3-and-out: Defense leaves mark and Haskins throws a bomb

Craig Hoffman
August 16, 2019 - 8:44 am

LANDOVER – The Redskins lost 23-13 in the second game of the preseason Thursday night to the Bengals. It was not pretty, but that's the preseason. It did give us plenty of interesting things to evaluate.

First Team Defense Shines – The Redskins defense played really well on Thursday night despite a shaky opening drive. They were dominating until Jon Allen picked up a silly roughing penalty negating a 3rd-and-long. That was followed by a Josh Norman unnecessary roughness penalty where he was diving for the ball. It was egregious. It was one of the worst calls I have ever seen and it wasn't even the worst call in the game. 

(That was the Kelvin Harmon offensive pass interference call in the 4th quarter that was so unfathomable the collective press at FedEx Field asked for a pool report from the officials. The officiating was unacceptable Thursday but it's the preseason so I'm not writing about it.)

In bend but don't break nature, they created a turnover off a Daron Payne tipped ball and Montae Nicholson took it all the way back the other way for a touchdown. That set up the defense going right back out and having to be on the field and they responded with a 3-and-out, which was really impressive.

The Redskins are going to win with their defense. This is a GREAT sign. The depth is a concern, but the starting unit did its job and we'll see what happens against Atlanta.

QB Report – Case Keenum moved the ball with the starting unit for a drive and had one of his other two move as well before being halted by a penalty. Keenum was fine. There's nothing special there on a first watch, but he was good enough thanks to a solid couple of connections to Vernon Davis. Add Jordan Reed and the top backs and you could see how Keenum leads some semblance of a productive offense.

Dwayne Haskins actually had a good night if we accept that he's nowhere close to starting. Haskins stayed patient and took some chances and tested what works.

He connected a few times, including an absolute dime a touchdown pass to Robert Davis. That throw was so impressive because it came on a 3rd down in the face of a blitz. It required patience and touch and Haskins delivered both. It came on a play to beat the quarters defense that Haskins identified immediately. He knew which side of the field to work and executed the play. It was, in a word, perfect.

As the game went, Haskins seemed to lose his accuracy a bit. He missed high, low and wide. Some of that was probably due to poor or sped up footwork. Others may have been a miscommunication with receivers. His stats don't look as good as they would with the Harmon plays put back in, but again – if you keep in mind that this is a very fancy practice, it was a great night for Haskins. Success with plenty of mistakes to learn from.

Special Teams Debacle Pt. 2 – The coverage teams have been bad through two preseason games. The kickoff coverage was poor tonight and that matters for a team with small field position margins for error. 

Of course, the bigger catastrophe was the punt coverage. For the second straight week, the Redskins gave up a 4th quarter punt return for a touchdown. Almost none of the players on that unit outside of long snapper Nick Sundberg and punter Tress Way will actually make the team, so it's not as concerning as it might seem, but it's still not great. They've gotta get that cleaned up and it's obviously really bad for the players fighting to make the roster – often by shining on special teams – who have failed in the ultimate way two weeks in a row.

Stat of the night – 21.5. As in the yards per catch for tight end Vernon Davis on the two balls he caught from Keenum. Davis wasn't very good in 2018, but he's still a monster big-play threat because of his somehow still elite speed. He's at his best working off Reed and if he's making big plays without him in the lineup, that's a great sign.

Quote of the night – "Tress (Way) had a chance to make a tackle but I had told him that if he gets hurt making a tackle, we're going to have a problem. So he ran out of the way...under my orders." head coach Jay Gruden on the punt return TD that might not have been if his punter was given the freedom to tackle

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