The Redskins took it on the road for their final preseason tuneup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game, which was originally scheduled to be Thursday, Sept. 1, was moved to Wednesday evening in an effort to avoid severe weather forecasted from Tropical Depression Nine (which sounds like the name of a Michael Bay film about robots or something.)
Both teams came into the contest as winners of each of their last two matchups, and the Redskins sought to notch their fifth consecutive preseason victory over the Bucs, in addition to avoiding their first non-winning preseason since 2010
After taking a particularly cautious approach this preseason with many of the likely starters, it was always anticipated that the team would continue their habit of limiting action for all players who were all but assured a roster spot in the final preseason tilt.
Somewhat conveniently the rescheduled matchup provided for a convenient excuse to continue this tradition, as the the team hosted their annual Welcome Home Luncheon, a fundraiser for the team’s charitable foundation. While the Redskins reserves trekked down to play in a tropical storm, the starters donned tropical attire, as Kirk Cousins orchestrated acquiring matching Tommy Bahama outfits all 27 players who were in attendance at the event.
The matching pastel shirts were worn to honor Redskins director of football operations Paul Kelly, whom Cousins claims "is a man around the building who wears many hats but only one shirt."
The week was marked by the first round of roster cuts, with relatively few surprises being trimmed from the squad as the team went 90 to 75 competitors for the final 53 spots. Additionally, the Bryan Stork saga marked the closest thing to pre-season drama this iteration of the Redskins has given us, but given not too distant historical trends, how great is that?
In spite of the frenzy of action the past few days, for players on the bubble this evening served as one of the final opportunities to put some highlights on film and stake their claim for a spot on the team heading into the regular season.
The Redskins received a soggy opening kickoff, and showed some prowess moving the ball between the tackles. Nate Sudfeld looked prepared in his first career start and led the team down the field and got the Redskins on the board first with a 47 yard Dustin Hopkins field goal.
The teams proceeded to trade possessions, which included three-and-outs for both sides. The Redskins had a recovered fumbled punt return touchdown overturned as the first quarter came to a close, but the Bucs still had -3 yards of offense at the end of the quarter.
Quarter number two saw more of the same as the first, as another three-and-out gave the ball back to the Redskins. Clearly Jay Gruden wanted to use this game as an opportunity to evaluate depth at multiple positions, none more evident than at tailback. Lucky for Mack Brown, he had a preseason-defining play to begin the quarter, busting off a 60 yard touchdown run, evading defenders as he broke away towards the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
The ‘Skins defense was at the top of their game, as Deshazor Everett deflected a ball over the middle up into the air, and Duke Ihenacho made an athletic play to haul in the interception before the ball hit the ground. On the ensuing drive the Redskins would knock on the door, but once again settled for a 23-yard Hopkins field goal.
The defense shone bright through the first half, allowing only 22 total yards and two first downs to the Buccaneers offense. Brown (12 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD) and Rob Kelley (11 carries, 58 yards) were a two-headed monster running the ball for the Redskins, as Sudfeld quarterbacked a unit full of players who were doing their darnest to find themselves on the right side of the bubble come week 1.
The Bucs received second half kickoff and moved the ball into Redskins territory for just the third time of the contest. The drive stalled and Tampa Bay required the services of Roberto Aguayo, who evidently has had some help with his yips in the last week, as he knocked down a 50-yard field goal to get the Bucs on the board at 13-3.
The Redskins responded on their next drive as Sudfeld capped off a six-play, 75-yard drive by dropping a pass into the corner of the end zone on a perfectly thrown ball over the inside shoulder of Rashad Ross to make it 20-3.
Sudfeld stalled as the third quarter closed, moving backwards on a sack and an ill-advised screen pass. Preseason MVP, Tress Way, pinned the Bucs inside their 10 yard line as the third quarter expired.
The Bucs, who fell by the score 20-13 after scoring the final 10 points in the 4th quarter, grew better as the game progressed. However, in spite of putting up a late field goal and touchdown drive, they seemed to be just one step behind the Redskins at every turn.
Sudfeld, who was given a very limited segment of the playbook to utilize tonight, looked solid through four quarters of action, going 8/18, 72 yards, 1 TD.
If there were running back concerns going into tonight, they might be assuaged by the 248 yards on the ground amassed between Brown and Kelley.
Coach Jay Gruden will have an embarrassment of riches from which to choose amongst the candidates to join his squad. Most importantly perhaps, both sides escaped their final matchup without any immediately apparent injuries of any kind. There will undoubtedly be plenty of positive attitudes surrounding this game, which is a good sign as the preseason comes to a close.