It was as recent as 48 hours ago that this preseason Week 3 game against the Baltimore Ravens was looming as one of the biggest in Quarterback Robert Griffin III‘s career. That all changed on Friday evening when Griffin was ruled out under the NFL concussion protocols. Instead, this game quickly became an audition between Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy, both of whom had seen the crack appearing in the “Griffin is the Week 1 starter” dyke.
Even with the uncertainty at Quarterback, there were no shortages of storylines from this game. Fans were treated to a fight, ejections, coaches yelling at each other, turnovers, and tackles that looked like a WWE-style piledriver. And all that occurred just in the first quarter.
With that in mind, strap yourselves in for this week’s edition of What worked. What didn’t. What sucked.
- Both Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy played strong games in the absence of Griffin. Starting the game, Cousins got off to a slow and worrisome start, throwing an interception on an ugly bubble-screen throw that never had a chance. To his credit though, Cousins rebounded from that interception and moved the chains well for the remainder of the second half, leading two touchdown drives to ensure that the Redskins went into half-time with a 1 point lead.
- Cousins first touchdown of the game was the result of some rare good fortune going the Redskins way; a well thrown pass to Andre Roberts deflected out of the receivers hands. Too often this sort of thing results in the Redskins turning over the ball, but today rookie Wide Receiver Jamison Crowder (who was seemingly running the wrong route, it must be noted) was in the right place at the right time and scooped up the tipped ball for the easy touchdown.
- After watching Kirk Cousins put together a good showing in the first half, Colt McCoy came out in the second half and looked like a man who wanted to remind people that this Quarterback ‘controversy’ is not a two horse race. Cousins led two scoring drives against a mix of the Ravens 1st and 2nd team defensive units, so McCoy came out and led three scoring drives without turning the ball over at all. It was an on-field example of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ from McCoy, who impressed with his play tonight and demonstrated the type of mobility and creativity that sets him apart from Cousins in many respects.
- Coach Jay Gruden seemingly has a decision to make at Quarterback now, with Robert Griffin III’s availability uncertain, and the Week 4 preseason game fast approaching. The issue in selecting a Quarterback to start in place of Griffin if he’s either unavailable or if a change is made regardless is trying to differentiate between McCoy and Cousins, whom have both played well each time they are given the opportunity. In fact, whilst many fans are clamoring for Cousins to get the nod now, and understandably so, there are those within the Redskins front office who still believe that Colt McCoy gives this team the best chance to win. The stats from the 2015 preseason games played so far also seem to suggest that this competition is closer than it seems:
- Trent Williams returned to the field for his first preseason action, and the entire Offensive Line seemed to benefit from his presence, giving up zero sacks throughout the entire game. Rookie Brandon Scherff also played noticeably better, and demonstrated that he’d been working on his technique when it comes to staying low and using his feet to maintain blocks.
- The Redskins defense continues to do well against the run, holding Ravens starting Running Back Justin Forsett to a combined 2.3 yards per carry average on 8 carries. Once again, the run defense was aided by the impressive Strong Safety Duke Ihenacho, who identifies run plays quickly and accurately and moves into position to hit the carrier. Also prominent against the run tonight was Chris Baker, who stopped 3 runs on his own, including forcing a fumble on the goal-line with a pretty move that saved a would-be Ravens touchdown.
- After famously struggling during Training Camp this year, Kicker Kai Forbath has looked rock solid the last two weeks. Tonight he drilled a 44 yard Field Goal, and was also perfect on 4/4 Extra Point attempts. Expect backup Kicker Ty Long, who has not embarrassed himself by any stretch of the imagine, to likely be amongst the Redskins first round of cuts on September 1st.
- Undrafted rookie Cornerback Deshazor Everett gave his chances of making the final 53 roster a huge boost with a fantastic Special Teams play that resulted in a fumble that the Redskins recovered. Everett’s play as the 5th Cornerback has been decent throughout camp and preseason, and coaches are impressed with his athleticism, but they needed to see him contribute on Special Teams in order to set himself apart. He did that in spades today.
