Washington Redskins vs. Cleveland Browns: Grades for Each Redskins Unit
While we've all become accustomed to the litany of laundry that referees have thrown on the field this preseason, it was the sloppy play of both teams that made this an underwhelming contest.
Looking at the quarterbacks, Cleveland's couldn't complete a pass, while Washington's were throwing to the wrong team. Throwing three interceptions on the night, the Redskins nearly wasted a dominant defensive performance.
Holding the Browns to just 286 yards, the Redskins should've turned this game into a blowout.
Be that as it may, there still were some positive takeaways. Washington's receivers dominated this contest, as the team amassed over 312 passing yards. Speaking to the team's depth here, explosive plays in the passing game were a staple of the offense throughout the game.
Building its defense around its front seven, Washington's defense played just as it was designed to. Pressuring the Browns' quarterbacks all game, the front seven masked the Redskins' secondary.
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Here, check out the grades for each Redskins unit for Week 2 of the preseason.
After an efficient showing in the opener, Washington's quarterbacks struggled to protect the football against the Browns.
Each of its three quarterbacks threw one interception, and they all struggled in the red zone. It wasn't all bad, though.
When they weren't throwing the ball to the other team, Washington's quarterbacks were racking up passing yards. Led by Kirk Cousins' 141 yards, the trio threw for 312 yards. Furthermore, of their 20 completions, 13 went for first downs.
Although Robert Griffin III did complete six of his eight passes, as a unit, the quarterbacks only completed roughly 58 percent of their passes, making accuracy an issue.
Despite facing their share of pressure, the Redskins' quarterbacks were only sacked twice on the night.
While their performance picked up in the second half, the trio's carelessness with the football mandates that they receive a lesser grade.
Much like their backfield mates, Washington's running backs struggled with ball security. There was the dropped pitch from Alfred Morris that stalled one drive, and then there were also some bobbled handoffs.
Going against Cleveland's first-team defense, Morris was stifled by the Browns' front. On 11 carries, he only tallied 29 yards. Outside of Griffin's scrambles—who still needs to slide—Washington's rushing attack was nonexistent in the first half.
A series of plays that define this fact occurred when Washington was on the goal line. On four consecutive runs inside the 3-yard line, Morris was held out of the end zone.
Ultimately, although they finished with 117 yards on the night, Washington's backs never found their groove. Take away the team's four gains of 10-plus yards, and the Redskins' measly average of 3.8 yards per carry drops to 2.4.
With Lache Seastrunk again leading the team in rushing, the time may have come for the rookie to see some action against first-team defenses.
While the team's additions at receiver makes the running game's success less of a necessity, Washington is at its best when it boasts a balanced attack. All the reason for the team to re-establish the running game against Baltimore.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
As the team's gaudy passing numbers would attest to, Washington's pass-catchers didn't have much of a problem getting open.
Gaining separation against Cleveland's secondary, the majority of their 17 receptions weren't contested. While there's a positive view to this fact, in lieu of the team's struggles in the red zone, it can also be cast in a negative light.
Size is an issue for Washington's wideouts, with most of its top performers listed under 6'2". In light of that, teams are going to double-team tight end Jordan Reed and challenge these receivers to make contested catches in goal-line situations. And to put it bluntly, they didn't get the job done when this occurred.
Even with that said, it's worth noting that the Redskins had six receptions of 20-plus yards.
In the battle to make the team, Aldrick Robinson only caught two of his seven targets. In contrast, rookie Ryan Grant had four receptions, 44 yards and one touchdown.
Looking at the production from the tight ends, both Reed and Niles Paul caught two passes, for 20 and 22 yards, respectively.
With the combination of sure hands and big plays, this position group, as expected, proved to be one of the team's strength's in this contest.
One of the top rushing teams in the NFL the past two seasons, Washington's offensive line couldn't open up rushing lanes for the team's running backs.
While their offensive linemen eliminated the negative gains in the running game, Cleveland only had two tackles for loss, the Redskins' weren't getting any push up front. Too often, Washington's runners crossed the line of scrimmage and were met by multiple Browns players.
In regard to pass protection, this unit turned in a better effort. With the Browns dialing up a litany of blitzes, the Redskins only surrendered two sacks and three quarterback hits.
A group still learning to play together, with Shawn Lauvao at guard and Kory Lichtensteiger now at center, the team can expect this unit to improve against the blitz with experience.
With the exotic blitzes Baltimore likes to use, Washington's offensive line should get a good test on this front its next time out.
