- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2017

The best part about the Redskins game against the Packers Saturday night was Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy’s challenge in the first quarter. 

McCarthy threw his flag because he saw that Washington defensive lineman Stacy McGee was still about a foot away from getting off the field when Aaron Rodgers (man, that guy is good) broke the huddle. The Packers often use Rodgers’ quick tempo to their advantage.

Still. A foot away. First quarter of a preseason game. That’s simultaneously petty, a huge waste of everyone’s time, and worthy of respect for the attention to detail. 

McCarthy’s flag was undeniably the major point but, after reviewing the tape, here are a few more things that stood out in the Redskins 21-17 loss to the visiting Packers.

Run game missed that ‘wake-up call’

After two games of futility on the ground, the Redskins maintain that they aren’t concerned about their ability to run the ball this season. They’d like better preseason results, too, but they’re not concerned. 

“We don’t really get much live work in the run game in practice cause you don’t really want people tackling, going to the ground, and increasing the risk of getting hurt in practice but the more game reps you get, things start to slow down and things start to go the right way,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “I believe in it.” 

Most of the issues have stemmed from Williams’ group, the offensive line. Questioning a unit that’s incredibly talented, hard working, and guided by superlative position coach Bill Callahan seems unwise. Still, the second unit, working against their level of competition, got up to speed a bit faster.

The Colt McCoy-led second team was good on the ground with rookie Samaje Perine in the game. Perine hit the hole hard and with no hesitation, but the backups also blocked well. The Redskins fed Perine in the third quarter, and he rewarded them. A four-yard run between left guard Kyle Kalis and center Chase Roullier was aided by good blocking from Niles Paul, who lined up as a fullback and ensured everyone was blocking one-on-one. That’s the kind of solid communication the first unit seemed to be lacking.

Perine helped himself on another four-yard run just after, breaking an early tackle with good forward momentum. He displayed good hands and turned upfield smoothly on his biggest play, a 29-yard catch on the same drive.

Pass protection was much better against Green Bay than it was in the Ravens game, but the Packers primarily rushed four throughout the game. It wasn’t as difficult of a test as the Baltimore blitz. 

Familiar struggles in the red zone

The four-yard hitch Kirk Cousins threw to Jamison Crowder for a touchdown at the end of the first half was lovely, but it came on a fourth-and-4.

Before that, Chris Thompson ran for negative yards, Cousins threw an incomplete fade to Ryan Grant with Josh Doctson wide open in the end zone on the other side, and Thompson got no gain on a short route to the right side. It’s worth wondering why Thompson (192 pounds) was the back of choice over Kelley (227 pounds) on first-and-goal. 

The other time the Redskins got in the red zone, getting back-to-back possessions to start the game because of a Green Bay fumble on a punt return, they didn’t move forward at all before Dustin Hopkins came on to kick a 34-yard field goal. 

On first-and-10, Clay Matthews manhandled Ty Nsecke (it happens) and pressured Cousins, who underthrew Kelley. Then, Cousins threw a nice pass to Vernon Davis, who was well covered and just didn’t make the catch. Cameras showed the tight end visibly frustrated afterward. After the game Cousins said that he was falling on the throw, but it didn’t seem like he was. 

“I fell, the ball was probably a foot short, so the defensive back breaks it up,” Cousins said. “That’s why I say it’s a small margin of error. If the ball was a foot further, we had a touchdown on that second down, or whatever down it was, and we’re feeling so good about ourselves.”

In fairness to Cousins, the throw didn’t look a foot short, either. The defensive back just won.

On third down, Terrelle Pryor broke on a dig route at about eight yards. Pryor got great separation when he turned in because the defensive back in coverage was working off him to respect his speed. Cousins just threw the ball too high. 

Getting Jordan Reed back will help in the red zone, but the Redskins have yet to show they can play well in that area.

Fabian Moreau is an athlete

Moreau, the cornerback drafted in this year’s third round, had just five practices as a full participant to get ready for his first game as a Redskin. Normally, it’s a bad thing to mask a lack of preparation with sheer athleticism. Moreau didn’t have a choice Saturday, though, and showed a ton of potential.

He shot off like a bullet twice in punt coverage, once forcing a fumble recovered by Paul that way. He was just faster than anyone else on the field.

His speed showed up in coverage, too. He was right on receiver Jeff Janis when he gave up a deep ball early in the second quarter. He should have been tipped off by Janis, who turned to look for the ball several strides before it fell into his hands, but that can be coached. Moreau ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and posted a 38-inch vertical and an 11-foot-4-inch broad jump at the combine. All that was on the field Saturday. 

Moreau is an athlete. If the Redskins can coach him into an NFL player, he’ll be a starting-caliber cornerback.

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