The Patriots had quite a few starters who did not play, so you can't go overboard with what the Redskins did Thursday night. No parades down Constitution Avenue just yet. Really, it wasn't about the fact that they won -- it's meaningless -- but rather how the Redskins went about playing. They wanted to establish an identity and did so on both sides, playing physical on offense in particular. The Redskins won't become playoff contenders off this game, but if they start establishing a mindset, if they tackle like they did Thursday, then it's a good start. They took care of New England's backups, for the most part, and it sure beats the alternative for them.
I'll have more on this Friday, but I liked that they wanted to run the ball. I know this is the preseason and they're missing their top two receivers and they weren't going to be fancy with the pass game. But it would be good for this team to establish an identity right away. And usually the mindset that wins is the one that relies on physical play and establishing the line of scrimmage. Fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen really helped Alfred Morris in the run game.
There wasn't a whole lot to take from quarterback Robert Griffin III in only 10 plays. But the first impression was that he did most of what he needed to do. It was the basics: Get the team in and out of the huddle; get through your progressions. Coach Jay Gruden said he didn't have a lot of thoughts on Griffin's night. The plays were rather vanilla.
One play that jumped out in a subtle way was when Griffin dumped a swing pass off to the right to running back Roy Helu for seven yards. It's what Griffin needed to show: The Patriots sent a blitz and dropped their defensive end. The linebacker took the Y receiver and the end dropping eliminated what Griffin wanted, a seam pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Griffin felt pressure so he quickly dumped it to Helu. "Trust what you see," Griffin said. "I saw it wasn't there so I moved on."
Rookie receiver Ryan Grant showed up the same way he has shown up in practice. He ran good routes and made a terrific diving 18-yard catch, with a defender on him. Grant gained a little extra separation on a 6-yard catch by planting hard at the defender and coming back for the ball. The defender had to take a step back as Grant pushed forward, allowing him to run after the catch -- and that led to a 15-yard personal foul on the defender. Grant also had a catch-and-run on a shallow cross; they wanted to see him get yards after the catch Thursday.
The backup running back battle will be an interesting one. Lache Seastrunk showed his speed and ability to bounce outside. He has a knack for shifting with speed and turning defenders around. Silas Redd has looked good in camp, but it's hard to get a good feel on backs in practice. But Redd ran physical at times. I liked that he tried to make a move one time in the open field, the defensive back wasn't fooled so Redd lowered his shoulder and got what he could.
Despite their success, Helu has to be the No. 1 third-down back. He was the one facing the higher caliber of players. Liked how he made defenders miss. Helu said he worked on his hands quite a bit in the offseason -- catching passes from his wife in the park. "She started off rough, balls all over the place," he said. "Eventually she was throwing rockets ... I want to be a very good pass catcher."
I'd find a spot for a guy like Trenton Robinson on the team. The kid plays hard and flies all over the place and comes up hard against the run. He likes the contact and it shows. Akeem Davis did a nice job covering one punt; that's how you earn a name as a young player. I want to watch more to see how Bacarri Rambo fared, but he did make a couple tackles. A good start it seems at least when it came to tackling.
An early impression of the other rookies: Zach Hocker took an early lead on Kai Forbath for the kicking job; left tackle Morgan Moses had a holding penalty and other times was too upright, but I'd need to focus harder on him to get a stronger feel; guard Spencer Long had a couple rough plays in which he missed in protection, but did see him work to the second level in the run game; linebacker Trent Murphy didn't generate much pressure off the edge (saw him win inside though) and was beaten in coverage. However, I did see Murphy aggressively take on a lead blocker and force a run back inside to traffic for a short gain.
Liked the decisive throw by Kirk Cousins on the touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson. What helped: a shallow cross by Santana Moss that caused the safety to lean the other way, allowing Cousins to squeeze the ball to Robinson. Cousins took an unnecessary shot to Robinson in double coverage another time. But Robinson showed up in this game and continues to please the coaches. He's always a summer all-star, but that's good enough to win roster spots.