In this week's Three Good/Three Bad, the backups rule the former category while the starters dominate the latter. The depth is certainly reassuring, and there were notable strides of improvement from each of the three players I listed in my "bad" section last week. On the other hand, the "bad" section this week is filled with players who the Washington Redskins really need to be good.
Keep in mind, the stars and big names will typically not appear in this series. That means you won't find anything about Robert Griffin III below. Promise.
#1. The Running Backs
Yes, I'm cheating here. I know this is supposed to be a single player per slot, but Matt Jones, Trey Williams and Chris Thompson all warrant a spot on this list and who wants a list with nothing but running backs?
Jones was the least surprising, as he's received positive reviews pretty much since he was drafted. Still, that 24-yard run that looked like it should have gone for about two was slick, and he got into the endzone for the first time as a pro.
Williams looked much better carrying the ball against the Lions than he did against the Browns — 10 carries for 52 yards against Detroit versus seven carries for 15 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland — and he more than doubled his yardage from the first game with a 38-yard run on 3rd-and-2 early in the second half. There was a lot to like about that run, including his vision and patience, but come on, those two jukes were filthy. That was his first carry of the night; his other nine runs went for just 14 yards, so that wasn't great, but you've got to appreciate his ability to turn a small gain into a huge run.
Finally, Thompson looked much better to me than he did against the Browns. Some of you disagreed with my thoughts on him after that game, but most should agree that he looked better against the Lions. He muffed another kick, and I still think he outruns his blockers too often, but this time he had some space to work with and showed what he can do with it. On his 19-yard run in the second quarter, about 10 yards came from solid blocking and poor tackling; Thompson then caught a glimpse of an opening to his right, made a man miss with a nice cutback and added another nine yards to the run.
#2. Reggie Bell
I'll admit that I'm a bit biased when it comes to Bell. One of the first posts I did for Hogs Haven was a profile on Bell in July, and he won me over for good against Detroit. He caught his first touchdown as a pro on a cross route between two defensive backs who could have absolutely laid him out. Bell stuck in there, made the catch on a slightly underthrown pass by Colt McCoy, avoided the hit and dived into the endzone. If he had stayed on his feet, he likely would have been tackled just shy of the goal line and a running back would have vultured his TD.
I also really liked his blocking. He seemed to be everywhere in this game, but he was especially prominent on Williams' big run, where he personally tacked on about 10 yards with some exceptional downfield blocking.
#3. Houston Bates
An honorable mention here last week, Bates came up with another sack against the Lions and made a handful of really nice plays. Sure, he's mostly played against third-stringers, but he has a knack for slipping through blockers to get to the ball. He made one tackle in the third quarter on a 1st-and-10 where he started on the edge, sprinted to the backfield, then chased down Zach Zenner from behind for a minimal gain. It was a very athletic play by Bates that elicited an audible "whoa" from me, even though Zenner still picked up two yards.
Homie is leading the team with three sacks on just 48 defensive snaps. That's one sack every 16 plays. Alex Rowsey profiled him here two weeks ago, and now The Washington Post is hopping on the bandwagon.
Honorable mentions: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Jackson Jeffcoat, Tress Way
#1. The Starting Offensive Linemen
I'm cheating again by lumping multiple players into one slot, and I already went into this on Friday so I'm not going to elaborate on this too much, but it needs to be mentioned again: The starting offensive line was awful.
The pass protection was definitely worse than the run blocking, but it's worth noting that nearly half of the Redskins' rushing yards came on three plays, each of which came past the midway point of the second quarter. Jay Gruden mentioned the Lions having the second-best defense in the league last year, but he failed to mention the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, as well as the absence of prized free-agent signing Haloti Ngata. The starting defense the Lions trotted out on Thursday night would be average at best throughout a full season.
And no, Willie Smith did not play "pretty good" (4:24).
#2. Arie Kouandjio
Yes, another offensive lineman. The fourth-round pick out of Alabama has been a pleasant surprise thus far, but Thursday was not his best showing. He was whistled for holding on a 1st-and-5 in the second quarter, then he committed a false start on the Redskins' first drive of the third quarter. Both penalties came in the red zone. Fortunately for Washington, both drives still ended in touchdowns, but the Redskins are just not a strong enough offensive team to give up red zone penalties like that. He's a rookie and it's preseason, so it's forgivable and could very well be a great learning experience for the young player, but Kouandjio must have better awareness of the situation. Red-zone penalties can be crushing blows for a team that struggles to put up points.
#3. Chris Culliver
Culliver wasn't especially bad, and he only played 16 defensive snaps, but I thought he looked lackluster in that time. I attribute it more to preseason malaise than anything else, and I fully expect him to be a welcome addition to a subpar cornerback group. That said, I was not impressed by his play against Golden Tate. Tate completely lost him on the first play of the Lions' second drive, and Culliver got whistled for illegal use of hands on the play. In his defense, it appeared as though Culliver was supposed to watch the outside while Perry Riley covered the inside of the route, but Culliver was a few feet too far away and could have broken up the throw or made the interception with better location. He also seemed to give up on a Tate screen earlier in the quarter after a blocker picked him up, but again, he's a guaranteed starter in a preseason game. A little more effort would've been nice, but let's not go making mountains out of molehills.