Washington Redskins: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Preseason
With two weeks of preseason football and a healthy amount of reps from the starters in the books, the Washington Redskins have a lot to work on before the regular season.
By beating the Cleveland Browns 24-23 on Monday, they may have spoiled Kyle Shanahan's return to FedEx Field, but how they played is what matters.
Robert Griffin III was under intense scrutiny as usual. The defense needed a better showing this week, and the offense needed to make some noise with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, among other things.
Here's what we have learned about the Redskins after two weeks of preseason action.
Robert Griffin III Is a Work in Progress
From a statistical standpoint, Robert Griffin III had a good night in just over a quarter of action on Monday. He completed six of eight passes for 112 yards and an interception, which was the result of pressure and awful interior protection.
That being said, Griffin is a singularly frustrating player to watch and root for.
On one play, he stood in the face of pressure, adjusted his throwing angle, made a throw to Darrel Young and absorbed a hit. On another play, he broke the pocket well before he needed to but managed to pick up some yards with his legs.
It shows inconsistency in his decision-making that he will need to refine over the next weeks and throughout the season.
Griffin was poised in the pocket and threw some accurate passes but also displayed the disregard for his body that earned him his second knee surgery early in 2013.
Zach Hocker Has the Edge in the Kicking Competition
It may seem like an insignificant battle, but the Kai Forbath vs. Zach Hocker kicking competition may be coming to a close sooner rather than later.
Hocker has the stronger leg, has risen to the occasion in games and simply looks more confident than Forbath.
It was Hocker, not Forbath, who boomed the opening kickoff for a touchback. Forbath responded with a decent kick that went five yards deep, but the kick was returned, which is a scenario the Redskins don't want to deal with in the coming season.
There are still two preseason games left for the decision to be made, but all accounts show Hocker has the edge on the field and on the stat sheet.
Jim Haslett Has Some Excellent Pass-Rush Packages
There were questions about what the Redskins would do with the abundance of pass-rushing talent they've amassed between Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Trent Murphy.
On key passing downs on Monday, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett put all three on the field at once, and it resulted in a sack.
Kerrigan and Murphy are of the same ilk as pass-rushers—strong and relentless—whereas Orakpo is more of an athlete who is capable of moving through and around the formation to exploit weaknesses.
Though it is a tantalizing idea, it creates a few problems at least in terms of productivity. If Kerrigan and Murphy are being charged with pressing the attack on the outside and Orakpo is coming on a delay or shooting a gap, the bulk of the sacks are going to come from Kerrigan and Murphy.
Orakpo is a rare athlete who can get to the quarterback from anywhere along the line, but is he being used correctly as the plug-and-play pass-rusher?
Why not use Murphy as that type of player and allow Kerrigan and Orakpo to focus on the edges?
Morgan Moses Isn't Getting Reps at Right Tackle
Morgan Moses was an accomplished left tackle during his college career at Virginia. The Redskins drafted him to replace right tackle Tyler Polumbus, who is a serviceable lineman but lacks the mobility to hold up in pass protection.
Against Cleveland, Moses was lined up on the left side, while Tom Compton took snaps on the right side.
Maybe it was just a way to get both Moses and Compton some game action at the same time, but it doesn't say much about Moses' progress on the right side that he's getting second-team reps on the left side.
What's possibly more interesting is that fellow rookie Spencer Long was playing on the left side as well.
It could be the easiest way to get the young linemen game experience, but it would be better to see the pair that is expected to anchor the right side of the line in the future physically playing those positions at this juncture.
The Interior Offensive Line Is Horrible
Kory Lichtensteiger is proving himself to be a solid center in the middle of Washington's offensive line. To his left, Shawn Lavao looks excellent as a pulling guard—a step up from shaky offseason performances.
Chris Chester, the veteran right guard, looks as horrific now as he did at any point during the 2013 season.
