Leonard Hankerson for the score. Photo linked from redskins.com
Most of the major trends of the Redskins’ 2012 season were on full display in the pre-season last year. The key was in watching individual performances, especially against the first teams of the opponents (2nd-stringer play is a predictor of making the roster, not of play against regular season starters).
Let's take a second look at some 2012 examples:
1) Secondary woes – the Bears vs. Redskins pre-season game showed Cedric Griffin getting toasted by Brandon Marshall over and over again. Most of us thought Cedric was sure to be cut, but apparently the Redskins had no other option.
Who can also forget the Colts toasting Mr. Madeiu.
That was with Orakpo and it was a clear omen for the year that the secondary was in trouble.
2) Alfred Morris, the soon to be rock star – Morris trucking Lance Briggs of the Bears is still a highlight worth watching for the classic Morris run. Morris rolled over the Colts, too. His season was there to behold in the preseason.
3) The will to win – Redskins had a winning pre-season and after that had a winning season. I believe the Redskins success in the pre-season helped them believe they were better than the 3-6 team they were at mid-season.
Things to come in 2013
With that start, let's look at the Redskins first 2013 pre-season game. We will do another installment after the more important Steelers game.
1) Secondary improvement – The Redskins were dramatically better in the secondary and pass rush. The cat is out of the hat now. Chase Minnifield is a baller who cannot be hidden on the practice squad. David Amerson was also surprisingly good. They are younger and improved versions of Josh Wilson and D. Hall respectively. Richard Crawford is much more improved. The starting safeties were good − on pass coverage.
2) Tackling nightmare − Contrary to the coaches’ optimism, the Redskins tackling problem probably cannot be fixed in the pre-season as this was a problem last year as well. The Redskins have major problems against elite speed running backs and especially power running backs like Marshawn Lynch.
Bad angles, no swarming to the ball carrier, out of position, not shedding blocks are just part of the problem.
Our new safeties need a lot of work against the run.
The Redskins have so over-emphasized improving their pass rush that they forgot about tackling people other than the quarterback. The Redskins don't have any outstanding tacklers on the team other than Reed Doughty (yes, it's painful to say that). Riley, Cofield and Fletcher are good (when not nursing injuries), but that leaves the Redskins very vulnerable on the outside.
Look for this to be an issue at least until the bye week if not the whole season.
Screens to running backs and throws to tight ends could kill the Redskins’ aspiration to be a top ten defense.
3) QB and Wide Receiver improvements – With the notable of exception of Dezmon Briscoe (who never had the will to be there), the Redskins receivers look much better this year.
Cousins’ improvement and adaption to insufficient right tackle blocking was impressive. Hankerson and Morgan are faster and more fluid. People are overflowing Robinson's drop and neglecting his better route running and blocking. A telling play for Robinson was the big illegal hit he got that sandwiched him between Pollard and the knees of a Titan's coach – and he didn't drop the ball. The hands are there; they just need to be unleashed. Robinson's key drop last year was also right in between the numbers (Garcon has some of those too, btw). At least he knows what he should focus on.
A special mention should be made of Niles Paul. His blocking is dramatically better this year. He's also progressed to lining up in the backfield, something he wasn't ready for last year. Look for Paul to get more looks in the Steelers game.
From our short pre-season crystal ball sample so far, it looks like the offense will roll again this year and be even better. The defense is probably the key to the Redskins Super Bowl aspirations. Frankly, the Redskins don't have Super Bowl talent in their defense but maybe they can pull off another Haslett 'duct tape defense' job again this year. The defense is better this year than last year. The cornerback group is much better and the Redskins got a heck of a draft steal with Brandon Jenkins. The safeties are a work in progress – the next game will tell us much more there.
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