Surrounded by trade rumors, Mark Brunell played in Jacksonville for the first time since joining the Redskins, and on Thursday night he made his case for taking a spot on the final roster. The Jaguars struggled early against the Redskins, but a consistent passing attack and a solid defense by the Jags in the second half led to a blowout-like score of 31–14. The good news for Skins fans is that the first and second string players established a lead of 14–3 near the end of the first half, when the 3rd string defenders began to see the field. Overall, the Redskins looked good, and now fans have only a week and a half to wait for the start of the season.
Here are the Fifth Quarter rankings, which are based on a scale of 1 to 5 Quarters:
The Redskins looked dangerous in the air early to start the game, as Al Saunders had Jason Campbell come out swinging. He threw five passes on the opening drive, and capped it off with a 23-yard fade to Antwaan Randle El, who made a beautiful catch over Dee Webb. That was it for Campbell; 5 of 5 for 54 yards and the touchdown. He looked cool, poised, and confident in the pocket, and he didn't seem phased whatsoever from his injury two weeks ago. Jason simply looks ready to go.
Brunell, who replaced him, also had a very good night, making his final push to have a home on the 53-man roster. He led a 76-yard drive in the 2nd quarter, throwing his own fade pattern for a TD. Brunell's pass was caught beautifully by Ryan Hoag, who has played very well this preseason.
The second half was quarterbacked by Jordan Palmer, who saw his first live action in an NFL game. Although he played well in the scrimmage against Baltimore, Palmer struggled against the Jaguars’ second and third string defenders. He went 2 for 8, with only 10 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception that was easily returned for a defensive touchdown. Welcome to the NFL. Palmer is clearly a development project for the Skins and will likely make the practice squad, but the game experience was good for him.
The pass protection was good throughout the game, and the starting five held their own. New guard Pete Kendall looked comfortable despite only practicing with his team a couple of times after being acquired last week. Stephon Heyer continued to hold down his left tackle position with surprising skill and awareness for an undrafted rookie. Chris Samuels should return next week, and put the starting five together for the first time.
Rock Cartwright started the game as the tailback, as both Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts sat out. Cartwright played just the first drive, but played well, picking up 21 yards on three carries.
His replacement, rookie free agent Marcus Mason, had yet another solid performance. Mason showed good vision and cutting ability, and he broke tackles and protected the ball well. All tolled, he posted 54 yards on 12 carries. Looking back on Mason’s four games, he couldn't have made a stronger case for himself this preseason. What looked like a crowded RB depth chart, is suddenly not so crowded with Derrick Blaylock being placed on the injured reserve list and Portis still nursing tendinitis in his knee. Mason looks good for a practice squad spot at the very least.
Dee Brown only managed 13 yards on 8 attempts, and were it not for the injury to Blaylock, would have been looking or a job elsewhere today. As it stands, he probably will be tomorrow when the final cut downs are made.
Overall, the Redskins rushing game, much like their passing game, seemed fine in the first half before sputtering in the second. All of the starters, as well as their backups, however, looked good. The Redskin offensive line was able to open up some holes for the first time this preseason, and that allowed the Redskins to manage their drives more consistently. Considering their struggles to date in the preseason, it was encouraging to see them in good form again.
The Redskins’ first-string defense never saw the field last night, but you wouldn’t have known it from the solid first half put in by the Redskin defense. David Macklin picked up a sack on a blitz, and perhaps not surprisingly considering his preseason campaign, H.B. Blades led the team in tackles (8). Anthony Trucks came ready to play, and made his final push for a place on the practice squad with 6 tackles and a near sack on a well-designed blitz.
Most importantly, the Jaguars couldn’t generate any offense against the Redskins and were forced to punt on three out of their first four drives. The Jags didn’t score a touchdown until the Redskins began putting their deep reserves on the field, and the Skins held them to under 100 yards of total offense in that time. The one weakness with the starters was that the defensive line didn’t seem to be able to generate pressure without the help of a blitz.
The second half collapse of the defense shouldn’t alarm Redskin fans to much, as it came against many players who likely won’t even be Redskins come Saturday.
3 Quarters (4 quarters for the unit that started)
Shaun Suisham continues to look solid with consistently deep kick offs, and the coverage on those kickoffs was solid.
Derrick Frost had one hiccup in the game, sending a line drive punt well ahead of his coverage, which was returned for 28 yards before Frost himself made a nice tackle. He also sent two kicks into the end zone but did manage to pin the Jags at their own 15 with one punt. Coverage on punts, aside from the one mishandled play, was satisfactory.
Until Thursday, John Eubanks had made a strong showing on special teams, perhaps his only hope for making the Redskins’ roster. Eubanks bobbled his first punt return attempt, and it seemed to shake his confidence as he struggled for the rest of the night. He never made a big mistake but he never impressed much, either. To compound matters, he was carted off the field at the end of the night with a hamstring injury.
Ultimately, the Redskins suffered only minor injuries against Jacksonville, and certainly none to any players that will be on starting rosters. Washington has struggled with injuries in the preseason, but it looks like they will have a pretty clean bill of health when the season officially kicks off next week against the Miami Dolphins.