The Washington Redskins completed their third preseason game on Sunday with a 23-17 win against the Cincinnati Bengals. You already know the result isn’t relevant. Many recognize the third preseason game is the most important of the standard four because it serves as the final test drive for the starters. What’s clear is the Redskins Kirk Cousins-led offense needs a tune-up and quick.
Gloria Estefan once sang, “The rhythm is going to get you.” She clearly didn’t have the Redskins starting offense during the 2017 preseason in mind.
One stat and one possession explain why’s there should be legitimate trepidation with the Cousins-led attack as the Sept. 10 season opener draws closer. With the starting offense on the through three games, Washington went 3-and-out in nine of 15 possessions, including a trio on Sunday. The last one, the Redskins’ first of the second half, came against the Bengals’ backups.
Washington gained one yard on its first three possessions. An illegal shift penalty wiped out a potential first down on the opening series. Pressure on Cousins led to an intentional grounding on third-and-long, ending the second possession. Then, after a Cincinnati turnover came a four-play drive for minus-two yards then ended with a field goal.
Pass protection was spotty. Same for Cousins’ pocket awareness, though that wasn’t a factor on Vontaze Burfict’s 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor had a nice 17-yard catch in traffic, but also dropped an easy attempt and continues showing he’s still learn the position nuances. He wasn’t alone with a drop, but don’t put all that on Cousins’s poor stat line (10 of 19 for 109 yards, interception).
Practice time for the next two weeks becomes crucial with backups set to face Tampa Bay in the preseason finale on Thursday. Any current panic over the passing game could look silly with a strong showing against the Eagles. If that happens, it will occur with zero momentum.
Robert Kelley is the Redskins’ starting running back and will be Week 1 against the Eagles. No, head coach Jay Gruden hasn’t stated that so directly, but that’s been the obvious case all summer. That Kelley had 51 yards on 10 carries including a 21-yard burst against the Bengals’ starters should solidify any doubt creeping in from the outside.
Whether Samaje Perine eventually takes over is another story and one that won't unfold until deeper into the season.
The Bengals opened the game with a 15-play, 87-yard touchdown drive. Let's just say the Redskins defense looked much better from there. Cincinnati's starting offense went fumble, punt, punt on its final three drives of the half. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland and inside linebacker Martrell Spaight were among the defensive standouts.
In and Out
Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) and pass rusher Junior Galette (hamstring) made their long-anticipated preseason debuts. Both seemingly exited without any setbacks. Reed is the straw that stirs the drink for the Redskins’ offense. The two weeks of practice time will be nice for his reintegration, but all looked fine. For Galette, his presence is key for a pass rush that is now without Trent Murphy. For now, both avoiding additional injury is all that matters. … While those two played, wide receiver Josh Doctson and linebacker Ryan Anderson (stinger) did not. Doctson missed sometime this summer with a hamstring injury, but there was no sense the 2016 first rounder would sit out Sunday. …
Nose tackle Phil Taylor, one of the feel-good stories of the summer, exited in the first quarter with a left quad injury and did not return. … Rookie center Chase Roullier started in place of Spencer Long (knee surgery) and held up. There were no obvious snap exchange gaffes with Cousins and the sixth-round pick had positives with run blocking. … Safety Fish Smithson remains a roster long shot, but the undrafted free agent also keeps making plays including an interception in the second half.