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Redskins fall to 2-1 this preseason with a 23-17 loss at Baltimore on Saturday night (Aug. 23).
1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was bad
The Ravens’ top three corners (Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa (ACE-uh) Jackson) didn’t play, and yet Griffin went just 5-of-8 for 20 yards and a pick, was sacked three times and had a fumble. He played for seven official drives (six true drives if you take out his end-of-the-first-half kneel-down).
Griffin’s final play was his worst: a pick on the first offensive play of the second half. Griffin, off being in the pistol, threw the ball to a covered running back in Alfred Morris despite having tight end Jordan Reed open. The ball deflected off Morris and linebacker Daryl Smith and was picked off by rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley.
A late-second-quarter drive that resulted in a 51-yard punt by Tress Way included:
• Griffin, off being in the shotgun, with a near-pick-six on a pass intended for Jackson on a first-and-10 no-play (nose tackle Brandon Williams received a five-yard offside penalty).
• Griffin, off being in the shotgun, standing in the pocket while it collapsed around him on a third-and-three sack by linebacker Elvis Dumervil for a six-yard loss.
A second-quarter drive that resulted in a 27-yard punt by Robert Malone included:
• Griffin throwing the ball late on a first-and-10 deep pistol incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson.
• Griffin, off being under center and play-action, running out of bounds on a first-and-10 sack credited to rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan for a five-yard loss despite having receiver Pierre Garcon open on a drift route.
Griffin’s fumble came on a third-and-five during a first-quarter three-and-out. He appeared to take his eyes off the ball on a shotgun snap from center Korey Lichtensteiger, but Griffin did recover the fumble.
2. Griffin hasn’t thrown enough passes this preseason
This was a popular complaint during the 2012 preseason, and Griffin followed that with the greatest rookie season ever for a quarterback. But that was before we knew where he was as a passer. Griffin needs all of the work he can get coming off a 2013 season in which finished 22nd in the NFL in passer rating, 25th in the NFL in completion percentage and 29th in the NFL in Total QBR.
Griffin over three preseason games had 20 pass attempts. Denver’s Peyton Manning had 54 pass attempts. Kansas City’s Alex Smith had 51 pass attempts. Seattle’s Russell Wilson had 39 pass attempts. The lack of pass attempts from Griffin over three preseason games was stunning and disappointing.
3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins shined again
Cousins relieved Griffin after his third-quarter pick and played for the rest of the game, going 14-of-20 for 122 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and no sacks.
Cousins hit the ground running, going 5-of-7 for 52 yards on his first drive, which resulted in a third-and-seven 11-yard shotgun touchdown pass to receiver Santana Moss. So Cousins had as many completions on his first drive as Griffin had over his six true drives.
Cousins’ other touchdown pass was a fourth-quarter first-and-goal seven-yard shotgun connection with receiver Nick Williams. That play came after a third-and-10 20-yard shotgun hook-up with tight end Niles Paul, who made a terrific leaping, turnaround catch.
4. Is there a quarterback controversy?
No. Not yet. Griffin has a much higher ceiling than Cousins does, and remember, it’s not like Cousins has set the world on fire over his eight regular-season games (eight touchdown passes versus 10 picks, 56.2 completion percentage, 68.6 passer rating, 51.5 Total QBR).
But the discussion of whether this team this season is better off with Cousins at quarterback isn’t ridiculous. Redskins coaches have been frustrated by Griffin’s performance this summer, and that sentiment was echoed by Joe Theismann on the telecast of this game on the Redskins Broadcast Network: “Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has.”
Additionally, remember what ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss wrote earlier this month: “One of my biggest takeaways from Patriots-Redskins joint practices was surprise that Robert Griffin III didn’t look like the best quarterback on his own team. In fact, I thought Kirk Cousins was better than him, from the perspective of running the offense, fine-tuned mechanics and how decisively the ball came out of his hand. I wondered if I was alone, and then heard the same sentiment echoed by some others in the Patriots organization.”
5. Ultimately, this all may come down to one thing: the read-option
The biggest reason to believe in Griffin, of course, is how great he was in 2012. What helped to make him so good that season was the success of the read-option, which only comprised between 10-20 percent of the Redskins’ offensive plays but was a factor on many more because of the threat of it every time Griffin lined up in the pistol.
