Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Initial Thoughts: Redskins 16, Jets 11
Here’s what I’m thinking immediately after the Redskins beat the New York Jets, 16-11, tonight in the third preseason game.
*It was a positive night for DL Albert Haynesworth, and thus a positive night for the Redskins. Forget the win, this game was all about getting Haynesworth geared up for a starting role. He played extensively at right defensive end and did so for three quarters. Perhaps even more importantly, he said the right things after the game.
With the regular season looming, it’s time for Haynesworth to cut the shenanigans and get to business. Coordinator Jim Haslett hinted at it last week when he said the Haynesworth distraction would end soon. This is what he was talking about.
As for how Haynesworth played, there were good moments and bad. A few times he tried to spin off blocks, which Haslett doesn’t want him doing. He also isn’t comfortable yet moving laterally off the snap instead of vertically. However, there were some plays on which Haynesworth dominated with his power. It’s clear that the defense needs him.
*That said, I wonder if the defense might be better off with Haynesworth at nose tackle instead of right end. NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu was pushed back too frequently tonight. A player needs to anchor at that position, and Kemoeatu far too often hasn’t seemed up to the task.
*Pass protection was the biggest positive for the first-string offense. The line appeared more prepared for the Jets’ blitzes than it did last week against Baltimore. QB Rex Grossman generally had time to throw and did so in rhythm. RG Artis Hicks’ failed block got Grossman popped on one play, but overall I thought the line did well.
*Can’t say the same for the run blocking, though. For the second straight week, the line didn’t create enough holes. Because the linemen don’t practice cut blocking, it’s gonna take them a while to get the hang of it in games. But the problem is more basic than that. Blockers are getting pushed back and aren’t winning individual battles. RB Larry Johnson last week and RB Willie Parker tonight didn’t have much room with which to showcase their abilities.
*One culprit in the run game appeared to be C Casey Rabach. He struggled to sustain blocks on while running laterally. That’s an essential part of the Redskins’ running scheme, and it has to improve.
*WR Joey Galloway showed up tonight, another good sign for Washington’s offense. Mike Shanahan said his plan all along was to get Galloway significant time only in the third preseason game. Galloway responded with three catches for 29 yards. He got separation on different types of routes—something we hadn’t seen frequently. Galloway also helped create a 29-yard completion from Rex Grossman to Santana Moss by running deep down the middle and clearing the safeties out. That’s the kind of help that Moss didn’t receive last season. If Galloway can do that all year, it’ll add another dimension to the passing game. Galloway’s game tonight will at least keep the doubters at bay for a bit.
*QB Rex Grossman wasn’t bad against a stout Jets defense. It’s probably unreasonable to ever expect a stellar game from him—he’s a backup for a reason, after all—but he moved the Redskins and made pretty good decisions. He didn’t force throws like last week, and he did well finding open receivers, for the most part. He side-armed a throw that I thought he could have done better with on third-and-6 from the 9. Re-watching the game should give a clearer picture, but, again, I thought he was OK.
*PR Brandon Banks hurt his cause tonight with his lost fumble on a punt return. He now has a muff, a fumble and a touchdown this preseason. The knock on him is that he has trouble standing up to contact at 5-7, 150, and he wasn’t even popped on the play. He simply was stripped. We saw it last preseason with Anthony Alridge—fumbles trump speed when it comes down to making the final roster. Banks finished the game well with two catches for 35 yards, but it was against third-stringers. Overall, I don’t think anyone hurt their chances of making the team more than Banks did.
*CB DeAngelo Hall made a fantastic read to intercept Jets QB Mark Sanchez. He read Sanchez’s eyes and broke off his receiver to cover the tight end underneath. I thought he should have scored a touchdown on the return, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of his read. Side note courtesy of Redskins PR: Hall is the first Redskin with two preseason INTs since Sean Taylor had three in 2004.
*WR Anthony Armstrong is a lock for the roster now. His only catch, a 10-yarder near the right sideline, moved the chains, and he got in on four special teams tackles.
*OLB Chris Wilson had a nice game. He was active on the second string defense and special teams. His sack came on a nasty slap move around the edge. Wilson doesn’t always show well against first-stringers, but the way he plays against reserves proves that he deserves a spot on the roster. He’s not in any danger.
*QB John Beck missed TE Fred Davis running wide open in the back of the end zone early in the third quarter. Beck moved the ball OK against the Jets first-string defense, but he’s got work left to secure a roster spot.
*RB Willie Parker didn’t win a roster spot tonight. Granted, he didn’t have much running room, but he didn’t create something out of nothing very often. Perhaps he’ll get another chance next week. One things is clear, Shanahan is giving Keiland Williams a loooong look.
*RB Larry Johnson played well against the Jets reserves. Forget the runs for a minute—again, consider who they were against—he excelled in pass protection twice when I was watching. He seemed to know his assignment, he was aggressive with his blocks and used sound technique. That’s a step forward for him.
*LS James Dearth snapped well and K Graham Gano kicked well. I’m still leaning toward Nick Sundberg in the long-snapper competition because he’s the guy the Redskins originally went with, but Dearth didn’t hurt himself tonight.
*Up and down night for P Josh Bidwell. He averaged 41.2 yards gross on five punts with a long of 51. He’s a bit inconsistent, but I supposed that’s what you get from a guy who didn’t play last season.
…that’s it for now. I’ve got to head back down the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95. Let me know what I missed. Leave a comment, send an email or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.