The Washington Redskins finished their preseason on Thursday night with a 17-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, their fourth consecutive preseason loss. Are you worried? Are you someone that actually puts faith in this preseason thing?
The Redskins coaching staff don't appear to be as worried as it was business as usual for the Redskins preseason - evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. It is obvious to some observers, though not many, the coaches have stuck to the same mantra all of training camp - evaluate the talent that you have on hand.
Now some people may be of the mindset that all of this evaluation can lead to but one conclusion, despair. Conclusions range anywhere from "The second string offensive line looks weak," to "Adam Archuletta can't cover," to "Andre Carter doesn't have a sack yet, it was a waste to bring him in."
Are you Redskin fans serious?
Really... come on, it's the preseason. It's a time for evaluating depth, it's a time for putting guys into situations that they are NOT comfortable with, just to see how they do. It's a time to work out dents in the armor before there is anything really at stake. After all, when all is said and done, four preseason losses are about as meaningful as the 'united' in United Nations.
So what can be drawn from the evaluations that went on Thursday night against the Ravens?
Jim Molinaro is back and looked decent. Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels both sat out the game (because it was so important), presumably just for precautionary measures and to avoid injuries. One could draw the conclusion from resting Jansen and Samuels that not only do Redskin fans realize that there is a lack of viable depth on the line, so do the coaches. But they have to feel a little bit better about it after the work Molinaro put in Thursday. He struggled early on when Terrell Suggs blasted past him for a near sack, but he really settled in after that. He was solid at tackle and the Redskins did manage to run Ladell Betts a fair bit behind him. Considering that the young tackle is just several weeks following a knee scope and hasn't played at all, he did very well.
Kedric Golston had the Redskins only sack and had another good outing. The late round pick seemed a real long shot to make the team, but that's one of the nice things about evaluating talent in the preseason - sometimes you find it in your own stable when you didn't necessarily know it was there. Golston and Anthony Montgomery were both drafted in April to push for playing time in a defensive tackle rotation. Obviously Washington is strong with Joe Salave'a and Corny Griffin as starters, but Gregg Williams loves to rotate players both to keep them fresh and to vary the look of the defense. The two depth holdovers from 2005 are Cedric Killings and Ryan Boschetti and one or both of those players may be on the bubble because of the work Kedric has put in
Derrick Frost still stinks. He may have had a couple of punts that looked better but wasn't consistency the main goal? There hasn't been any consistency, and Frost's complete inability to squib or pooch a punt is just downright annoying. The Redskins had to punt from the Ravens 42-yard line when a drive stalled, so in trots Frost to boot it into the end zone, for a fabulous 22-yard net gain. Why not just call a deep pattern and put it up for grabs every time? At least you know that the quarterback will throw it into the right vicinity. The positive was that he did have some better punts with an average of 47.2 yards, but it's doubtful that the Redskins 'waiver wire wish list' won't have punter right at the top of it.
T.J. Duckett saw his first real action in the burgundy and gold and played well. While he only got three carries, it was enough for the coaching staff to see what they needed to see. Duckett put up eighteen yards on those three carries with a long of nine, and perhaps more importantly, a run of two-yards on a third and one. The Redskins have needed a big short yardage back for ages, and it was nice to see big Mike Sellers and Duckett lumber in to form an elephant backfield that got the first down. Unfortunately, Duckett also showed that despite his size, he can't necessarily be counted on heavily in blocking schemes as he just whiffed on the one attempt that he had. See? Observe and evaluate - that's what the preseason is for.
John Hall missed another field goal - this one from 42 yards. Hall is an affable player; who doesn't love a kicker built like a linebacker? But if he can't do kickoffs as has already been talked about, then he better be rock solid from the hash marks to justify the roster spot. So far, he hasn't been. Frost doesn't appear to be able to look after kickoff duties and right now, he is the only punter on the roster. Would the Redskins allocate three roster spots for kickers (kickoffs, field goals, and punts)? It's doubtful. The Redskins wouldn't even have to look far as former Redskin Nick Novak was released by the Arizona Cardinals and has already said that he would gladly return to D.C.
People grade out the preseason in many different ways, but let's grade out the Washington coaching staff. Give them a 'B'. If you're asking yourself how a staff gets a 'B' after posting zero in the preseason wins column, maybe you should be asking yourself, what were they able to learn? Because while the actual play on the field wasn't worthy of much more than a 'D', the staff stayed the course and did what they intended to do - evaluate talent.
For better or worse, the staff knows exactly what they have now going into the season. That's what really matters. No more vanilla shells on offense and defense, no more fringe players juxtaposed with starters, no more 'let's just try that' mentalities. It's all for keeps from here on in and you can rest assured that the Redskins are ready to start the season. Don't ever forget that this is the design of a typical Joe Gibbs season - ease in, struggle early on, and build momentum as the season goes along.
The Redskins might not look ready to start the year from their play in the preseason, but it's their preseason evaluations that will allow this team to play well when it matters - in January.