We saw zero read-option plays over the first two games of last season, and the results were terrible. We then saw read-option plays over the next 11 games, and the offensive results improved.
We saw just two read-option-looking plays with Griffin in the game over the first three preseason games. Both were in this game: a first-and-five 19-yard run by running back Alfred Morris on the Redskins’ first offensive play of the game and a second-quarter second-and-nine one-yard run by Morris. It's important to note that both of those plays weren't true read-option plays (there was no "option"; the plays were inside-zone runs). Also, both of those plays were run out of the shotgun, which is the formation that head coach Jay Gruden used to run read-option while he was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator.
Are the Redskins simply playing possum and planning to bust out more read-option come Week 1 at Houston? Or are they truly trying to get away from the read-option? And if the latter is the case, is Griffin capable of having another great season? Because as we’ve seen over the last two seasons, when he’s not a run threat, the offense just isn’t that good.
6. Safety Brandon Meriweather has been suspended again
Meriweather was hit with a third-and-four 15-yard personal-foul penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Torrey Smith on the second-quarter drive that resulted in Justin Tucker’s 36-yard field goal. We learned on Monday (Aug. 25) that the NFL has suspended Meriweather without pay for the first two games of the regular season for a sixth violation of player-safety rules.
Meriweather’s availability has been a major issue over his three seasons with the Redskins.
• Meriweather played in just one game in 2012 due to an injured left knee in the preseason and then a torn right ACL suffered in the Week 11 rout of Philadelphia.
• Meriweather played in 13 games last season. He missed the Week 1 loss to the Eagles due to a groin injury. He missed the Week 8 loss at Denver due to a one-game suspension for two illegal hits in the Week 7 shootout win over Chicago. And he missed the Week 14 loss to Kansas City due to a chest injury.
A positive for Meriweather was delivering a massive hit on running back Bernard Pierce on a first-and-10 carry for a five-yard loss on the first-quarter drive that resulted in the Ravens’ second turnover on downs.
7. The defense did mostly look good
This was the first real test of the Redskins’ defense this preseason, given that New England didn’t play so many of its starters and Cleveland’s quarterback play was so poor.
The Skins totaled three sacks, including one from debuting defensive end Jason Hatcher. He beat right guard Marshal Yanda for a third-and-seven sack for a 12-yard loss during a first-quarter three-and-out. Gruden said after the game that Hatcher appeared to be “a little winded out there,” but I was encouraged with what we saw from Hatcher given that 1) he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in June and 2) he turned 32 on July 13.
Rookie Trent Murphy and fellow linebacker Ryan Kerrigan registered the Redskins’ other two sacks.
Linebacker Keenan Robinson had two tackles for loss, a pass defense and a forced fumble.
8. As for more of the bad from the defense…
The Ravens’ first-quarter drive that resulted in their second turnover on downs also included:
• Corner DeAngelo Hall’s third-and-four 16-yard defensive pass-interference penalty
• Horrendous tackling on a second-and-15 30-yard reception by receiver Steve Smith Sr. Hall and safety Ryan Clark were among those who failed to bring Smith down.
Corner E.J. Biggers got beat on Steve Smith Sr.’s late-second-quarter 24-yard touchdown reception.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo had a missed tackle on fullback Kyle Juszczyk (YOOZ-check) on his 23-yard reception on the game’s first offensive play.
9. The roster has been trimmed
The deadline to cut down to 75 players was on Tuesday (Aug. 26) at 4:00 p.m. Notable cuts included:
• Linebacker Rob Jackson, who was released on Sunday (Aug. 24). His departure nails the coffin shut on the Redskins’ 2008 10-man draft class. Jackson was a seventh-round pick and the lone remaining member from that class on the team. Only one other player, San Diego guard Chad Rinehart, is still in the NFL.
• Guard/center Mike McGlynn, who was released on Tuesday (Aug. 26). He was signed by the Redskins on March 28 and has been a consistent starter in the NFL, including starting 33 games (regular season and postseason) for Indianapolis the last two seasons.
