Saturday, August 29, 2009

Redskins impress in an almost-meaningful performance

It was preseason, with all that entails, but is okay to feel good about what we saw from the offense Friday night. The Redskins went toe-to-toe with the best team of our era and more than held their own. Game notes:

- The first offensive drive was exactly what we’ve been looking for from Jason Campbell and the offense. Quick releases, confident reads, perfectly placed balls. That was a passing offense that stretched the field and threatened the defense. And don’t discount the drive because a pass interference call got us to the 1 yard line – that penalty was the result of the secondary being crossed up, on their heels, and knowing they were about to get beat.

- And then the three consecutive 3 and outs… Just when we thought the offense was really making a statement, they almost managed to make it look like an aberration. No running holes were ever opened up, the protection broke down, and it the receivers stopped getting open.

- Then the fifth possession – on a 3rd and 9 deep in our own territory, Campbell makes the kind of confident play he opened the game with and hit Moss for a first down. That set up the wide-open pass to Cooley, who then got to show off that remarkable open-field running ability I raved about in the tight end position overview. Great run by Campbell to finish off the drive – he didn’t go to the run until he clearly did not have any passing options, but then he sold the fake pass brilliantly to beat the one defender between him and the end zone.

- Last possession of the first half the offense was back to the form it displayed to start the game, even though they didn’t score. Campbell making confident throws from the top of his drop and rifling balls to receivers right out of their breaks. If you look at the three good drives, this is what the offense is supposed to look like.

- On one of Colt Brennan’s first plays a rusher came at him untouched and he showed great awareness to find Marcus Mason while under threat. On the whole, on his first drive was looking much better than the last two weeks, and was getting the ball out quicker. But that interception was inexcusable, and may have handed Chase Daniel the #3 job. The throw clearly wasn’t there, and he forced it. That’s the kind of play he got away with last preseason, but this year he ash paid for his lack of discipline. He partially redeemed himself with a gorgeous touchdown pass to Marko Mitchell while the pocket collapsed around him, but I don’t know if it was enough to overcome the weaknesses he has displayed this preseason.

- The first drive in the second half featured a Redskins rarity: a poorly executed screen in which the blockers never got set up to give the receiver holes.

- They tried two end zone fades to Malcolm Kelly, just like the one Marko Mitchell scored on last week. I think Zorn is serious about incorporating larger receivers into the offense.

- On the second Patriots drive, Horton blitzes from the offensive right and wraps around the line to bring down Lawrence Maroney from behind. Straight out of last year.

- DeAngelo Hall showed off his renowned tackling ability as he took on Randy Moss in the open field by standing up straight and giving him a two-handed shove.

- The fact that the defensive backs couldn’t cover Randy Moss is irrelevant. He’s Randy Moss. The real concern is that the relentless pressure the Redskins D-line generated in the first two weeks seems to have vanished. Not even a hint of pressure until 2 minutes left in the first half, when Haynesworth finally put Brady on the ground.

- Fred Smoot, who I have been regularly trashing, had a very good game. He played aggressively and consistently, and was the only part of our defense that caused Tom Brady problems.

- If Hunter Smith keeps the 50 yard punts coming our defense will be under much less pressure compared to last year. He’s a keeper.

- The punt coverage was outstanding until late in the 4th quarter. That may be largely due to Hunter’s hang time.

- I continue to like what I see of Dorsey as a punt returner. He has a decisive first step and while he is agile and elusive, the movement is still consistently downfield. I think he may be worth hanging on to.

- Rayner opened the game with three very strong kickoffs (including the re-kick due to the penalty).

- Anthony Alridge finally got onto the field in the 4th quarter and ran well, but it may be too late for him to make up for lost time.

- It says something about preseason that I was rooting for New England to make the game-winning field goal so we wouldn’t have to watch a 5th quarter.

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