- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 22, 2019

Derrius Guice leapt into the air and jumped across the goal line — only for yellow flags to immediately throw across the Mercedez-Benz Stadium turf. The Redskins running back barely got to celebrate his potential touchdown before officials called the play back for holding.

It was a disappointing outcome for Washington, and a general theme throughout the first half of Thursday’s 19-7 win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Redskins’ starting offense ultimately couldn’t capitalize on key opportunities and left points on the board, despite having moments of productivity.

And in what could possibly be a tremendous setback, the Redskins announced tight end Jordan Reed was being evaluated for a concussion. Reed took a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half from safety Keanu Neal and remained in the game, though the Redskins announced in the fourth quarter that Reed was being further evaluated.

Reed, of course, has a lengthy injury history, including at least five concussions. Coach Jay Gruden said Reed developed concussion symptoms at halftime, and is now in the concussion protocol.

This was Reed’s first game of the preseason after he was held out of the other two for precautionary reasons. Throughout the summer, the 29-year-old was having a dominant camp — and was healthy again after battling foot problems in 2018.

Speaking to reporters in Atlanta, Gruden defended his decision to play Reed.

“We need the work, we have a new quarterback, some new offensive linemen, Derrius coming back from injury, we need the work,” Gruden said. “We need some continuity. .. This is the only time to get really full-speed reps. … It was good work for everybody. Fingers crossed Jordan will be OK, but everybody else came out pretty good.”

Elsewhere, the first-unit played five series — spanning an entire first half — but mustered only six points. Poor offensive line play and a turnover killed any momentum the Redskins generated.

Quarterback Case Keenum, who got his third consecutive start, had his best outing of the preseason. He connected on a variety of intermediate throws and finished 9-of-14 for 101 yards. His worst play, though, occurred in the second quarter when he was stripped sacked at the 46-yard line — leading to a Falcons recovery.

“I think he’s done pretty good,” Gruden said of Keenum. “He’s just continued to get better. It’s a transition for him. He’s coming from a different system, his third system in three years. It’s not easy.”

On his turnover, Keenum arguably held the ball too long, though the offensive line didn’t do him any favors. As a unit, the first-string line continued to look poor without star left tackle Trent Williams.

Through three games, the line’s clear weakness is at left guard — and starter Ereck Flowers looks ill-equipped to handle the position. Flowers, who made the switch from tackle to guard this offseason, struggled mightily in pass protection. He was also called for holding on Guice’s goal-line run.

Washington, meanwhile, made an adjustment without Williams, starting veteran Donald Penn instead of second-year tackle Geron Christian. This was Penn’s first start of the preseason, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if that change remains permanent as long as Williams continues to holdout.

It wasn’t all bad for the Redskins, either. In his first game back since tearing his ACL last year, Guice looked sturdy, strong and explosive — rushing for 44 yards on 11 carries. The 22-year-old often powered through the initial contact to create extra yardage. A notable exception: Guice failed to punch in two straight runs on the goal line.

But overall, Guice’s return is a positive for the offense and it will be interesting to see what type of threat he can be with Adrian Peterson.

Here are some other takeaways:

Landon Collins looks like a star

The Redskins’ starting defense looked dominant for the second straight week, but this time, it was safety Landon Collins who was the standout. Washington’s top prize in free agency was physical and almost picked off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. As the Redskins’ defense collapsed in last year, missed tackles were a prevailing issue. Collins should fix that problem. He tends to be in the right place at the right time, and was again in Atlanta. Collins had four tackles.

Haskins solid again

Dwayne Haskins didn’t have a spectacular touchdown throw like he did last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he also avoided careless mistakes. Haskins played with the second and third-string, throwing for 74 yards and completing 7 of his 13 passes. Haskins missed a notable throw to Steven Sims in the end zone, sailing it just too far on the outside for the wide receiver to make the play.

Jimmy Moreland starting slot corner?

With Fabian Moreau out with an ankle injury, seventh-round cornerback Jimmy Moreland might be making his case to steal the starting spot at nickel. Moreland continues to make noticeable plays, such as making a furious hit on a run play in the first half. The James Madison product has more experience playing on the outside, but at 5-foot-11, Moreland’s size could serve him better as a tough, physical inside corner.

The Redskins have been pleased with Moreau’s development this summer, so it’s no guarantee this spot is now Moreland’s, but it is a situation worth monitoring.

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