For the most part, preseason games are meaningless.
However, if you’re a team with great expectations and question marks abound, preseason games (especially the third game, aka the dress rehearsal for the regular season) can clarify the murky view of the season ahead.
So what did Redskins fans learn about their team in last night’s 27-24 home loss to the New England Patriots? Here are a few items observed about the questions that insightful Skins fans were looking to have answered entering the game:
Redskins coach Jim Zorn had to get a solid performance out if his quarterback Jason Campbell against a formidable opponent in the New England Patriots. Campbell responded by leading the team on three impressive scoring drives, finishing 13-for-22 and 209-yards passing in little over a half. Mission accomplished!
The Redskins offensive line expected to see multiple blitz packages from the Patriots and they weren’t disappointed. The starting offensive line played reasonably well. QB Jason Campbell was knocked around a bit, but they protected him enough to allow him to produce. Run blocking, which should be the lines’ strength, provided very little room for RB Clinton Portis, who finished the game with eight yards rushing.
There was a question about which young receivers would step up and take a stranglehold on the second receiver position. All three made their case for the position. WR Malcolm Kelly only had one reception but was targeted often, especially in the red zone. WR Devin Thomas was focused on producing and responded with three receptions in traffic and produced several strong kick-off returns. WR Marko Mitchell continues to improve with each game. The rookie broke off a pass-route like a seasoned receiver and caught a 33-yard touchdown. His most impressive play came on a downfield block for TE Chris Cooley, shielding a Patriot defender for nearly 20 yards, allowing Cooley to amass 73-yards on the play. All three should see significant time against the New York Giants in the opening game.
The thought was that, with Carlos Rogers out with a calf injury, several young DBs would have to improve their play against the Patriots—who often run four and five-receiver sets. Rookie CB Kevin Barnes is steadily becoming the defender the Redskins had hoped he’d be when they drafted the local product (Maryland) in the third round. Barnes intercepted a Kevin O’Connell pass in the third quarter. CB Justin Tryon had a nice break-up on a deep pass in the first half, but played off the Patriots receivers most of the night and gave up several receptions.
RB Marcus Mason was given an opportunity to state his case for a final roster spot. Playing with the first offense, Mason scored on a 1-yard run and finished the night with 30 yards on eight carries. Mason left the game with badly bruised ribs which, besides hurting him physically, may end up costing him a shot at making the team.
C Casey Rabach struggled most of the night against Patriots DTs Mike Wright and Vince Wolfolk. Rabach was beaten badly by Wright on one particular pass-blocking assignment when he barely landed a hand on Wright, allowing Wolfolk to stuff the run of the Redskins first offense.
The special teams’ kick coverage performed poorly against the Steelers last week, but ST coach Danny Smith had them ready for the Patriots. Led by DL Lorenzo Alexander, who typically was the first defender down the field, the coverage teams controlled the Patriots' returns. However, it was a 33-yard punt return late in the game by Patriots S Pat Chung that set-up the game winning FG.
Perhaps the most impressive item outside the play off rookie LB/DE Brian Orakpo in the Redskins' first two preseason games is the limited number of penalties the team incurred. That all changed against the Patriots, as the Redskins shot themselves in the foot time and time again with 15 penalties, totaling 113 yards.