The Washington Redskins kicked off their 2012 season last night, with a 7-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo. Pre-season games are usually littered with vanilla play-calling, and vanilla packages, but that doesn’t mean that players can’t help or hurt their chances of making a football team. Here are some guys that may have tipped the scale in one direction or another last night.
Robert Griffin III
Hard to believe that a guy riding the top of a see saw could actually raise his value even more, but the kid from Baylor just continues to prove that he truly has what it takes to not only play in this league, but perhaps one day be special. It isn’t that he did anything physically that blew the doors off or anything, but he most certainly did not look like some rookie tossed into the fire either. It’s hard to peg whether his poise, or his leadership was more impressive, but there is absolutely nothing about the number 10 to suggest that this is his first year in the league – other than public record of course.
All he did was come out, basically hit every pass that he threw (he was 4 of 6, but one was dropped, and one was caught ‘out of bounds’). He conducted the huddle like his own symphony – in his FIRST GAME. He led the team down the field on an 80-yard drive that somehow looked as proficient as the 2011 offense looked at any time – in his FIRST GAME.
His final stat-line was 4 of 6 for 70 yards, with a 20-yard touchdown pass on a bubble screen pass to Pierre Garçon. He even tried to make a tackle after an Evan Royster fumble. He had every opportunity to cave under the enormous amount of pressure that has been heaped on to this young man’s shoulders; but he didn’t.
He led his team. He won the game. He looked like doing anything else would have been the difficult or unnatural thing.
In his FIRST GAME.
If you aren’t excited to see this young man play NFL football – check your pulse.
Not only did Pierre Garçon score the game’s only touchdown, he was also the game’s top receiver with 58 yards on three receptions. He would have had even more had the officials ruled correctly when he caught an RGIII pass ‘out of bounds’. It was a great debut for a guy that people outside of Washington have questioned his ability to be a number one receiver. So far, so good.
It’s hard to say whether his interception, or his 17-yard punt return was more significant, but when you’re a 7th round draft pick looking to make a mark, putting both things together in your first NFL game is definitely going to open some eyes. The DB out of SMU made a beautiful over the shoulder catch on the interception, stealing a Tyler Thigpen pass on the sidelines and returning it 16 yards. It was the defensive play of the game. Crawford said after the game of his performance, “Just gaining confidence, that’s pretty much what I did tonight.”
Baker has been impressive all of training camp and didn’t take any steps backwards in his first Redskins’ game action. He was solid in the middle, and never moreso when Washington stopped Buffalo on the goal line on six consecutive plays from inside the five. He is a true road grade run stuffing, gap eater and the battle between him and Chris Neild for the backup nose tackle position, is shaping up to be one of the best of the 2012 preseason – so good that the Redskins might have to find a way to keep both.
Coming off a 2011 season that he’d surely like to forget, Williams got his first chance to put his troubles behind him against Buffalo, and did so with flying colors. Not only did he stymie everyone that he came up against one-on-one, he was also responsible for the downfield tackle that sprung Garçon into the endzone on the touchdown (He man-handled the DB like a child). Williams was unfortunately hurt on the play, but said after the game that it was minor, and that he had just been stepped on. With an offensive line that has a lot of question marks, it’s good to see our exclamation point playing well right out of the gate.
Coming into the 2012 season, Banks was told that he would have to be able to take on a wide receiver role if he wanted the kick returner slot as well. Last night was his first chance to show the coaches what he can do at wide receiver, and he flat out failed to do so. Targeted a team high nine times, Banks caught just two passes for seven yards. That isn’t enough to end his ‘shot’ at making the team at wide receiver, but it certainly didn’t help him either. Another performance or two like that, and he’ll likely be returning his locker key in 2012, not kickoffs.
Unfortunately the first-year Redskin seemed to be looking at the wrong side of receivers jerseys all night long – even against the second and third units in the second half. He’ll have to do a lot better than that to make this football team.
While Paul made one great block, he also only caught one of the five balls that he was targeted with. Not exactly what you would expect from a wide receiver trying to transition to tight end, but the knock on him at Nebraska was his hands too. Shannon Sharpe himself said that as a wide receiver, when they move you to tight end – if you can’t cut it there, then the next step is the waiver wire. Paul will have to play much better in remaining preseason games if he wants to try and convince the Redskins that they should go into 2012 with him as the back-up to Fred Davis, as opposed to a proven entity in Chris Cooley.
Overall it was a solid outing for the Redskins and a good way to kick off the season. Wins and losses don’t mean much in the preseason, but performances do and there were plenty to point to and be happy with on Thursday night. The Redskins will get back to work this week in preparation for their next preseason game with the Bears next Saturday. Expect to see much of the same – but with a full half from RGIII.
That alone should get everybody up.