I absolutely hate preseason – I tweeted as much during the game – it’s like watching four Injury Bowls in a row. Unfortunately for the Redskins, their 33-31 loss to the Bears was no exception – Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather left the game with first half injuries. MRIs for both players will likely tell a better story this week. Other than that, it was a typical preseason game – filled with highlights and lowlights. Here are some observations:
A lot of people were excited by Brandon Banks 91-yard punt return for a touchdown, and rightfully so, it was an exciting play. But many people in Redskins Nation seemed to believe that him doing so, guaranteed himself a roster spot. I don’t think so. Obviously, the return won’t hurt his claim any, but the Redskins already know that Banks can be a great return man – after all, it’s his third consecutive preseason with a return TD. The Redskins coaching staff told Banks he would have to take a wide receiver spot if he was going to make this team – returning a punt doesn’t do that. Banks definitely flashes brilliant play-making abilities at times, but will it be enough to make this team in 2012?
Banks’ quest to make the roster was made even more difficult by the fact that Aldrick Robinson has to be a lock for the number five wide receiver position after tonight’s game. Robinson was thought to have been a potential ST replacement for Banks coming into 2012, and a threat to his roster slot, but he hasn’t exactly lit it up at practice so far. He lit it up on Saturday against the Bears – for most of the second half. He led all receivers on either team with 104 yards on 6 receptions, including a 49-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins. He made several great grabs and quite frankly, just looked dangerous, and fast.
Rookie quarterback Cousins, blew the doors off of Soldier Field in the second half. He finished 18 of 23 for 264 yards in just one half of action. Were it not for the late game heroics of bears kicker Robbie Gould and his 57-yard field goal, Cousins would have pulled off an amazing come-from-behind victory. In the end, he and the Redskins fell a little bit short, but Cousins definitely opened a lot of eyes on Saturday – including those of veteran quarterback Rex Grossman.
Niles Paul looked like his struggles receiving were going to continue, but he finally found a groove with Cousins, and finished with 4 receptions for 25 yards, including a 5-yard TD reception. He’s a virtual lock for the 53-man anyway, but he still has to play his way into an active role on this team. He took steps in the second half against Chicago, and he also had a great block on the first play of the game.
Richard Crawford has now played two preseason games, and the 7th round pick has completely impressed me twice now. The kid from SMU is making a very strong bid to make this football team, especially with the secondary struggling some.
Alfred Morris started strong, but fizzled a little. After tearing into the Bears defense with a 21-yard steamroller on his first carry, he managed just 13 more yards (10 carries, 34 yards). Still, it was his first game action against starters, and he did enough to make sure that he gets even more opportunity to show what he can do.
Chris Baker just moves bodies. The guy is a house in the middle of that defensive line. He continues to have a very impressive campaign for the Redskins, and with Chris Neild’s injury, is a virtual lock for this team at back-up nose tackle.
Near mentions: Dezmon Briscoe (great TD catch over the middle);
Unfortunately there is always some crunchy, to go along with the smooth.
Despite the fact that I will likely be crucified for even suggesting such a thing – Robert Griffin didn’t fare nearly as well as his rookie counterpart Cousins did. Not that it means squat, especially when one is up against starters, and the other against back-uos and scrubs, and it certainly doesn’t create a quarterback controversy as Twitter seemed to be belching at me every 9 seconds. RGIII played the whole first half, but managed just 49 yards on 5 completions (8 attempts). His best play of the night was a 14-yard scamper where he took off, and showed the ridiculous speed that he possesses. Most of the night he was running from the Bears though, as the patchwork Redskins offensive line struggled, and Griffin was sacked three times – one of which resulted in a fumble. Not all of it was on the line though, Griffin held on to the ball a little too long, and was not as decisive in the pocket as he was last week against the Bills. Not a terrific outing for the rookie phenomenon, but one that he will likely learn a lot from, and one that will only serve to give him added focus and drive next week against the Colts.
As mentioned above, the offensive line looked anaemic in the first half against the Bears starting defense. I think I’m being polite, but it still seems an appropriate description for their bland, seemingly sporadic play.
I know London Fletcher didn’t play, and a drop off was to be expected, but I was surprised that Perry Riley didn’t rise to the occasion more. He was beat cleanly on Michael Bush’ eight-yard touchdown run, I like Riley in that match-up all day long. He didn’t play badly at all, I was just hoping to see him shine.
Neil Rackers missed a field goal – sure it was a 54-yarder outdoors – but when you’re in the middle of a kicking battle, every miss counts.
Antwon Bailey fumbled at a bad time. For a guy already looking too low on the depth chart to make this team – that’s a statistic you don’t want to post.
Cedric Griffin continues to struggle in the secondary. He was beaten on the first Bears touchdown and while he should have received better safety help over the top than (acting) safety DeAngelo Hall provided, he did get beat pretty cleanly. It’s his second week in a row on the wrong list, and while that doesn’t endanger him of not making this team, the Redskins are looking at Griffin to play a starting role in 2012.
All in all, it was a mixed outing. As a fan, you’re happy that your team fought back in the second half and made a game of it; but the reality is that your starters got it handed to them pretty good. Still, there were a lot of good performances from young guys trying to make this team, and for a re-building franchise, that’s always a positive.
Rest assured of one thing though, not much media time will be spent dwelling on the performance against the Bears. You can bet that the hype machine will be in full force this week as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will face each other for the very first time next week.
That makes it a preseason game that almost matters.
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