The Washington Redskins are undefeated! Sure, it's preseason, but three wins to start the regular season is asking a bit much for this team, isn't it?
I know I'll draw some ire for this, but I'm going to leave Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy out of this post. They've been covered elsewhere on the site and will continue to be covered relentlessly. Similarly, there will be very little about the running backs, because I've sung their praises for much of the preseason and much of what would be here would echo those sentiments. Chris Thompson had his best game of the preseason, I thought, and he has looked better each time he's taken the field. Matt Jones was terrific, as usual, and Trey Williams had a few very nice runs.
Alright, now let's get down to it.
#1. Preston Smith
The second-round pick has been stellar so far through three games, and his play against the Baltimore Ravens was perhaps his best yet. He simply overpowered Jah Reid on a second-quarter sack, and he pressured Matt Schaub into a bad throw that led to Jackson Jeffcoat's interception early in the third quarter. With Ryan Kerrigan a lock for one outside linebacker spot and Junior Galette done for the year, Smith is making his case to start Week 1 in place of second-year OLB Trent Murphy, who has been decent but hasn't made the big plays that Smith has.
#2. Jackson Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat was credited with the interception, but Smith was perhaps more important to the play actually going down the way it did. Still, there's something to be said for Jeffcoat being in the right place at the right time and making the play that was there waiting to be made. Washington has had its fair share of struggles making the easy play over the years — remember all those interceptions Carlos Rogers dropped? — so don't make light of Jeffcoat doing what he was supposed to do.
The second-year undrafted player out of Texas also had a strip-sack on Schaub a few minutes later. Even though the Ravens recovered the fumble, it was a terrific play by Jeffcoat to get the ball on the ground and give his team a chance at a turnover. Whether you're playing against starters or third-stringers, forcing fumbles and picking off passes are both great ways to earn more snaps. He made a handful of big plays in limited action last year, and he's off to a fantastic start this year.
#3. Rashad Ross
On a night where so many Redskins receivers played well, Ross stood a head above the rest. He finished with six catches for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns, which is an impressive night even without watching the film, but I loved how he got his numbers. Ross created separation time and again, and he fought for extra yards once the ball found him. Sure, he was matched up against cornerbacks who very well might not make an NFL roster this year, but plenty of receivers don't take advantage of that situation. Ross definitely did on Saturday, much like he has all preseason long.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder, Terrance Plummer, Justin Rogers
#1. David Amerson
After a decent rookie year in which he at least showed potential, Amerson has had a pretty steep fall. He was legitimately bad in 2014, and he has done little to improve his standing this preseason. Known as a ballhawk in college, the North Carolina State product has just two interceptions in 31 pro games, and his tackling is atrocious.
The early touchdown by Steve Smith was not entirely his fault. Dashon Goldson went to cover the sideline in case Amerson got beat to the outside, and once Smith cut inside, Goldson had no chance to make the tackle. But it was a very poor play by Amerson, as well. Not only did Smith get a healthy chunk of space between himself and Amerson on the route, but he totally lost the third-year corner after the catch. It continued a pattern of the third-year corner taking terrible angles to ball carriers.
In my eyes, he had perhaps the worst showing of any Washington player on Saturday.
#2. Mack Brown
Brown didn't see all that much action against the Ravens, and he's been a longshot to make the roster all along, but he pretty much sealed his own fate on Saturday. Five carries for seven yards is certainly not going to win over any fans, but he fumbled the handoff on one of the few opportunities he had to make a play; on a day when every other backup running back made an impact, Brown needed to do something positive.
#3. Spencer Long
Long was mostly under the radar against Baltimore, but he was the first blocker to get driven back into the secondary on a handful of plays and he was flagged for holding midway through the fourth quarter. It continued a poor trend for Long, who has continually underwhelmed since being drafted in the third round a year ago.
There is good news as well as, of course, bad news for Long.
The bad news is that he hasn't played especially well, and he was a pick made by Bruce Allen, not Scot McCloughan. Also, rookie guard Arie Kouandjio, a McCloughan pick, has been just as good or better despite Long having a year of pro experience under his belt. The good news for Long is that not many offensive linemen have really distinguished themselves, so he's still probably going to make the 53-man roster despite not doing enough to earn a spot on his own merits.
Just because he should beat out Josh LeRibeus for a roster spot doesn't mean he earned a roster spot. I mean, technically it does. But you want your players to earn roster spots by playing well, not just because the other options played so poorly that they simply had to be cut.