• Guard Adam Gettis, who was waived on Monday (Aug. 25). He was a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
A player who survived the cutdown to 75 was linebacker Everette Brown, who was signed on July 28 off linebacker Brandon Jenkins being waived on July 27. Brown was taken by Carolina in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and played for current Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker while with the Panthers. Also, Brown, like Jenkins, played collegiately at Florida State. Brown’s chance of making the 53-man roster improved with the cuts of Jackson and linebacker Adrian Robinson.
10. Miscellaneous notes:
Notable injuries for the Redskins in this game:
• Safety Phillip Thomas – re=injury of his surgically-repaired left foot
• Rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses – sprained right MCL
• Orakpo - ankle sprain
• Corner Chase Minnifield - hamstring strain
The drive that resulted in Malone’s second-quarter 27-yard punt also included left tackle Trent Williams committing a third-and-nine 10-yard holding penalty. That infraction negated a 26-yard reception by Reed, who broke several tackles.
Lichtensteiger struggled on consecutive plays on the Redskins' first drive, getting blown up on a second-and-nine Morris I-formation-handoff run and then delivering a high shotgun snap on a third-and-10 shotgun sack of Griffin for a four-yard loss. Also, Griffin’s first-quarter fumble came on a botched shotgun exchange with Lichtensteiger, although Griffin appeared to take his eyes off the ball. Lichtensteiger briefly came out of the game in the first half, and right guard Chris Chester shifted to center, but the reason for Lichtensteiger's brief departure was an equipment issue according to our own Chris Cooley.
Special teams had a mixed night:
• Receiver Andre Roberts had a first-quarter 23-yard punt return.
• Way had punts of 27 and 51 yards in the second quarter.
• Malone had punts of just 40 yards in the first quarter, 45 yards in the second quarter and 38 yards in the fourth quarter.
• Three different Redskins recorded kickoff returns: receivers Rashad Ross and Aldrick Robinson and running back Evan Royster.
This loss snapped the Redskins’ eight-game winning streak in the preseason. The Redskins’ last preseason loss had been at Chicago on Aug. 18, 2012.
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Game 1: 10-3 loss on Friday night (August 22)
Game 2: 6-2 win on Saturday (August 23)
Game 3: 14-6 win on Sunday afternoon (August 24)
1. The streak is over, but the success continues
Game 1 snapped the Nats’ 10-game winning streak, but the Nats exited this series having won 12 of 13 and 15 of 18.
This series concluded a 9-1 homestand.
2. The offense was excellent with runners in scoring position
The Nats went 14-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 10-for-17 in Game 3.
The Nats overcame a 5-0 fourth-inning deficit in Game 3, totaling 18 hits and six walks.
Right fielder Jayson Werth went 6-for-12 with a walk in the series, totaling four RBI, three runs and two stolen bases.
Center fielder Denard Span went 0-for-4 in Game 1 but 4-for-10 over Games 2 and 3.
Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera went 3-for-8 with three walks in the series. He did leave Game 3 with tightness in his right side.
3. The starting pitching was bad in two of the three games
Doug Fister had a rare bad outing in Game 1, allowing four runs in six innings. He gave up seven hits, including two homers, and was unusually inefficient (107 pitches over the six innings). Fister pitched with stitches on his neck, and revealed after the game that he recently “had some skin cancer removed” but that “had no effect” on his start.
Jordan Zimmermann allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 2, recording eight strikeouts.
Stephen Strasburg got rocked in Game 3, giving up five runs in four innings on eight hits (including two solo homers), two walks and a wild pitch. He now has allowed four or more earned runs in four of his last eight starts.
4. The bullpen was bad in Game 1 but good the rest of the series
Jerry Blevins and Ross Detwiler combined to allow six runs (five earned) in three innings in Game 1. But Nats relievers combined to allow one run in six innings over Games 2 and 3.
5. Outfielder Nate Schierholtz has joined the major-league roster
The Nats made several roster moves on Saturday, including selecting the contract of Schierholtz and optioning outfielder Michael A. Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse.
Schierholtz was signed by the Nats to a minor-league contract on Aug. 18 and is in his age-30 season. He was woeful with the Cubs earlier this season (OPS+ of just 48). But he had a 108 OPS+ with the Cubs in 2013. And Schierholtz's .763 OPS as a pinch hitter ranks fourth among active players with at least 150 career plate appearances in a pinch-hitting role.