Dominant against the New England Patriots in Week 1, the Redskins' defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage once again.
The Browns were limited to 100 yards on 27 carries. With the exception of one Ben Tate 19-yard run, Cleveland's rushers were stonewalled all night. It's no wonder why the Redskins finished the night with six tackles for loss.
A new addition to the team, Clifton Geathers was one of the standouts. Finishing the night with two tackles—one for a loss—one quarterback hit and a sack, Geathers had a constant presence in Cleveland's backfield.
Tasked with eating up blockers in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme, this unit paved the way for Washington's linebackers to cause havoc all game long.
Versus the Patriots, Washington's pass rush harassed Ryan Mallett, only to let up when rookie Jimmy Garoppolo entered.
Against the Browns, this unit turned in a complete effort. From start to finish, Cleveland's quarterbacks were under duress.
The Redskins had six sacks and seven quarterback hits in this contest. The headliner for this unit, Ryan Kerrigan had a game to remember. Kerrigan had two sacks, two tackles and two quarterback hits.
With little time to throw the football, the Browns never had an opportunity to challenge Washington's secondary. This was evident in Cleveland's average yards-per-pass attempt. Manziel only averaged 4.1 yards per pass, while Hoyer turned in an even worse 2.7 yards.
Prior to the final drive that Connor Shaw engineered, the Browns had just one pass that eclipsed 20 yards.
With an offseason that's entrenched the Redskins' front seven as the building block of their defense, it's performances like this that validates such a move. And mind you, top acquisition Jason Hatcher sat out this game.
Hardly tested because of the team's pass rush, Washington's secondary can take solace in the fact that it held star Browns receiver Josh Gordon to one catch for eight yards.
Sitting on shorter routes for the majority of the night, the secondary did a good job of anticipating throws. While it didn't net the team any interceptions, it explains how the team had five passes defended. If Cleveland's quarterbacks weren't throwing such errant throws, both totals likely would've been higher.
One particular standout was rookie Bashaud Breeland. Finishing with five tackles and two passes defended, Breeland showcased his physical style of play.
Even with that said, with the way the Redskins ended this game, this performance was nearly for naught.
During the game's final two minutes, Washington went with more of a prevent defense. The result? Shaw completed five of six passes for 96 yards!
On the final completion, Shaw connected with Emmanuel Ogbuehi on a 48-yard Hail Mary for a touchdown. Compounding this mistake was the play Richard Crawford made. A good five yards in front of the goal line, rather than find the intended receiver, Crawford attempted to catch a pass that clearly wasn't within reach.
While one play can't overshadow a whole game of excellence, it drops the grade for Washington's secondary.
One of the worst special teams units a season ago, at times Monday night, this group resembled the 2013 Redskins.
Washington's kickoff coverage surrendered a 49-yard return to Anthony Armstrong in this contest. At the same token, the Redskins' own return unit showed signs of life.
Tallying 64 yards on his two kickoff returns, Rashad Ross' longest gain was 42 yards.
In the kicking battle between Zach Hocker and Kai Forbath, nothing of note occurred. The lone field goal was a 26-yarder that Forbath converted.
All told, it was a relatively average night for this unit.
Aside from the questionable pass plays he called on the goal line, Jay Gruden's play-calling was spot-on in this contest. From the quick reads he gave Griffin to get started, to the extra protection he left for Cousins, Gruden put his quarterbacks in position to succeed.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Haslett had Cleveland's confused all game. The Browns had no answer for the pressure Haslett was dialing up. With all the vanilla defenses that teams usher out during the preseason, it was refreshing to see how aggressive he called his defense.
While penalties were an obvious issue in this contest, there were 11, they were more a result of tight officiating than undisciplined play.
As the Redskins prep for the Baltimore Ravens, we'll get a better sense of the schemes Gruden will utilize the most in 2014.
|Positional Unit||Overall Grade|
Although the Redskins did escape with the win, it's not what's important here. Sloppy with the football, Washington has to know that it won't win many games turning the football over four times.
Furthermore, even with the additions the team has at wideout, the team needs to make it a point to establish the running game. As enticing as it might be for the Redskins to just air it out, this is a team built to run the football.
A liability last season, the performance of the defense was an encouraging sign, especially the team's front seven.
With the Redskins' game against the Ravens the closest we'll get to a regular-season contest, these are all items the team needs to implement by Saturday.
All statistical information is via ESPN.com.
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