Against Cleveland's starting defense, Chester and the interior saw a lot of pressure focused their way, and more often than not, they yielded to it. They allowed Griffin to be sacked on interior pressure; they let pressure get in Griffin's face, and he had to force a throw that was intercepted.
The right side of the line in general is a weak link, but if defenses begin keying on Chester and the interior offensive line, the Redskins won't be able to run an offense with slow, developing plays.
Perhaps it helps that the early offensive success came from quick hitting routes as opposed to deep throws and anything that requires sustained blocking.
Keenan Robinson Easily Overshadows Perry Riley
A healthy Keenan Robinson looks comfortable and capable of leading the defense as one of the starting inside linebackers. He's been able to absorb the scheme while being stuck on the sidelines, and thus far he has stayed off the training table.
Perry Riley, the fifth-year linebacker starting alongside of Robinson, looked inexperienced and lost at times against the Browns.
One three successive plays, Riley stood out in a bad way. First, on a play where he was covering the flat, he stepped up too far when Johnny Manziel looked to break the pocket. Then he bit on a pump fake, leaving his feet in the process.
On the next play, he locked his eyes on the backfield, flowed too far in the direction of the play action and then had to flip his hips and chase a play over his head.
On the following play, he incurred a facemask penalty, giving the Browns a fresh set of downs.
Luckily, Cleveland's offense was about as dysfunctional as one would expect, but to see Riley make those mistakes on successive plays is concerning. It is unlikely that he'll yield his starting spot because of it, but it may be interesting to watch the discrepancy between Riley and Robinson as the season progresses.
Defense Thrives When Allowed to Be Aggressive
The Redskins didn't get a lot of opportunities to drop back and sit in coverage to test their new personnel and schemes. However, the lack of long-developing plays allowed the defense to pin its ears back and put serious pressure on the Cleveland offense.
Jim Haslett was able to bring a good deal of pressure from an array of places on the field, which is precisely how the Redskins defense needs to run.
The package with Orakpo, Kerrigan and Murphy is just one aspect of the pressure. Brandon Meriweather looks more comfortable with the ability to move up to the line and threaten blitz or bring another body into the box against the run.
It was particularly encouraging to see instances where the defense generated pressure without bringing an excess of bodies.
Cleveland's miscues made it easier, but being able to disrupt an offense with just five men rushing is an excellent sign.
Passing Offense Looks to Be Ahead of Rushing Offense
Yes, it is preseason, and no, the offense isn't likely to look the same come the regular season, but it is interesting to note the disparity in the offensive scheme. With all the weapons available, it would make sense that the passing offense would find easier success, though utilizing all the weapons may be difficult.
But the rushing offense, even with Alfred Morris, struggled against Cleveland.
Quick passes were successful for the Redskins, and there was an emphasis on yards after the catch with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, whose lone catch-and-run was called back on a penalty.
Morris, in the meantime, mishandled a toss and churned out a meager 29 yards on 11 carries, which is well below his typical output. Running lanes weren't opening, and penalties erased a good deal of his work on the night.
The goal-line stand that resulted in a turnover following four consecutive runs showed that the ground game is not where it was last season. Morris is still a lock for 1,000 yards, but it may be tougher sledding if Cleveland's offensive line poses such a problem in preseason.
Ryan Grant and Lache Seastrunk Can Be Factors on Offense
As loaded as the offense is at receiver and with the duo of Alfred Morris and Roy Helu at running back, rookies Ryan Grant and Lache Seastrunk could earn small roles in the Redskins offense.
Seastrunk finished the game with seven carries for 35 yards, and Grant hauled in four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Grant has an easier path to making the roster since Leonard Hankerson's status is still up in the air and Aldrick Robinson has done little to define himself.
Seastrunk has an uphill battle against Silas Redd, Evan Royster and Chris Thompson. With Thompson hurt, Seastrunk got more touches, but Royster made the most of his limited action, earning 26 total yards and a touchdown on one carry and one catch.