered four tackles against New England, one of which was an impressive play in run support as he took down running back Shane Vereen.
The correct angles seem to be coming to him more naturally, and the confidence is more on display than before. In 2013, Rambo was hesitant and mistrusting of his own ability. While he got picked on in the joint camp with the Patriots, he showed up in the game and looked decisive.
It doesn't help his case that Gruden has brought in another safety, Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, who will compete with Rambo for his job. Cromartie-Smith offers more on special teams than Rambo, which will make life difficult for the former Georgia standout.
If Rambo can continue his development over the preseason, he will force his way onto the roster. Any regressions, however, will see him drop out of Gruden's plans altogether.
Keenan Robinson Is Ready for His Responsibilities
Keenan Robinson has been one of the stars of training camp, taking to his leadership role well in place of London Fletcher. Robinson is crucial to the success of the defense in 2014, so it was interesting to see him go against Tom Brady in training camp.
Brady picked apart the Washington defense with aplomb, but Gruden had praise for the way Robinson went about his duties, per Rich Tandler at CSN Washington: "Keenan did a nice job. I think communication was excellent. There’s some things we’ve got to tighten down a little bit but overall I felt good about communication as far as the defense was concerned."
If Robinson can marshal the defense on a level comparable to Fletcher—and remain healthy—then Washington's unit will be organised and efficient.
That's purely on a theoretical level, of course, as Robinson has yet to prove anything on the field. Against the Patriots in a game situation, Robinson continued his strong start and was decisive when reading the offense and commanding the defense.
There was no Brady, of course, which helped him out immensely. But it was very encouraging to see Robinson remain patient and do his job as effectively as possible.