Taylor, one of the Nats' top-ranked outfield prospects, hit .167 (3-for-18) in seven games during his first major-league stint.
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Game 1: 4-1 loss on Friday afternoon (Aug. 22)
Game 2: 7-2 loss on Saturday (Aug. 23)
Game 3: 2-1 loss on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 24)
1. Been a while since we’ve seen this
This series gave the O’s their first three-game losing streak since late May and concluded a 4-5 road trip. The Orioles’ next 11 games are at home.
2. Third baseman Manny Machado is done for the season
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed on Saturday that Machado, who suffered a right knee sprain on Aug. 11, will undergo season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in the next week. The procedure is the same that was performed on his left knee last Oct. 14.
Machado didn’t make his season debut until May 1 thanks to the left knee surgery last October. He struggled in May, showed improvement in June, but then served a five-game suspension for his behavior in an early-June series against Oakland. But Machado had been very good since the suspension, posting a .921 OPS in July and a .940 OPS in August.
Machado continued to shine defensively this season, posting a 1.1 dWAR and 9.6 UZR/150 and registering seven Defensive Runs Saved. Those numbers aren’t on the level of his historically-excellent 2013 defensive season, but they’re still well above league average.
3. The offense was awful
The O’s batted just .143 (13-for-91) in the series.
Right fielder Nick Markakis went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts in the series.
Third baseman Chris Davis went 1-for-11 with five strikeouts in the series.
4. The starting pitching was bad until Game 3
Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in five innings in Game 1, giving up six hits (including two homers). Gausman did record seven strikeouts.
Bud Norris allowed four runs in two innings in Game 2, lasting just two innings in part because of a three-hour nine-minute rain delay after the bottom of the second.
Miguel Gonzalez, making his first start for the O’s since Aug. 7, allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 3.
5. Ubaldo Jimenez shined in his first outing as a reliever for the O’s
He allowed one run in four innings in relief of Norris in Game 2, recording five strikeouts. The outing essentially played out like a start for Jimenez, as his appearance came after the near three-hour rain delay.
Orioles relievers combined to allow four runs in 10 2/3 innings in the series. Tommy Hunter gave up two runs in two innings on four hits in Game 2.
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Game 1: 5-4 11-inning win on Monday night (August 18)
Game 2: 8-1 win on Tuesday night (August 19)
Game 3: 3-2 win on Wednesday night (August 20)
Game 4: 1-0 win on Thursday (August 21)
1. An unreal run
The Nats exited this series with:
• 10 consecutive wins, the franchise’s longest winning streak since a 10-game winning streak in June 2005
• Five walk-off wins in six days, becoming the first team to do that since the 1986 Houston Astros (who had a major-league-record five consecutive walk-off wins)
• The National League’s best record (73-53) and run differential (+102)
2. The offense was great
The Nats batted .293 (39-for-133) in the series and, maybe even more impressively, totaled 18 walks.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon had a pinch walk-off RBI single in Game 3 and hit the infield single that yielded the walk-off throwing error by third baseman Jordan Pacheco in Game 4. Rendon went 6-for-14 with two walks in the series.
Left fielder Bryce Harper went 7-for-15 with a walk in the series. He scored the game-winning run in Game 3, getting on base thanks to a single on which he got jobbed on a 3-0 pitch that should’ve been ball four but still managed to work the hit.
Right fielder Jayson Werth went 5-for-14 with three walks in the series.
Catcher Wilson Ramos played in Games 1, 3 and 4 and went a combined 4-for-12.
First baseman Adam LaRoche had his first career walk-off homer, a solo bomb in the bottom of the 11th of Game 1. He went just 2-for-14 in the series but totaled four walks.
The Nats won Game 4 despite going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
3. The starting pitching was excellent
Jordan Zimmermann allowed three runs in seven innings in Game 1. He now has a 2.14 ERA (eight earned runs in 33 2/3 innings) over his last five starts.
Stephen Strasburg allowed one run in eight innings in Game 2, giving an overworked bullpen some much-needed rest. Strasburg now has a 2.30 ERA at home versus a 4.77 ERA on the road this season.
Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 3. Exiting the game, only five major-league pitchers had 10 or more starts giving up one run or fewer while going seven or more innings: the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright, Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels and Roark.
