Washington Redskins: Quick Recap of What I Was Looking for in Friday's Game
Last Friday, I posted nine items for the fans to watch closely during the game.
Keeping in mind that it was only the first preseason game and that the Pittsburgh Steelers only kept their starters out there for two series, there was still enough play from the Redskins starters to muster up a few opinions.
On the next few slides, I'll examine each of the nine categories I was watching closely.
The Running Backs
Both Evan Royster (15 carries for 66 yards) and Roy Helu (eight carries for 28 yards) turned in good performances; the real story was the hard and aggressive running by newly acquired Tim Hightower (10 carries for 44 yards).
Hightower saw a lot of carries against the Steelers' starting defensive front and gashed his way through and around them, especially on the first drive.
I told everyone to look out for a fumble or two from him, but to my surprise, he didn't cough the ball up once, and even with only 10 carries, it was still impressive given how violently he hit those holes.
I thought there was a chance for Hightower to showcase his skills with Ryan Torrain out with a fractured hand, but I couldn't predict how well he'd take advantage of the situation.
The running backs get an "A" from me. They ran hard and didn't turn the ball over, and that's all you can ask from your backs especially when going against a team like the Steelers.
The Offensive Line
If it's one thing that the Steelers are known for, it's their defense. A defense that is no-nonsense and gets after the quarterback.
Well, the starting offensive line did not give up a single sack. They also didn't allow a lot of pressure on Rex Grossman and opened up some nice holes for Tim Hightower.
Granted, they only faced the starting front seven of the Steelers for two series, but this was a line last season that looked like they could barely block a high school junior varsity team, let alone the starters for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The line looked quicker and stronger than they had at any point last season. It's too early to declare them the second coming of the "Hogs" just yet, but as of right now, general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shannahan must be happy with the decision to keep the core group from last season together as opposed to signing a bunch of free agents.
No sacks, holes for the running backs and very little pressure on the quarterback; that earns an "A" from me.
The Defensive Line and Linebackers
Three guys I told you to keep a particular eye out for were Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield and Ryan Kerrigan.
All three guys made big plays. In the first half, Kerrigan blew up a running play on third down, tackling the back for a loss. Stephen Bowen blew through the Steelers' line to sack quarterback Byron Leftwich, and Barry Cofield was getting a good push up the middle and absorbing blocks while he was in there.
All in all, the defensive line and linebackers looked pretty good though they did allow for some medium sized runs during the first half.
They get a "B" grade for their performance. Of all the aspects, I'll be looking at for next week's game at Indy, I'm most looking forward to seeing this unit play again.
John Beck and Rex Grossman
I was really looking forward to seeing John Beck on the field with either the starters or second-string guys, however,I was sure that he'd be a no-show for the game given his groin injury.
However, Rex Grossman pleasantly surprised me with his play.
Now, I caution you Skins fans. Don't over analyze this performance. This was the first preseason game, and the Steelers starters were all done by the third possession so it's not like Rex was facing their best players for most of the first half.
However, what you can take away from his performance is that he was calm in the pocket, even on the bad snap in the red zone. Rex regained his composer and hit Santana Moss for the touchdown. Also, Rex was accurate and did not turn the ball over.
He finished 19-of-26 with 207 yards and a touchdown. Again, don't get too excited, but like I said, it was good to see Rex throwing accurately and staying calm in the pocket. He looks really comfortable in this system and should be serviceable as the starter this year.
For his performance I can't give him anything lower than an "A," but again, don't get too excited, at least not yet.
I made two points about Banks on Friday. One was that given the new kick-off spot he was going to be a long shot to make the 53-man roster since we'll have far more touchbacks than normal. My second point was that he was going to return from deep in the end zone because he needed to show that he could get the Skins better field position than the 20.
Well, it didn't take him long. After the Steelers scored a touchdown in the second quarter, Banks fielded a kick-off seven yards deep in the end zone and proceeded to take the ball to near midfield. It was an excellent return and did a lot for him in terms of making the 53-man roster.
I still think he's a long shot to make the team, but if he can show that he can do something like this every game, then that new kick-off rule be damned because Brandon Banks is still going to be a playmaker.
Overall he gets a "B" because of the first punt he let hit the ground and got downed at the 1-yard line. The ball hit in-between the 15 and 20; he should have fair caught it. In spite of his big runs. it's judgments like that, that could sink him.
Field Goal Kickers
Graham Gano nailed a 45-yarder and was 3-for-3 on field goals.
Shayne Graham was 0-2 and shanked a gimme inside of 40 yards.
Gano gets an "A" and a roster spot while Graham gets an "F" and got cut over the weekend.
Hopefully, Gano continues to improve because I see a lot of games this season coming down to his foot.
He needs to be damn near 100 percent if the Skins want any hope at making a push for the play-offs.
With Chris Cooley out, I said this was Fred Davis' time to shine. I didn't really get a chance to zero in on his blocking, but given how well Hightower ran, I wouldn't say anything Davis did hindered the running game.
However, when it's your moment to shine, dropping a first-down pass doesn't help you. Sure, Davis took a hit, but that's the type of catch Cooley or any top-tier tight end has to make.
Odds are Cooley is out for next week's game as well so Davis will get a mulligan on his one catch for 11 yards.
Davis gets a "C" for his efforts on Friday. He was average.
The Wide Receivers
Moss was Moss, grabbing seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, and Jabar Gaffeney didn't shock me by hauling in five catches as well.
Donte Stallworth, Anthony Armstrong and Terrance Austin all hauled in a handful of catches and looked good.
However, the talk of training camp rookie wideout Leonard Hankerson looked befuddled and lost out there. Now, I'll give him a pass for now because he's a rookie and didn't get all the OTA's and a lot of training camp to learn the plays.
But, if he wants to be out there in the regular season, he needs to vastly improve in the upcoming game at Indy.
The receivers as a whole unit get a "B."
Of course, the Skins would opt for my least favorite of their four main uniforms (white on burgundy, burgundy on white, white on yellow, burgundy on yellow).
I'm really hoping to see the team sporting yellow pants whenever they wear the burgundy jerseys during regular season.
Without getting too excited over a preseason game, I like what I saw out of the Redskins on Friday.
The offense looked a lot better than I expected, and of course, with one more year under his belt, Rex Grossman looks really comfortable in Kyle Shannahan's offense.
The starting offensive and defensive lines look like they've improved over last season, and even if it's only a preseason game, that is a huge plus.
However, the offense still left some points out there on the field. Ignoring the two missed field goals, they should have gotten six points on that first drive. It was way too reminiscent of the last decade to see the Skins march down the field just to get bogged down in the red zone.
Running lanes disappeared and receivers couldn't get open. Outside of Gano upping his field goal percentage, if Rex Grossman really thinks this team can win the NFC East, it will come down to scoring six points in the red zone as opposed to three.
Overall, the Redskins get a "B+" for this outing. There are things they need to work on, but overall, I was impressed with their first outing. They looked like a team with a plan instead of a bunch of guys tossing the football around.