- We now have two preseason games to scour for news and thoughts and hopes and dreams and...you get it. We have monitored (and will continue to monitor) the Trent Williams fiasco (oh yeah, it is a full-blown fiasco) and we remain vigilant for any and all other areas of drama, but I thought today I would deliver a Sixpack of positives. There are some, and they deserve their day in the spotlight. In order to get a full sixpack of positives, allow me to lead off with a minor one to date: the relative health and low-profile summer of our very dangerous young running back, Derrius Guice. We need to stay hyped up about this player, because he is a difference-maker. The presence of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson really enhances the value of Guice, not only because they can take some carries off of his load, but also because they are proven commodities. If healthy—which they currently are—Peterson and CT25 can produce. That should allow Guice to gut opposing defenses when the game is on the line. I feel like some people have forgotten that one of the key words most used to describe Guice’s running style is “violent.” The Redskins will need that this year, and Redskins fans should be ready to unleash some huge smiles after some violent runs this season.
- I still don’t want Dwayne Haskins to see the field early this season, but his presence on the preseason field has been uplifting for me. I don’t get sucked in by stats in these glorified practices, but I do trust my eyes when watching the man play ball. When you draft a quarterback in the first round, you need to check some important boxes—boxes that went unchecked in the not-so-distant past. The physical abilities have to be about more than just size and arm strength, but Haskins delivers plenty on that front. He can spin the ball like nobody else on this roster, and is certainly capable of making all the throws. His size jumps off the screen, especially wearing that sleek #7 jersey. Unlike Robert Griffin III, who was very fragile, Haskins is built to take some hits and survive. The thing that Haskins did so well at Ohio State that everyone talked a lot about around the draft was his ability to stand in and step up in the pocket. In limited preseason action, I am comfortable at least suggesting that I have not seen a lot of happy feet in the pocket. Beyond that, I have watched him square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage at different depths and also while moving to either side. This alone is something to get crazy hyped about. If you can do that well—against the other team’s starters on Sundays—your team is going to have a chance to win. In addition to his development in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage pre-snap (which we really won’t know much about until we see him in regular season action), Haskins has shown a willingness to take chances down the field. This is not only key to executing Jay Gruden’s offense—it is key to winning in today’s NFL. You can generate a good stat line on the season without testing the deep parts of a defense regularly. We have seen what that looks like thanks to Kirk Cousins, and to a certain extent, Alex Smith. We have seen the wins that can come from that—in short, it’s a low ceiling. Haskins has the ability to bring the rain with his deep throws, and while we might not yet know how efficient that will be in the fall, we do know it all begins with a mindset to test the opponent’s secondary. All in all, I have to say I am impressed with the player we have developing behind Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. There is a lot to be optimistic about there.
- I know we haven’t seen a ton of Terry McLaurin this preseason, and I know some of the wide receiver highlights on our minds at this point have more to do with guys like Robert Davis and Cam Sims. In fact, Terry was shut down early in the Bengals game last week, leading some to assume he is battling some kind of injury. He was back at practice yesterday though, and his summer has opened eyes at Redskins Park. Originally slotted to play a valuable role on special teams, it now seems like the Redskins view him as way more of an offensive contributor than even they had previously thought. I don’t know what that will mean for his special teams duties, or if that will open up a spot for a defensive player who can pitch in on special teams, but McLaurin seems like the real deal in terms of playing pro ball at the receiver spot. Setting foolish comparisons aside, our guy has elite speed, a big body and a polished route running ability. He is going to get his first pro reception in week one, and I think he is the kind of player that special things are going to happen to and around. He should be able to break arm tackles offered by cornerbacks, and his speed should allow him to make some very big plays. Initially, I don’t see him being double-teamed, so he should have favorable matchups when he is on the field. Josh Doctson was the last highly drafted wide receiver we all fawned over. Getting hyped up about a third-round wide receiver could end up being so much more healthy for us.
- Need I remind you more about our defensive line? This is year two of me standing on a chair and begging people to watch what Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are doing at the line of scrimmage. They are elite talents at their positions, and they are buoyed by guys like Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle. Their play directly impacts that of the linebackers behind them, which directly impacts the play of the secondary behind them. Again, if healthy, we are looking at a real strength of this team. If that is true, you can almost count on the Redskins being in the mix in November, because that is where teams with stout front sevens live: in the mix. There is a LOT you can do in the NFL when the strength of your football team is the defensive front seven.
- Closing out the last two here in the defensive secondary, I simply can’t allow myself to write a “happy” Sixpack without mentioning Jimmy Moreland. The evolution of the NFL has centered around the passing game in recent years, causing defensive backs to work twice as hard and ten times as smart as they previously had to on their islands. The word on the street is that Jimmy Moreland is that rare toy that came pre-assembled, with batteries included and road-tested. He has reportedly been fed to the lions at times (being sent out to play with less direction than what you would ordinarily give a rookie) and instead of being devoured, he made himself some lion filets. I understand his size worries folks, but every so often this time of year, you look over and you don’t see a guy trying to make a football team. Instead, you see a football player that a team can’t live without. Moreland can flat out play ball, and is being picked by nobody I know to get cut by the Redskins. Think about that: at one of the hardest and most athletic positions in all of professional sports (cornerback), our SEVENTH ROUND PICK is a lock to make this team and contribute as a rookie. That has to warm the heart.
- While his signing was so splashy, the D.C. area was soaked for months (I knew there was a reason for all that rain), Landon Collins has not been a magnet for the camera or for headlines this August. When I hear his name, it is typically from his secondary teammates talking about his leadership style and his approach to the game. It seems to be rubbing off on these guys. Montae Nicholson looks strong, and could end up forming a strong duo in the back. When I read how Collins is working with his teammates on styles to employ when trying to disguise their coverages, I get a little giddy. How many times has it seemed like opposing offenses were able to pick their targets pre-snap over the last few seasons? I know that won’t just go away overnight, but the choreography necessary to trip up quarterbacks is best taught by the most gifted dancers in the league. The Giants gave Landon a little more freedom pre-snap in recent seasons, and it resulted in defenses getting fooled a lot more. Because defensive coordinators are going to key on a veteran player like Landon, his pre-snap position is huge. He has shown an ability to force bad pre-snap decisions by disguising the defensive playcalls, and by drawing attention to himself for the benefit of others. Better yet, Montae Nicholson is paying attention, and that could mean some big plays turned in by the safety pair this season. I find it refreshing that such a highly paid free agent has come in and kept his head down. I love that the things we hear about him come from the things that players around him are learning. We have seen this go a different way in the past, so let’s not miss the opportunity to celebrate it!
Roster battles and injury watches are the order of the day as the Redskins push through the heart of the preseason schedule.