Gio Gonzalez tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 4. He had struggled to some extent in six of his previous seven starts.
4. The four-game sweep came despite more struggles for the bullpen
Tyler Clippard, closing for an overworked Rafael Soriano, allowed a game-tying solo homer in the top of the ninth of Game 1. Clippard then allowed a game-tying two-run homer in the top of the eighth of Game 3.
Craig Stammen loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the 11th of Game 1 but escaped the inning unscathed.
5. Outfielder Nate McLouth’s season is over
He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday to repair a torn right labrum. McLouth was a major disappointment this season, batting just .173 and posting an OPS+ of just 46 (100 is average) over 162 plate appearances despite receiving starter’s money (two-year deal reportedly worth $10.75 million) last December.
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Game 1: 8-2 win on Monday night (August 18)
Game 2: 5-1 win on Tuesday night (August 19)
Game 3: 4-3 win on Wednesday night (August 20)
1. More than 19 years since we’ve seen this
The O’s registered their first sweep at the White Sox since June 1995.
The O’s exited this series a major-league-best 31-13 since June 30.
2. The starting pitching was excellent
Bud Norris allowed two runs in seven innings in Game 1. He leads all qualified Orioles pitchers with a 1.21 WHIP.
Chris Tillman allowed one run in eight innings in Game 2, recording nine strikeouts. This was his 14th straight start allowing three earned runs or fewer, the longest such streak by an Oriole since Ben McDonald’s in 1993 (14).
Wei-Yin Chen allowed three runs in 7 1/3 innings in Game 3, recording seven strikeouts. He now has a 2.98 ERA over his last eight starts.
3. The bullpen, because of the quality starting pitching, wasn’t leaned on much and was flawless
Orioles relievers combined for 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the series, totaling six strikeouts versus no hits and no walks.
4. The offense was very good
The O’s batted .269 (29-for-108) in the series.
Center fielder Adam Jones went 6-for-13 in the series.
Steve Pearce started all three games at first base and went 5-for-13 in the series, blasting a homer and three doubles.
Left fielder/DH Nelson Cruz went just 2-for-11 with a walk in the series, but both of his hits were homers: a solo shot in Game 1 and a two-run bomb in Game 3.
5. Ubaldo Jimenez is officially out of the rotation
Manager Buck Showalter made the announcement on Tuesday. Jimenez on Wednesday: "They are doing whatever is best for the team. The guys have been pitching really [well] in the rotation, and definitely we all want to do the same thing, and that's making the playoffs and putting the team in the best position."
Jimenez allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 6-0 loss at Cleveland last Saturday night, giving up five hits (including two homers) and three walks. He exited the game with a 4.83 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP and an American League-worst 66 walks over 20 starts this season. Showalter was noncommittal about Jimenez staying in the rotation after the game.
Jimenez on Feb. 19 signed the longest and largest contract the Orioles have ever given to a free-agent pitcher: four-year deal reportedly worth $50 million. Give Buck credit for ignoring the contract and doing what's best for the team, although, truthfully, what choice did he have?
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Redskins improve to 2-0 this preseason with a 24-23 win over Cleveland on Monday night (Aug. 18).
1. The Redskins suffered several injuries, but none appeared serious
The list of injuries for the Skins:
• Quarterback Robert Griffin III – thigh contusion
• Left tackle Trent Williams – shoulder
• Tight end Niles Paul – hand contusion
• Corner Tracy Porter – hamstring
• Linebacker Rob Jackson – shoulder
Those who did not play for the Skins included:
• Defensive end Jason Hatcher
• Linebacker Darryl Sharpton
• Running back Chris Thompson
2. This game was ugly
The Skins and Browns combined for 21 penalties, including 13 in the first half. The Skins had 11 penalties for 100 yards off totaling 10 penalties for 79 yards in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7.
The Skins are not alone in being penalized a bunch this season. There were 756 accepted penalties over the first 33 NFL preseason games in 2014. Over the first 33 preseason games in 2013, there were 526 accepted penalties. Two reasons for the increase in penalties: 1) several points of emphasis for officials (illegal downfield contact, defensive holding, offensive pass interference) and 2) the NFL is experimenting with an extra - or eighth - official in its game-day, on-field crews.
