1. Despite the fact that Matt Jones still has a lot to prove in the NFL, his injury in the recent preseason game against the New York Jets weighs heaviest on me and many of you out of all the takeaways from that affair. We all keep hearing that he shouldn't be out too long, but until a real timetable gets delivered, I will be concerned. Obviously, there is no need for him to get beat up in any additional preseason action, so it stands to reason he has a solid three weeks to rest until he is needed for the season opener. It remains to be seen if that is enough time for him to get ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers or not, but we are thankful that worse news about this injury has not developed. Shouldn't we take at least some solace in the lesson that Alfred Morris taught us? Listen, I think Matt Jones is a talented player that can make a difference this season, but it isn't like he's Adrian Peterson. In Rob Kelley, Mack Brown and Keith Marshall, the Redskins have guys who were successful running the ball in college and just need an opportunity at the pro level. Matt Jones' injury gives them that opportunity. While I don't see any of them winning the job outright from Jones (assuming he is healthy), it stands to reason that at least one of them would be effective in our offense on Sundays (I am not forgetting about Chris Thompson). We will likely get a great look at two of these guys on Friday night against the Buffalo Bills. Hopefully one can separate himself and ease our worries. The fun part of this is that we were always fixated on this position coming into this season. The injury to Jones kind of puts a new light on it, and ups the ante considerably, which should make the third preseason eminently watchable.
2. I mentioned it one of my quarterly sports minutes on Friday night, but Rashad Ross' development is a huge story. As far as the 2016 season is concerned, we talk about DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder being the main wide receiver targets (let's not forget about Jordan Reed). We know that the contracts for both DJax and Garcon are up after this season, which will make for some hard decisions for one Scot "McLovin" McCloughan. One thing that could make the decision process a little easier is if a player like Rashad Ross proves he is capable of stepping up and contributing meaningfully to a top offensive unit (which I think the Redskins will be as long as Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins are together). Let's make a silly assumption for the sake of argument here: Josh Doctson will be 100% healthy and ready to play as a #1/#2 receiver in 2017, clearing the way for the departure of DJax and/or Garcon. If a player like Rashad Ross develops into an every down receiver that can play across from Doctson, that's a huge deal (I understand the odds are not in favor of this). Roster development is the key to success in the NFL. You can't fill every hole on your team with free agents--we learned that lesson. Teams that can develop and promote talent from within their organizations have the best chances of winning titles. Rashad Ross, a player who went undrafted in 2013, is the exact kind of guy you would expect to see hanging around the bottom of a regular season wide receiver depth chart. Guys like him cycle in and out of the league every year, but when guys like him start showing signs that they can be more than just an injury replacement, the impact can be felt across the organization. Since guys like Ross aren't the likely destinations for rich megadeals, teams all of a sudden find they have some salary cap flexibility when they develop and promote those players--meaning McLovin has an alternative to spending top dollar to retain a guy like DeSean Jackson. Ross might not be there yet, but he is getting close, and technically, he has all year to get there.
3. Ross is just one example of what we are starting see as a real strength for the Washington Redskins: depth. Think about these positions and where we have stood at each over the last handful of seasons or longer: wide receiver, tight end, cornerback, offensive line. There are others, of course, but those positions have been a treat to watch so far this preseason. We are loaded in these areas. Sure, that can change in a flash, but it is a testament to the manner in which McLovin has constructed this roster (so far) and the ability for the coaching staff to prepare and train players.
4. Speaking of DeSean Jackson, I was asked recently whether I thought there was any chance he stays in Washington after this season. For the longest time, I saw this player as a one-contract guy here, mostly based on my belief that his asking price will be beyond what we can afford when it comes time to consider resigning him. There are a handful of young players coming up that will need to be paid in the next few years, and I struggled to see how McLovin would fit a rich contract to DJax into the puzzle. Now I am rethinking my answer. It isn't that I want the Redskins to pay DJax a ton of money to stay--it is that I believe McLovin will find the money to keep elite players in the fold. Sure, he drafted Josh Doctson in the hopes that Doc would give him an excuse to let a player like Jackson walk, but the more I think about it, the more I see Jackson as the kind of elite talent that McLovin prefers not to lose. If it comes down to an economic decision, the odds are that the Redskins will need to focus their resources elsewhere (especially if a player like Rashad Ross steps up). I could even see a scenario where the Redskins tell Kirk Cousins, "If you want to keep DeSean as one of your wideouts, you are going to have to use some of your money to keep him." (We can check the "talked about Kirk Cousins' contract" box today!)
5. I would be remiss if I didn't properly convey how...familiar...it felt to dominate the first quarter in that Jets game, yet find ourselves in a 0-0 game. I mean, the Jets had three plays. THREE!!! We held the ball for 14 damn minutes. Obviously, it doesn't matter. Obviously, nobody cares about preseason scores in the first quarter. Still, I couldn't have been the only Redskins fan sitting there thinking, "Holy shit...this movie has been playing on repeat for 15 years!" Am I going to lose it because our backup quarterback got eaten up by one of the best cornerbacks of this era? No. Am I going to get all upset because we got stuffed on 4th and 1 with a backup running back and no Trent Williams? No. None of that takes away from the feeling of scoring zero points in a quarter where the other team had ONE MINUTE of possession, however. Regardless of anything else that may or may not matter to us, this can't happen...EVER AGAIN!! (This is dedicated to Kevin Ewoldt, who most assuredly went from zero to drunk in less than 20 minutes while watching that happen.)
6. It's Baltimore vs. Washington week on The Audible. As the Orioles and Nationals are set to begin a four-game series this week, we'll reopen old wounds on tonight's taping by discussing "The Choice." That would, of course, be the decision Washington sports fans faced when they got a baseball team after only having the Orioles to root for over the years. Our group of friends is pretty evenly split on this, which makes every sports matchup between Washington and Baltimore that much more intense. I know many of you don't live in the Baltimore/Washington metro areas, so this topic may be of little direct interest to you...BUT, budding sports rivalries are fun to watch and cover. It is hard to imagine that the sports rivalry between Baltimore and Washington is "budding," but that is what it feels like. We'll be sure to include the battle between the Redskins and the Ravens on October 9 in our discussion--I continue to rage for the NFL to wake up and have teams like these play each other every single year. Until then, presidential election years will just have to take a backseat to the Skins-Ravens rivalry!