BALTIMORE — Redskins coach Jay Gruden planned to have his starting offense go six plays in the team’s first preseason game Thursday night.
He just didn’t think those six plays would span two series.
Forget about the fact that Washington lost to the Ravens, 23-3. Preseason football is next to meaningless. Besides, the mistakes and general sloppiness, especially on offense, were worse than the lopsided score.
“We didn’t play very well,” Gruden said. “Obviously we had two drives with our ones and two three-and-outs weren’t good enough. To start, not a good start.”
The Redskins went three-and-out to start the game after center Spencer Long tripped over third-down back Chris Thompson and allowed a sack on third-and-8. The second drive for Cousins and Co. also went nowhere. Cousins finished 1-for-2 for a total of five yards before backup Colt McCoy took over.
“I think it’s a wake-up call,” Cousins said. “As much as we may have been making some plays in training camp in Richmond and feeling good about what we’re doing, I think it’s a realization that we’ve got a long ways to go, and I think that could be a good thing in the long run.”
Those sentiments don’t just apply to Cousins. The Redskins run game has looked good throughout camp, but was held to 39 yards on 18 carries Thursday. That’s an average of 2.2 yards per carry.
“I didn’t think we did as well as we should have, and now we see that there’s a lot of things that we have to work on,” Thompson said. “We’re not down about it, but we’ve just got a lot of things to fix.”
The Redskins went three-and-out three times and allowed a Baltimore touchdown before they got a first down. On his second series, McCoy made a nice pass to wide receiver Ryan Grant, stepping up in the pocket to deliver a 17-yard strike over the middle. Grant did his part by absorbing a big hit and hanging on.
The Redskins, however, didn’t make anything of the drive which included fumbles (both recovered) by McCoy and running back Samaje Perine, who also had a dropped pass, and two penalties on backup tackle Vinston Painter. Perine was holding the ball loosely away from his body, making it easy for Baltimore’s Brent Urban to strip it.
Safety Will Blackmon had a fumble on a punt return later in the game. Rookie receiver Matt Hazel had what looked like a fumble overturned and ruled an incomplete catch, but it wasn’t overturned in the eyes of Gruden, who called the ball security issues “very concerning.”
“We focus on it,” Gruden said. “We fundamentally drill it. So, we just have to make sure it’s pounded in our head a little more.”
McCoy had a second would-be fumble overturned, and his evening ended when he threw a bad interception intended for receiver Robert Davis. Davis was covered, but McCoy stared him down the whole way giving Ravens rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill an easy clue to jump in front of the deep ball for the pick. McCoy finished 6-of-13 for 40 yards and, if he hadn’t thrown the pick, might have helped the Redskins score before the half. Instead, Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker nailed a 59-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 13-0 lead.
Third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld played the second half. He put together Washington’s only scoring drive of the evening, which ended with a Dustin Hopkins 49-yard field goal, but did little to show that he’s developing into a viable NFL player, completing 5-of-12 of his passes for 68 yards.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Several players stood out on defense. Jonathan Allen, Anthony Lanier, Stefan McClure and Nico Marley all got sacks. Allen was particularly impressive in chasing down quarterback Ryan Mallett after Mallett escaped a collapsing pocket.
Marley had four tackles to go along with the sack, impressing along with fellow backup linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, who led the Redskins with six solo tackles and was one of several players fighting for roster spots who helped their cases. Safety Deshazor Everett had an impressive pass breakup as did cornerback Joshua Holsey, though Holsey also cost the Redskins 23 yards on a defensive pass interference penalty on third-and-8.
Washington started the game in nickel defense but, when the Redskins went out in their 3-4 alignment, Ziggy Hood, nose tackle Phil Taylor and Stacy McGee were along the front line. Taylor had a strong game, solidifying himself as the Redskins best option in the middle. “From what I could see on the sideline, I felt him out there,” Gruden said.
The Redskins did not get out of the game without injuries. After the game, Gruden said that both linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Su’a Cravens had knee injuries and were getting MRIs. Murphy hurt his left knee when he fell awkwardly and was helped off the field by trainers. It wasn’t clear when Cravens was hurt, but he did have an ice pack on his knee on the sidelines at one point during the game.
In the regular season, a game that sloppy would be a full-blown disaster. In the preseason, it’s not a big deal. The Redskins, as a whole, have had a relaxed attitude during training camp and it’s possible that changes after looking thoroughly unprepared in Baltimore.