Also, the Skins had four turnovers in this game off having no turnovers in the victory over the Patriots.
3. Griffin had a mixed game. First the good…
Griffin stood strong in the pocket on a first-quarter second-and-five 23-yard completion to receiver DeSean Jackson off being under center and play-action. The next play, though, was a lost fumble officially credited to Griffin, though running back Alfred Morris was at fault (he didn’t catch what was a perfectly acceptable pitch).
Griffin shined on three consecutive plays on the drive that resulted in his first-quarter third-and-14 pick to corner Joe Haden: first-and-10 nine-yard completion to fullback Darel Young off under-center play-action; second-and-one 15-yard shotgun completion to tight end Jordan Reed; and a first-and-10 11-yard shotgun completion to Jackson, who gave a nice stiff-arm to defensive back Donte Whitner in generating YAC for the first down.
Griffin connected with receiver Andre Roberts on a second-and-eight 49-yard shotgun completion on the final play of the first quarter. Roberts did have to slow down a bit to catch the ball. The drive, though, resulted in a second-quarter turnover on downs at the Browns’ one-yard line.
4. As for the bad from Griffin…
The first-quarter third-and-14 pick to Haden was the result of Haden sitting on the route and Griffin being late on the throw according to Gruden. That drive also included:
• A first-and-10 four-yard scramble off an under-center play-action boot. Griffin impressively ran away from linebacker Barkevious Mingo but also awkwardly sat down on the field as opposed to properly sliding. Also, Griffin had linebacker Karlos Dansby biting and fullback Darrel Young open on the play, so the scramble and awkward slide weren’t even necessary. The play also included a five-yard holding penalty on Haden.
• A first-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty on Griffin, who was in the pistol
• A second-and-20 18-yard shotgun scramble on which Griffin took hits from three different Browns due to not getting out of bounds quickly enough. That play also included a five-yard holding penalty on rookie corner Justin Gilbert.
• A second-and-14 pistol incompletion intended for Jackson, who was pretty open but had the ball bounce off his hands. Tight end Logan Paulsen, however, was wide open at a farther distance in the middle of the field.
The drive that resulted in the second-quarter turnover on downs at the Browns’ one-yard line included:
• A first-and-10 sack by linebacker Paul Kruger for a nine-yard loss. Griffin, who was in the shotgun, failed to step up in the pocket and suffered the thigh contusion on this play.
• A third-and-17 two-yard shotgun scramble on which Griffin again slid awkwardly (though did not do the sit-down slide this time). The play also included a five-yard holding penalty on Haden.
• A first-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty on Griffin, who was in the pistol
5. Should Griffin have played longer?
He played for three drives or a quarter and-a-half, going 6-for-8 for 112 yards and a pick and totaling four carries for 24 yards and a lost fumble (though, as noted earlier, that was Morris’ fault).
We all know that Griffin needs work as a pocket passer, so the idea that he should have played for longer than three drives and eight pass attempts makes sense. Also, other NFL quarterbacks in the played quite a bit in Week 3 of the preseason. Kansas City’s Alex Smith played the entire first half and attempted 22 passes. Seattle’s Russell Wilson played deep into the second quarter.
But if you’re head coach Jay Gruden, and you see those two awkward slides and the unnecessary hits on the 18-yard scramble, how can you feel comfortable playing RGIII longer than you did? Until he gets better at sliding and avoiding hits, he remains a major injury risk.
Also, the fact that the Skins had another preseason game just five days after this one at Baltimore may have played a role in Griffin not playing longer.
6. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, like Griffin, had a mixed game
Cousins, like Griffin, played for about a quarter and-a-half, giving way to Colt McCoy in the fourth quarter. Cousins’ final numbers: 12-for-21 for 145 yards, a touchdown and a pick.
Cousins had a second-quarter first-and-10 shotgun pick to defensive back Tashaun Gipson, throwing way high to intended receiver Aldrick Robinson, who ran a poor route on the play according to ESPN 980's Chris Cooley. Additionally, Cousins took a second-quarter second-and-10 sack off being in the shotgun for a nine-yard loss.
