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Redskins Vs Steelers: Initial Thoughts & Observations

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins second preseason game of the 2013 season is in the books. The Redskins recorded their second (meaningless) win of the preseason with a 24-13 victory over the Steelers. But while the result doesn't matter, there was plenty to take from the performance. Here are my initial thoughts and observations.

  • My first note came before the game even started. We saw a clip of Head Coach Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III laughing and joking together before kickoff. If there is a rift between those two, they certainly didn't show it there.
  • Griffin's stand-in, Kirk Cousins, looked a little out of sync to me. He started off with a pass that was slightly behind Leonard Hankerson, but Hankerson managed to pull it in. A couple of his other throws weren't placed exactly where he would have wanted them. It may sound a bit harsh, but if he wants to be a starting quarterback in the future, he'll need to be perfect with his ball placement. He put his mobility on show on back to back plays. First he dropped back on a deep shot, recognized that nobody was open and made a quick decision to tuck the ball and run. It was a nice play that saw him get down and slide for a seven yard gain. The next play he rolled out on a bootleg and ran for a first down. He attempted to gain an extra yard or two by running to the sideline rather than sliding again, and got tackled before he could get out of bounds. Cousins hobbled back to the sidelines before eventually going down. He was taken out with a right foot injury that has yet to be confirmed.
  • Nose tackle Barry Cofield was the star of the show for me. He lined up against pro-bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and dominated him. He got a sack early on after a swim move got him past Pouncey. He attacked the same gap as Stephan Bowen, leaving Pouncey with no help. He pushed back Pouncey on multiple occasions, but he also dominated in the run game. Several times he got himself into a position to make a tackle for a minimal gain or even a loss. Even when he couldn't make the tackle, he forced the play towards his teammates who were in a position to make a tackle. His run defense hasn't been as good as his pass rush since he joined the Redskins, but these are encouraging signs against one of the top centers in the league. If Cofield can take the next step and become a top nose tackle, the defense will see significant improvement. But reports in the second half suggest that Cofield fractured his left hand. If true, this would be a huge loss for the Redskins
  • Ryan Kerrigan came a close second to Cofield as the stand-out player. He had another one of his trademarked plays, stopping his rush, intercepting a quick pass and returning it for a touchdown. He has such outstanding awareness of everything going on around that helps him make this type of play on a regular basis. We saw Kerrigan line up as a 3-technique defensive tackle once again in an early third down situation. Along with rookie Brandon Jenkins, he pushes the pocket surprisingly well from the inside. But I also noticed him blowing up the run on the inside as well. One play stood out where he quickly batted away the hands of a blocking tight end before breaking inside and closing off the running lane.
  • The overall pass rush was very promising. The Steelers offensive line did have some changes from last year, but they have spent two recent first round picks on Pouncey, David DeCastro and a second on tackle Mike Adams, so they clearly have some talent there. Missing their best rusher in Brian Orakpo, the Redskins still managed to get consistent pressure, forcing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to scramble to avoid rushers.
  • Darrel Tapp was part of the reason for that. He filled in for Orakpo as the starter opposite Kerrigan and impressed. He obviously lacked the explosiveness Orakpo offers off the edge, but he took good angles of attack and displayed a nice rip move to help him put pressure on the quarterback. The Steelers ran a draw play in the first quarter the never made it past the line of scrimmage because Tapp read the play all the way, blew up his block and made the tackle. He looks to be a solid back up.
  • With Brandon Meriweather on the sidelines again, DeJon Gomes got a chance to start. He managed to avoid getting caught up inside on a second and nine run play early on, but then found himself getting sucked into traffic on a first down run later on. He gave up a pointless late hit penalty on a receiver that had got out of bounds. Rookie David Amerson failed to sink into his zone and left Gomes a lot of ground to make up, but there was no need to give up a penalty like that. In the second quarter on a third and 18, the Steelers handed off and Gomes came up to make a play. But he took a poor angle and missed the tackle. He made a good read on a check down pass, but then delivered a big hit to a defenseless receiver, which landed him with another penalty. For a player on the bubble, Gomes really cant afford to be making so many mistakes.
  • The rookie defensive backs continue to have their ups and downs. Rambo missed on a couple of tackles when coming down to support the run, although one was negated by a holding penalty. But he redeemed himself slightly by forcing a fumble (the Redskins third turnover of the half) after punching the ball loose from the running back in the backfield. As mentioned above, Amerson failed to sink into his zone on the first of Gomes' penalties, but his coverage overall was solid. I pointed out last week that he has a small tendency to drop his head and not look at what he's hitting. We saw another example of that today. Amerson came up out of his zone to tackle the ball carrier, but dropped his head and completely missed the tackle.
  • Leonard Hankerson had an up and down game. He started the game with a nice catch over the middle on a ball placed slightly behind him by Cousins before turning upfield and picking up extra yards. But later on drops a high pass that he managed to get both hands on. He did make perhaps the best play of the game on the red zone. Hankerson was assigned with a post pattern, but made a nice fake to the corner at the top of his route. He crossed the face of the defender and got inside, giving Grossman a big throwing area. The ball was thrown slightly high and in front of Hankerson, who made an outstanding one-handed grab for the touchdown. Hankerson offers the height in the red zone that no other Redskins receiver has. If he could put all of his attributes together on a consistent basis, he'd make an excellent red zone target that the Redskins so desperately need.
  • Aldrick Robinson showed off his speed on a couple of deep routes. He ran a double move on Steelers corner Ike Taylor, who couldn't stay with him after the fake. Taylor grabbed what he could and took the pass interference penalty instead of giving up the touchdown. Robinson also made a good catch in the end zone and getting his feet in bounds along the sideline. But he stepped out of bounds at the back of the end zone before he made the catch, drawing an illegal touching call. Robinson made a nice catch on a deep post route in the two minute drill that put the Redskins in field goal range with four seconds left in the half, but hurt his thigh on the play
  • We got our first look at rookie tight end Jordan Reed and rookie running back Chris Thompson. Thompson fumbled on his second carry after taking a big hit to his shoulder, but he managed to return to the game. Reed struggled to maintain blocks on the edge in the stretch run game, but that's exactly what we expected. He was drafted as a receiving tight end that needs a lot of work on his blocking. However, in the passing game he struggled as well. Grossman threw an interception targetting Reed on a post route. Grossman expected Reed to cross the face of the safety, but Reed failed to do so. Reed also dropped an easy out route from a Pat White pass in the fourth quarter. A rough night for the two rookies.
  • Chase Minnifield carried on his excellent run support from his performance against the Titans. He managed to bail out Rambo after he missed on a run play. He also made an excellent read in the third quarter shredding a receiver block to take away the cutback lane and make a form tackle on the running back. In coverage, Minnifield was good for the most part, but rookie receiver Markus Wheaton ran by him on a deep route. Minnifield stuttered his feet for a split second thinking Wheaton would break inside, and that was enough for Wheaton to run past him and catch a deep pass for a big gain.
  • That's it for now for my initial thoughts and observations. I have plenty of notes for things to break down over the next week, but feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below.