Here are some initial thoughts and observations after the Redskins’ 33-31 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears:
QB Robert Griffin made rookie mistakes that will help him in the long run. He took some unnecessary hits trying to make plays that weren’t there. For example, he admitted he should have thrown the ball before he was pushed down on the sideline at the end of a play early in the game.
“It’s not that I’ve never been in those situations before,” Griffin said. “It’s just that sometimes you have to know when not to try and make a play. I think you learn the more you play.”
Coach Mike Shanahan believes Griffin could have avoided all three of the first-quarter sacks with quicker decision-making.
“I think he’s going to get better and better,” Shanahan said. “We had three sacks, and I think two of them were screens. He’ll learn to throw that one just at the guy’s feet. He can look to see if he can make a play, but I think that will come more natural to him in time, where you just kind of throw it away.
“And the other one, he tried to make a play, and the guy right behind him hit him. He had somebody open in the flat. Those are the types of experiences that he’ll get better at in time. We’ve got to protect, obviously, better against an excellent defense.”
Griffin appeared jittery against the rush at times and didn’t always maintain a sound throwing position. Shanahan, however, praised Griffin’s composure.
Griffin made two positive plays that stood out: He converted third-and-3 with a 16-yard completion to WR Santana Moss over the middle. Chicago pushed the pocket inside, but Griffin stood tall against the rush and stepped into his throw, which was accurate. It was one example of him maintaining good mechanics against pressure.
The other play was Griffin’s 14-yard run on third-and-5 in the second quarter. He was decisive. He saw the three receivers to the left were covered, and he figured he could run around the edge to the right.
“I just saw a hole, and I decided to take it,” Griffin said.
Keeping in mind that it’s only the preseason, the Redskins did nothing to dispel the notion they’re going to give up a lot of yards through the air this season.
It will be interesting to see if they continue to experiment with CB DeAngelo Hall as a single high safety. Hall was gone from the postgame locker room by the time I got in there, so I’m working without his insight, but he wasn’t effective making reads in the deep middle and closing on receivers. Of course, the preseason is the time to test things like this out. If the Redskins scrap that plan after Saturday night, I wouldn’t blame them. Perhaps they’ll give Hall more time to get accustomed to a vantage point that’s unfamiliar.
CB Cedric Griffin struggled to match up with Bears WR Brandon Marshall on the outside. Marshall was too fast and strong, using his body well. FS Madieu Williams ranged to break up a pass in the end zone near the sideline, but the safety spot could be shorthanded because of Brandon Meriweather’s left knee injury.
The pass rush didn’t help. Chicago QB Jay Cutler avoided some sacks, and some Redskins rushers missed on their angles. The pass rush is going to have to help this secondary out, and it didn’t happen Saturday.
At first glance, the run blocking was poor. Chicago’s defensive line presents an unfavorable matchup for the Redskins. Too many players moved back on stretch runs. Rewatching the game will show more.
Some offensive guys who played with QB Kirk Cousins tonight praised his energy in the huddle and his command of the offense. Cousins (18-of-23, 264 yards, 3 touchdowns) has adjusted well to the speed of the game against backups. He also can get out on the edge on keepers and nakeds with some sneaky speed. He continues to validate the Redskins’ decision to draft him.
RB Alfred Morris (10 carries, 34 yards) impressed again this week with his physical running ability. Against a stout defensive front, he fought hard for yards and demonstrated a knack for identifying running lanes in the one-cut style Shanahan requires.
“I saw a guy who didn’t get a lot of yards,” Shanahan said, “but the runs he did were pretty impressive.”
On the down side, Morris missed a blitz pickup against the safety on the sack/fumble of Griffin in the second quarter.
“It was a big mistake on my part,” Morris said. “I read him, but he kind of read me and kind of hesitated. Once I left to go to my route, he came, so he kind of baited me and won it and got a sack on it.”
Quality pass protection is a surefire way for Morris to secure a roster spot, so he missed an opportunity Saturday.
WR Brandon Banks fortified his push to make the final roster by returning a punt 91 yards for a touchdown. LB Rob Jackson and WR Terrence Austin sprung Banks with critical blocks immediately after he fielded the ball, and Banks outran P Adam Podlesh to the sideline.
“That’s what I do best, I think, but I still got to work on wide receiver right now.” Banks said. He did not play receiver in the game.
Shanahan has said Banks has to make the team as a receiver, but how much of an impact as a receiver would he need to make if he’s sixth on the depth chart? If Banks can get to the end zone in the return game, it’s so hard to cut him.
“Not only do you have to be a good receiver, but you really have to excel at special teams to earn yourself a spot,” Shanahan said. Banks made that decision tougher.
Five of Aldrick Robinson’s six receptions came on different routes, he said. Diversification of routes is crucial for him. Again this week, Robinson proved he can be more than just a straight-line speed guy.
Shanahan praised Robinson in the postgame news conference without being asked about him. During an answer to a question about WR Brandon Banks, Shanahan said: “I thought Aldrick Robinson did a great job tonight. He had a couple of big plays. That’s what you want – guys who make plays.”
And strangely enough, Robinson seems to play better in games than in practice.
“It’s different in the game because coaches call the plays to beat the defense,” Robinson said. “In practice, it’s scripted. Defenses are on everything. But I feel like I play better in the game. I’m a game-time player. That’s what I do. That’s when stats count.”
K Neil Rackers’ missed 54-yard field goal was a failure to capitalize on a major opportunity in his competition with K Graham Gano.
It’s ironic that OLB Brian Orakpo was hurt covering a receiver. The Bears exploited the Redskins’ linebackers in coverage on several plays. Depth on drops was an issue. This is not a strength of the defense, especially with two converted defensive ends playing on the outside, and teams that find ways to isolate linebackers in coverage will have success.
Mike Shanahan was elusive when asked why LB London Fletcher was held out of the game. “London is still not feeling right. I’m not sure exactly why, but anytime London says he’s not feeling very good, you know something is wrong.”
Pressed on whether it’s an illness or a physical injury, Shanahan said: “I’m not really going to tell you.”
Fletcher, who was held out of Thursday’s practice, was asked if he has a concussion. He chuckled and referred all questions to Shanahan.