- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

ATLANTA — Jay Gruden refrained from making any conclusions following the Washington Redskins’ 23-17 loss to Atlanta Falcons in the first preseason game.

After all, when the Redskins return to Richmond on Saturday, they’ll still be in training camp, sorting out the same position battles that followed them to Atlanta.

“Right now, I just take out that we have a lot of things to work on and a lot of good players competing for jobs,” Gruden said. “My view hasn’t changed in that regard. I’m not coming out here saying, ‘It’s easy to make our cuts right now.’ It’s not. We still have guys that are good football players that are competing their butts off that I respect a lot.”

What the Redskins do know is that there was an overall sloppiness to Thursday’s performance, mostly in the form of bad penalties and an inability to produce in the rushing game, that they’ll be eager to clean up as they prepare for their second preseason game next Friday against the New York Jets.

With that, here are three takeaways from the first preseason game:

** The Redskins finished the game with 14 penalties for 123 yards. On the opening kickoff, tight end Niles Paul was called for holding. Then on the first possession of the game, Matt Jones’ 11-yard gain was negated by right tackle Morgan Moses’ holding penalty. The sloppiness continued throughout the game. Defensive end Preston Smith and outside linebacker Trent Murphy were both called for offsides. On one possession in the second quarter, rookie running back Keith Marshall was called for a false start and the Redskins were flagged for an illegal formation on the punt three plays later.

Washington even managed to get called offsides on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, which Atlanta returned for a 102-yard touchdown.

“These games are important because you take for granted certain issues,” Gruden said. “Penalties are a major factor in the outcome of a football game so if we don’t get those fixed, we’re not going to be a very good football team. Glad it happened now, not glad it happened, but glad we got a chance to look at it and correct it.”

** One of the early challenges in the preseason is establishing communication and it showed once the first-team starters came out of the game on defense. In the second quarter, cornerback Quinton Dunbar gave up a 68-yard reception to Aldrick Robinson and the Falcons scored two plays later. Dunbar struggled at times, but on that particular play, Gruden said Dunbar was supposed to have help from a safety.

“We’ve got to shore up back there,” added cornerback Josh Norman, who played just the first three snaps. “There were a couple things…big plays, got to work on that and stress that.”

** One of the lone bright spots of the game was the effectiveness of the first-team defense and the effort of second-year outside linebacker Preston Smith. With the absence of Junior Galette, Smith will be counted on and he impressed in his limited role. He was disciplined against the run and showed a strong rush on the second possession, getting to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and pressuring him into throwing an incompletion.

“This year, just changed a lot of things about my angle how I play the blocks, my leverage, how I shed blocks and make tackles,” Smith said.

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