The Washington Redskins were able to defeat the Cleveland Browns last night in a sloppy game that ultimately resulted in a 24-23 victory for Washington. Here are some key takeaways for the Redskins offense:
AREAS OF CONCERN
Turnovers: The Redskins first team offense Monday Night much resembled the team last year that turned the ball over 33 times (good for 30th worst in the league). On the team’s opening drive, Alfred Morris was not able to catch a pitch to the left from Robert Griffin III resulting in a lost fumble which set the opposition up with great field position.
On the offense’s next possession, on third and long from Cleveland’s 27-yard line, Griffin made a terrible decision under duress, floating the ball towards a very well covered DeSean Jackson along the right sideline. It was easy pickings for Browns cornerback Joe Haden who returned it 37 yards. It was a throw Griffin just can’t make, especially in scoring position.
The team’s backup quarterbacks didn’t fare much better, as Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy both threw interceptions later on. Turnovers were a major reason why the team struggled last year, often putting the defense in bad situations. This area must improve for the Redskins to be successful in the regular season.
RGIII scrambles: After an offseason where there was much talk of Griffin needing to develop as a traditional “pocket passer” to avoid taking so many hits, the quarterback took his fair share of punishment Monday night. On his first scramble, Griffin struggled to slide after bouncing out wide to the right. He came into contact with Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby four yards downfield, and it resulted in an ugly tangling of his legs as he went down awkwardly.
Later on the same drive, Griffin scrambled again, this time to his left. Instead of ducking out of bounds unharmed after a modest eight-to-ten yard gain, he cut upfield eventually colliding with three successive Browns defenders as he got knocked out of bounds. Not exactly what you want to see in a preseason game that means nothing.
If Griffin wants to stay healthy, he’ll need to better avoid contact going forward. For the record, he vowed to the fans after the game that he’d work on his sliding. We’ll see.
Poor run game: The Redskins first team unit wasn’t very good on the ground, with Morris running the ball 11 times for only 29 yards (a 2.6 average yards per carry). The struggles were epitomized early in the second quarter when the team ran the ball four straight times on the goal line and could not score, resulting in a turnover on downs.
The stretch-zone running game will need to be the backbone of this offense as the Redskins install a new passing scheme under first year head coach Jay Gruden, so they can ill-afford nights like tonight on the ground once the regular season hits.
DeSean Jackson: The team’s prized free agent acquisition had a strong showing in his Redskins debut with two catches for 34 yards. On both receptions, Jackson was able to get yards after the catch using every bit of the quickness and elusiveness we’ve seen throughout his career.
In addition, on the Haden interception, Jackson was ultimately the one to run him down from behind to make the tackle. Great hustle and effort, especially in a meaningless preseason game with nothing to prove. Expect him to be a big part of the offense this season, and not just on deep routes.
Moving the ball: Despite the offense’s turnover struggles, the team was actually able to move the ball pretty well through the air, as Griffin went 6-for-8 for 112 yards. A big highlight was a long 49-yard pass from Griffin to receiver Andre Roberts. On this play, Griffin initially looked right and pump faked before bombing the ball down the field left to Roberts who had the Browns’ Haden beat by a step.
The initial pump from Griffin gave him enough time to squeeze the pass into Roberts before the safety could get back over top to make a play on the ball. A beautiful throw and catch. Jackson clearly isn’t the only one who can beat defenders deep. Expect to see Griffin take some shots down the field to Roberts this year as well.
Kicking: After an opening game in which the rookie Zach Hocker appeared to best incumbent Kai Forbath, neither could distance himself Monday Night. Hocker was a perfect 2-for-2 on both his elongated extra point attempts, while Forbath hit the only Redskins field goal attempt of the game, a 26-yarder, as well as an extra point himself.
Both performed pretty well on kickoffs, although Hocker outdrove Forbath on average and even had a touchback on the game’s opening kickoff. Solid nights for both. The decision on who wins the starting job didn’t get any easier.
Other notables: Rookie receiver Ryan Grant had another strong showing catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. It appears he’s a lock to make the team at this point.
Fellow receiver Rashad Ross had another strong night, showing off that same speed he showed in the preseason opener. He again had a long kick return, this time for 42 yards, and again had a long catch on a go route down the sideline, hauling in a 43-yard pass from Colt McCoy. He’s still got to be considered a long shot but his showing so far certainly has helped.