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Key position battles, bubble players, and story lines: What we’ve learned from the Redskins preseason

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The story line of the Redskins 2019 campaign is a team that is quite underrated - What are the takeaways from what we’ve seen so far?

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has transpired with the Redskins heading into the final week of the preseason. Yes, Trent Williams is the biggest (and most important) story line heading into the regular season. However, for the players that the Redskins coaching staff are currently evaluating, what can we take away from what has occurred to date?

The quarterback position has been settled - Was anything truly “won” though?

After drafting Dwayne Haskins earlier in the year, Jay Gruden ensured the media and Redskins fans that there would be a quarterback competition. Each of the three quarterbacks would have his opportunity to show he deserved the starting role through his performance and understanding of the offense. Obviously, for those reasons, Colt McCoy had the early lead in the competition only due to familiarity. However, a lingering injury knocked this competition down to a two-man race, leaving Haskins with a legitimate opportunity to win the starting job on the surface of things.

The truth of the matter in this competition, though, is that nobody stood out from the beginning. During training camp, neither Colt McCoy nor Case Keenum separated themselves, and Dwayne Haskins early on showed he was not ready for the starting role. That was until the games started; after that, Haskins showed his quick development and understanding of the offense, all while getting adjusted to the speed of the game. His mental understanding and growth were impressive. He has not yet arrived in the sense of consistently throwing catch-able passes. Some sail on him; however, he deserved a better chance in his battle with Case. There is nothing at all wrong with Gruden’s decision to start Case though. Keenum did nothing wrong in the preseason, and his veteran presence will be beneficial to this offense as they try to establish cohesion. More patience is required with Haskins; it will pay off in the end.

The offensive line continues to struggle in pass-protection, Trent’s presence would have helped some, but it’ll be a problem without him.

The offensive line has been a problem since mini-camp, and, so far, nothing has changed. Ereck Flowers has been wildly inconsistent since his transition to guard; playing in the starting role confirms that it is a matter of time until rookie Wes Martin, who is a more natural guard due to position experience, replaces him, . The interior pressure has been a lingering problem and may result in the need for protection adjustments when the games start to count - like more max protection sets, or additional blockers (backs, tight ends) staying in to block instead of running a route. It becomes complex in the sense that the Redskins may have to limit their looks in the passing game.

As for Trent Williams, there is no rush to trade him right now. Patience is best. Trent is the team’s best player, but assuming he does not want to play for the Redskins anymore, it is critical for Washington to have the best deal lined up when it is time to pull the trigger, even if that means waiting until the trade deadline to get a deal done.

The Wide Receivers have shaken up the projected depth chart every single week - expect the unexpected because of this position battle.

The coaches have made sure to give every single receiver playing time throughout the preseason, and, with one game left, there will be even more time spent evaluating the position. The wide receivers have been the one real position battle throughout training camp and preseason, leaving formerly rostered players Josh Doctson, Brian Quick, and Jehu Chesson with feelings of uncertainty due to being out-produced by others. Quick and Chesson, known for special teams and veteran depth, may be pushed out due to younger (and drafted) talent, and Doctson’s lack of production makes him expendable if a trade partner comes around.

Robert Davis has been the standout of the preseason so far at wide receiver, followed by Darvin Kidsy and Cam Sims respectively. With drafted rookies Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon proving they are worth keeping on the active roster, what does head coach Jay Gruden do at the position to ensure the best players are kept on the team? I think bold moves are warranted based on the recent history at the position in addition to the training camp and preseason performances of a few receivers. Be bold, Jay! The production can get no worse than it has over the past two seasons.

The defense is good on all three levels. It should be as good as advertised.

The game against the Atlanta Falcons showed that there are some vulnerabilities in the passing defense. However, it may come down to just more time on the field with one another because it was nothing significant that would have raised red flags. The defensive line has been dominant in the two games where the starters were featured. More specifically, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have shown they will be a formidable duo this season in both the run and pass game defense. They are relentless in their effort and pursuit ability; leading by example will make it hard for their teammates to take plays off.

The depth is starting to show in a positive way at the outside linebacker position, with Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Ryan Anderson, and Cassanova McKinzy being able to set the edge and rush the passer. Not all can do both effectively; however, these four outside linebackers will establish a good rotation during the regular season, that should give coaches more options during situational down and distances.

Landon Collins has been great in all phases of the offseason, and, now, preseason too. He has been a consistent presence at the line of scrimmage and in coverage, and has had no trouble making solo tackles. He and Montae Nicholson can become a perfect tandem under his guidance and leadership.

At the corner position, the depth chart is primarily set. Unfortunately, with Fabian Moreau currently dealing with an injury, the coaches will not be able to use their best lineup if he is not ready for the start of the season. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and rookie Jimmy Moreland as key depth pieces, though, they will be able to prevent a significant drop-off.

The outlook of the Redskins season has not necessarily improved. It will take improved coaching and leadership from Jay Gruden (and luck) to over-achieve this season.

Jay Gruden is on the hot seat; that is no secret. We know where his mind should be at. He needs some urgency, along with improvement in how he manages his team.

During the preseason, he acknowledged delegating some assignments, such as play-calling, that he used to be responsible for in the past. Gruden acknowledged letting offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell call plays at times during the games. Now, will that happen in the regular season? Also, how much of a difference will that make for the offensive production? We are unsure just yet, but the delegation of assignments allows Jay to focus on other aspects of a game, like clock management, communication, and oversight of personnel packages, that are just as important.

Injuries are a part of the game, and so is the need for some good luck. The Redskins have failed terribly in the past couple of seasons with regard to the luck factor. In fact, it has been almost non-existent, and has been a leading cause for seasons to fall of the rails. With the improvement in the Redskins’ injury luck and growth of Jay Gruden as a head coach, the outlook for the 2019 season may get a boost in the win column — anywhere from 2-3 games.

What are your thoughts on the Redskins developments so far?