- Uhhh....where was Josh Doctson? Jay Gruden said he “chose” not to play Doctson because of some leg stiffness, and that the receiver would have suited up if the game had regular season meaning. My top goal is to see the second-year receiver out of TCU suit up against the Eagles in week one, so if this gets us closer to that goal, so be it. That said, the story building around Doctson since he arrived in Washington has been one of eggshells and caution. I think we all understand the talent he possesses, but until he can show it on a regular basis—in games—we are all going to be left beating our heads against the wall. Make no mistake about it: Doctson has to play well for the Redskins in 2017 to help make up for the losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Not suiting up for the dress rehearsal game of the preseason at least feels like we just took a step away from that, even if the precaution involved there ultimately gets us closer.
- The starting Washington offense still doesn’t look all that great. The offensive line seemed to be a little bit more in step than it has been for the bulk of these fake games, but the pass protection was spotty. Kirk Cousins took a few hits that you don’t want to see your starter take ever, much less the preseason. Are people here worried about this or are we sticking to our “it’s only preseason” guns?
- Thankfully, the running game looked a little better than in previous weeks. Robert Kelley managed to find daylight and did a lot to stifle the calls for Samaje Perine to take over as the starting running back. I think we can all look forward to seeing Perine, Kelley AND Chris Thompson this season, but it looks like the team is going to hand it off to #20 early and often to start the campaign. As is typically the case, coaches will lean on guys they trust, and it has been clear this summer that Jay Gruden feels very comfortable with Kelley leading his stable of running backs. I don’t ever envision myself being the guy who “doesn’t care who the running back is,” but I do feel like the Redskins can accomplish plenty by keeping a steady rotation going in the backfield. Even though Perine got stuffed twice in a row on two short-yardage carries once the backups were in the game, I think it was clear that the offensive line was primarily to blame (the second-string Cincy defensive linemen looked pretty good there). Perine picked up a few tough yards in other spots, and there seems to be no reason to believe that him and Kelley can’t form serviceable duo. People don’t get voted into the Hall of Fame for being “serviceable, “ but teams regularly get wins on the back of a competent running game. I know I would be happy to roll the dice on our trio of backs every week. The Redskins have demonstrated a preference to keep a young and relatively cheap backfield in the fold. Going from Alfred Morris to Matt Jones to Robert Kelley and Samaje Perine, the team has stayed rather disciplined in this area of the roster. I happen to be someone who agrees with that strategy, but you do run risks when you are constantly relying on young running backs. A guy could be fumble-prone or could get your high-priced quarterback mauled because of poor pass protection before you are able to address the situation. I would be shocked if the team doesn’t continue grabbing mid-round running backs in the hopes it can allocate salary cap to other areas of the team.
- That first, long, sustained drive by the Bengals did not exactly inspire a ton of confidence in our opening day defense. The good news is that as the game between the starters wore on, the Redskins definitely began to look better. One thing that concerns me is the opposing team’s ability to get the ball to their top target. For the Bengals, that was A.J. Green, and he made two consecutive catches early on—both on a third down play that got run twice because of an offensive penalty. I understand the nature of the league nowadays. The NFL wants people to watch passing offenses go nuts. Still, the second completion to Green on the third down and long play has to be thwarted. That play sent me straight back to just about every week last year. Is it easier said than done to take away a player like A.J. Green? It most assuredly is, but that is the job and that is what you are trying to draw up—if not for the whole game than definitely for key spots.
- For the first time in what feels like a long time, the third preseason game came and went without the kind of suspense-filled drama that surrounds certain kinds of position battles. I am not here telling you that Washington’s 53 are so locked in that the rest of the guys in pads shouldn’t have shown up, but I do feel like there is a lot settled about this roster. In key areas, even when the exact pecking order is likely to get shuffled at some point this season (wide receiver and running back chief among those key areas), the collection of talent is in place. You tell me: where is the roster battle that is shaking us all to our core? What player is on the outs and will make way for a guy that was once slated to get cut? I suppose the tight end and linebacker spots have some drama building, but the depth at those positions is ultimately the story there. Maybe I am being a little cynical in looking back, but I feel like it was a fairly regular occurrence to have seen the Redskins choosing between a pair of players that nobody else in the league wanted. This time around, it feels like the Redskins are going to be letting some players go that belong in the league. Even with 1,184 players hitting the street at once, I would be willing to bet that a team or two will mine our list of cuts.
- The 2017 Washington Redskins will go as far as Kirk Cousins can and will take them. You will begin to hear that more and more—most notably from the team and its front office. The brass feels like it has invested in #8 and they feel like their investment will be graded on a postseason appearance and victory. I am pretty sure the Redskins were the highest-ranked offense last year not to make the playoffs. That kind of finish in 2017 won’t be smiled upon. Let’s just make this very simple and clear: for better or for worse, right or wrong, this season is ALL ABOUT Kirk. (There’s something strangely familiar about that.) If the defense plays poorly and struggles as it did last season, Kirk will not escape the blame that goes with “putting the defense in a tough spot.” If the kicker misses 34-yard field goals to win the game, Kirk will wear the responsibility for allowing things to come down to that in the first place. If wide receivers fumble, the throws will be criticized. If offensive linemen underperform, the quarterback play behind them will be targeted for critique. Play-calling be damned, Kirk has to execute at a ridiculously high level this year. It says here that he is extremely capable of putting this team on his shoulders, and if he does, it means playoff tailgating AND years to come rooting for the #8 car. Though we seem to be witnessing a slow start to the chemistry needed for Kirk and his receivers to light the league on fire, we are as close as that fingertip “almost catch” Terrelle Pryor had early in the contest. The time to work that out is quickly disappearing, so here’s hoping they can work it out in practice—I don’t want to see a single starter in this next and final preseason game. Let’s close out the Sixpack with a question about that: Which one Redskins player enters the fourth and final preseason game with the MOST on the line?
After the dress rehearsal preseason game, there are still questions that remain for the 2017 Washington Redskins.