- With DeSean Jackson again not available for this game, Ryan Grant was tasked with starting as the outside Wide Receiver. Grant has made the most of his opportunities so far this year, and has shown a noticeable improvement to his quickness and route running. Grant led all Redskins receivers today with 64 yards receiving.
- On a night where Alfred Morris wasn’t getting much open space to work with, Matt Jones did exactly what you want a change-of-pace Running Back to do, by coming in and showing the Ravens defense something different to great effect. Don’t make too much of Jones success against Morris’ struggles tonight; Morris is still this teams workhorse and Jones will succeed best when he’s the relief back instead of the bellcow.
- With DeAngelo Hall being managed in his recovery from last years achilles injury and his groin injury from Training Camp in early August, David Amerson started the game at outside Cornerback opposite Chris Culliver. Amerson was exposed early when he watched Steve Smith take a medium-length reception all the way to the house for a 63 yard touchdown. Later on in the game, Amerson missed a couple of tackles that resulted in the Ravens picking up extra yards that they shouldn’t have received. Overall, not a strong night for Amerson, and he’ll really need to continue working on all aspects of his game if he wants to maintain a presence on the Redskins roster beyond 2015.
- The aforementioned Kirk Cousins interception was not a good pass at all. Some interceptions are forgivable; defenders can simply make great plays, or receivers can run the wrong routes… things can go wrong on the football field that certainly aren’t the fault of the Quarterback. That can’t be said for Cousins pick in the first quarter. Receiving the snap from under center, Cousins immediately looked to his right and locked on to the intended receiver Pierre Garcon, who was well covered. Cousins should have identified that the planned bubble-screen wasn’t open and either thrown the ball away or looked for a check down, but instead he threw the ball directly into the waiting hands of Terell Suggs. In a preseason game that type of interception isn’t hugely damaging, but in a regular season game it could be brutal.
- Alfred Morris wasn’t given much help by the Redskins Offensive Line on run plays tonight. With all of Morris’ 7 attempts being called as runs between the tackles, the Redskins linemen simply couldn’t open up any lanes for Morris. It’s hard to fault Morris for this, as it wasn’t as if he was making bad decisions or hitting the wrong holes. There simply weren’t any holes for Morris to hit.
- Shawn Lauvao didn’t have a great night at Left Guard, and although he didn’t give up any sacks, he also didn’t inspire confidence in his ability to protect the Quarterback and maintain a pocket for any great length of time. Lauvao struggled in the first half of the 2014 season but finished his year much stronger, and to his credit he also looked strong in Training Camp this year. He’s had a few poor plays in preseason though, and will need to improve if he’s to hold of Arie Koundjiou.
- Any time you have a starting player ejected, you know something has gone wrong. Following a melee that started after Ravens players took umbrage to a heavy and clumsy Keenan Robinson tackle, both Redskins Cornerback Chris Culliver and Ravens Wide Receiver Steve Smith were ejected.
- Several other players were likely close to being ejected as well, but the person who should have been ejected but wasn’t was Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. As the scuffle starting to wind down, Harbaugh ran across the entire field towards the Redskins sideline and absolutely blasted Gruden.
- There were numerous things that weren’t right with that confrontation, but the image of Gruden skulking away wasn’t a good look. It would have been nice to see Gruden stand up for himself in front of his troops and demonstrate that the Redskins, from top to bottom, aren’t a team that is going to allow themselves to be bullied.
- The image of Robert Griffin III warming up pre-game, as well as walking the lines of teammates doing their pre-game stretches and wishing them good luck for the game, was one that led some Redskins analysts to ponder whether or not this was a swansong.
Looks ALMOST like he's saying his goodbyes RT @Redskins: #Redskins QB RGIII wishes his teammates good luck. #HTTR pic.twitter.com/x0apopwerB
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) August 29, 2015
- If the Robert Griffin III era in Washington really is over, and for the record, I don’t believe we’re there yet, it will signal a systemic failure to return on the huge investment it took to draft him.
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