But that drive resulted in running back Evan Royster’s second-and-goal two-yard shotgun-handoff touchdown run and included three big pass plays: third-and-19 24-yard shotgun completion to receiver Santana Moss on a bubble screen; second-and-10 15-yard shotgun completion to rookie receiver Ryan Grant on a comeback pattern; and a second-and-10 24-yard shotgun completion to Royster.
Cousins also made a terrific throw on a third-quarter first-and-10 14-yard pistol touchdown pass to Grant. That drive included a second-and-four 12-yard under-center play-action bootleg completion to Robinson, who made a nice adjustment on a ball thrown behind him.
Also, the play before the pick to Gipson was a third-and-two five-yard shotgun completion on which Cousins did an impressive job of standing tall in the pocket, altering his arm angle, and finding an open secondary pass catcher in Roberts.
7. Morris has had better games
The lost fumble credited to Griffin on the Skins’ first drive of the game was Morris’ fault, as he closed his hands too soon on a perfectly acceptable pitch from Griffin. Morris, who had a fumbling problem at Florida Atlantic, had five fumbles (four of which were lost) last season and four fumbles (three of which were lost) in 2012.
The other major negative for Morris was failing to get into the end zone on four consecutive runs inside the Browns’ four-yard line early in the second quarter. Two caveats, though, to this: 1) Morris initially was ruled to have scored a touchdown on his fourth-and-goal-at-the-one run, and the replay, to me, wasn’t clear enough to justify the reversal and 2) the offensive line shares in some of blame for Morris failing to score on four straight runs.
Morris finished with 11 carries for 29 yards.
8. The defense impressed for a second straight game
The Browns alternated Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel at quarterback into the fourth quarter, and neither guy played particularly well. Combine that with the many starters (including quarterback Tom Brady) who did not play for the Patriots, and you can’t read too much into what we’ve seen from the Skins’ defense so far. But that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some bright spots.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had two first-quarter sacks. He came in unblocked and sacked Hoyer for a six-yard loss on the first offensive play of the game and then had a third-and-five sack of Manziel for a seven-yard loss on his first drive of the game. Linebacker Brian Orakpo made Manziel’s famous money hand gesture after that sack. Kerrigan after the game: "I thought about it, but that's not cool. That's not me. It would have been out of character. We talked about it before, but I chickened out."
Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland, off being cited with misdemeanor possession of marijuana at VCU on Aug. 11, had a fumble recovery late in the second quarter and a big hit on former Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong for force an incompletion on a fourth-and-one in the third quarter. Gruden on Breeland after the game: “The one thing you can’t see in practice is him tackle. He is a great tackler...”
Safety Bacarri Rambo had the forced fumble that Breeland recovered late in the second quarter, dislodging the ball from tight end MarQueis (mahr-KWEES) Gray. Rambo started the Skins’ first two games last season, came off the bench in the Week 3 loss to Detroit, and then did not play at all in each of the next three games. He was inactive in Weeks 15 and 16 as well. But Rambo has appeared more comfortable over the first two games this preseason and, truthfully, the Skins don't have much else beyond him as a backup to starting free safety Ryan Clark. In most other roster situations, Rambo would be in jeopardy. In this circumstance, he appears likely to make the roster, but it's encouraging that he has perhaps demonstrated some improvement over two games.
9. Special teams had another bumpy game
Roberts had a punt return for minus-one yard off the Browns’ opening drive.
Neither Robert Malone nor Blake Clingan distinguished himself in the battle at punter. Each had just one punt and was underwhelming. Malone had a 42-yard punt in the second quarter, and Clingan had a mere 34-yard punt in the third quarter. The Skins on Wednesday (Aug. 20) waived Clingan and acquired punter Tress Way via waiver claim.
The Skins gave up a 49-yard kickoff return to Armstrong in the third quarter after Grant’s 14-yard touchdown reception.
10. Miscellaneous notes:
Manziel flipped a middle finger toward the Skins’ sideline after a third-quarter incompletion. He said after the game that he should have been smarter. We learned on Friday (Aug. 22) of the NFL fining Manziel $12,000 for the gesture.
We didn’t get much in the Skins’ battle at kicker. The lone field-goal attempt came from Kai Forbath, who connected on a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The game registered a 4.8 overnight rating on ESPN, the second-best ever rating for an NFL preseason game on the network (Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings debut in 2009 is first).
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