It's just one preseason game, but on Friday night, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and his quarterback, Donovan McNabb, made a favorable impression on a fan base starving for success. I thought McNabb looked more comfortable in a 42-17 win against the Buffalo Bills than he has in training camp practices. He and Rex Grossman made enough plays in the passing game to stake the Skins to a big lead. Now, here are few observations:
McNabb was 5-of-8 for 58 yards and a touchdown. He hooked up with Anthony Armstrong for a 4-yard touchdown pass. McNabb and Chris Cooley already have a nice chemistry. McNabb loves to use the tight end, as we saw with Brent Celek in Philadelphia. McNabb knows that if he can hit Cooley in stride, the tight end can pick up some yards after the catch. McNabb seemed to have a good command of Shanahan's offense -- especially for this early in the preseason. And he's going to love the fact that Shanahan's hell-bent on establishing the running game.
I was impressed with Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams in this game. Shanahan should do everyone a favor and release Willie Parker now, because there's no place for him on this roster. Torain runs a little high for my taste, but I was impressed by the way he set up his blocks. He maneuvered very well between the tackles. Williams launches his body through the slightest hole. I thought he had an excellent performance on his 11 carries for 51 yards.
The 3-4 defense is a work in progress, but there were some good signs against the Bills. Albert Haynesworth entered the game in the second quarter and held his own at nose tackle. And he even had some nice things to say about Jim Haslett's defense after the game. I think the secondary will benefit from the 3-4 in a big way. DeAngelo Hall had an interception that set up a touchdown. Haslett's bringing pressure from everywhere, and that's not something we've seen with the Redskins since Gregg Williams was around.
Cornerback Ramzee Robinson's making his case to stay on the roster. He made an excellent play to down a punt at the Bills' 1-yard line.
Brandon Banks had a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown. He might be one of those special talents who Shanahan has a difficult time releasing. I'm not sure he helps you in the passing game this season, but I'd stick the guy out there on returns and let him do his thing. He's not as thick as fellow Kansas State return man/running back Darren Sproles, but he's probably a bit faster.
Shanahan had to be happy with Devin Thomas' performance after his initial bobble. Grossman threw him a wonderful pass on the 44-yard touchdown, but I love how Thomas snatched the ball and never broke stride. Now maybe he can start climbing up the depth chart.
Trent Williams held up fine at left tackle. He said he was a little nervous, but he played through the jitters. His footwork was really impressive. I think the Skins are in business at his spot for the next 10 years or so. And it really helps to have Chris Samuels giving Williams some feedback. I can't think of a better mentor. Offensive line looked pretty solid to me.
I thought rookie linebacker Perry Riley out of LSU had a rough time in the second half. I kept seeing him overpursue running plays.
Tight end Lee Vickers continues to impress me. Not a flashy tight end by any means, but he'll make tough catches. And he appears to be a solid blocker. I watched Grossman fire balls to Vickers in team drills in Ashburn, Va., and I just think he could be a valuable part of the team.
This secondary plays with so much more confidence right now -- especially when Ryan Fitzpatrick's playing quarterback. One negative: Safety Anderson Russell has to come up with the play when he's the last line of defense. He allowed a Bills running back to bounce off him in the second half. He took a really poor angle toward the runner. That will not be a fun film session for Russell.