Thursday night, in Baltimore, we parsed through the good, the bad and the ugly (there was a lot of ugly) from the Redskins’ first preseason game. After reviewing the film, here are a few more points to consider as the Redskins inch closer to the regular season.
Outside linebacker depth
The Redskins got the bad news that linebacker Trent Murphy will miss the season with a torn ACL and MCL Friday morning, after Murphy got an MRI. They’ll miss Murphy, who is going into the final year of his rookie deal and was arguably the Redskins most disruptive defensive player in 2016.
With Murphy destined for the injured reserve list, though, there is more pressure on Preston Smith, Junior Galette and rookie Ryan Anderson to perform alongside Ryan Kerrigan. Smith (ankle) and Galette (hamstring) missed Thursday night’s loss in Baltimore, but neither is expected to miss an extended period of time. Anderson, the lone member of that threesome who played Thursday, looked fantastic. His quickness will surely lead to sacks, but Anderson’s first step also helped him against the run in the game against the Ravens. Even when he wasn’t getting credited with tackles, Anderson routinely blew up lead blockers before they could clear out good running lanes. On one impressive play, Anderson cut off a lane and forced Ravens back Terrance West to bounce further outside where inside linebacker Zach Brown, with good sideline-to-sideline speed, stuffed West for no gain.
Anderson, Galette and Smith, assuming good health, will receive plenty of chances. Murphy’s injury also opens up a spot for a down-the-roster player. Both Lynden Trail and Chris Carter had good games Thursday on defense and special teams, and deserve longer looks especially now that the Redskins will need depth. Carter was also involved on the sack credited to defensive lineman Anthony Lanier.
Difficulty on the ground stemmed from poor protection
The Redskins want to improve their run game this season, but Thursday was a poor start. Washington managed just 39 yards on the ground. It’s hard to indict the running back group, though, because they had so little space to work with as both the starting and second team offensive lines were broken down by the Ravens.
The Redskins may not have been expecting Baltimore to stuff the box (there’s really no gameplanning in the preseason, but it’s possible that the Ravens decided to give it a shot, knowing that Washington’s passing options were limited without Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson) and blitz as often as they did. Kirk Cousins was under pressure essentially the entire time he was on the field and the starting offensive line wasn’t able to do anything about it. Center Spencer Long got tripped up on the play where Cousins got sacked, but the Ravens were clearly blitzing and the Redskins seemed unprepared when seven pass rushers came (Both Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff were simply beaten more than one would expect, and those two deserve the benefit of the doubt that it was just a fluke).
Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld spent time under pressure as well. McCoy is confident in the pocket but, he’s sometimes overly brave. Though, it’s a good thing that he doesn’t let himself get rushed off schedule easily. Before the lovely play he made by eluding pressure and climbing the pocket to hit Ryan Grant over the middle (the same high throw, by the way, that Cousins missed Terrelle Pryor on to start the game), McCoy held onto the ball too long for two consecutive plays.
Some clarity along the defensive line
The Redskins started in nickel defense Thursday night, using Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen in the middle of their front. When they came out in their 3-4, Ziggy Hood, Phil Taylor and Stacy McGee were the linemen, going from left to nose to right.
This was somewhat unsurprising given what has been visible during training camp, but Terrell McClain seems to be falling down the depth chart. He just hasn’t made an impact. On the play where cornerback Joshua Holsey got a nice pass breakup on a deep ball, McClain was one-on-one with his man for several seconds (enough time for the receiver to get far down field) but couldn’t win the battle. It’s not that McClain has made any egregious mistakes, but given the financial commitment the Redskins made him, it’s easy to assume they’d like to see him playing a substantial role. If younger, less coveted players who weren’t free agency acquisitions keep making more plays, though, McClain starts to look like an expensive rotational piece.
The kick is good
Dustin Hopkins provided the Redskins only points, but the fact that he did so with a strong kick to connect on a 49-yard field goal should make him and his coaches happy. Hopkins had a shaky end to last season so, even in preseason garbage time, the kick must have felt good.
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