What We’ve Learned Through The First Two Preseason Games

Courtesy of Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post

First featured in RedskinsRepublic.com  

If worse come to worse, Kirk Cousins is more than capable

Per sources, RGIII's knee will be evaluated on August 29th by Dr. James Andrews, where a final yay or nay on week 1 will be determined. If for any reason Griffin can't go, Kirk Cousins has shown enough through training camp that 1) the Shanahan's have a plan for Cousins just in case and 2) the offense is capable with him taking snaps for an extended period of time.  

Roy Helu will be a big part of the offense

Alfred Morris had the third most carries in the NFL last year at 335. The Redskins back with the second most was Evan Royster with just 23. That is way too many for Morris and way too few for his primary backup.

I think it is widely considered that Roy Helu is a much more talented back than Royster. Helu has great cut-back ability, can catch and has a burst that is second to none among the running backs on this team. His return from injury will be huge for not only preserving Alfred Morris and reducing his carries, but will enable the Redskins to add new wrinkles to this offense

David Amerson looks like more Boom than Bust

It is just preseason, but so far David Amerson looks more like the guy that picked off 11 passes in 2011 than the guy that was beaten like a drum repeatedly in '12. 

I think it is clear that the second round pick from NC State is already very comfortable in the Redskins' defense and is buying in to the schemes. Through two preseason games, Amerson has been very impressive, draping himself all over his receivers and showing fearlessness in run support. The Redskins staff have to be very pleased/excited from what they've seen from him so far.   

Bacarri Rambo has a long way to go

While Amerson transition from the college game has been smooth, the same can't be said for sixth rounder Bacarri Rambo. He has flashed at times in their two preseason games, but I find myself picking up on far more negatives than positives.  

My main concern is his tackling. On several occasions, Rambo has thrown his body at air whiffing on tackles or has attacked ball carrier with bad angles, leaving him out of position to make a play.

Most of his problems are fundamental and can be fixed with coaching, but the sooner Rambo realizes that you can't get away with the same tricks in the NFL that you did at Georgia, the better.  

The Redskins pass rush has a chance to be very good

The Redskins accumulated 32 sacks in 2012, which isn't anything to sneeze at, but most of those sacks came from exotic blitz packages dialed up from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. For the Redskins to improve their defense this season, they needed to find a way to get pressure from their front four, and I believe they're found a formula.    

So far this preseason, the Redskins have been experimenting with putting multiple pass rushers on the field at once to collapse the pocket and the results have been favorable. On third downs, Ryan Kerrigan has been shifting to tackle to play next to Barry Cofield, leaving a now healthy Brian Orakpo and pass-rusher specialist Brandon Jenkins on the edges. Can you imagine week 6 when Rob Jackson has his suspension lifted and they can put those five on the field all at once to get to the quarterback?  

Leonard Hankerson is the most frustrating player on the roster

In my opinion, this was a make-or-break year for Leonard Hankerson. Third round picks are usually counted on to make regular contributions to their teams fairly quickly and thus far, Hankerson has been inconsistent. That trend has continued so far through two preseason games.

Versus Tennessee, Hank gave up one yard short of a first down on third-and-long. In the same game, he took a screen pass to the house, diving over the top of defenders to get there.   Last night, Hankerson had a key dropped pass on a third down, but then followed it up by a pretty one-handed catch for a touchdown. Hankerson has all the tools to be a very good NFL wide receiver. If he can ever put it all together, then watch out.  

Penalties are still an issue

The Redskins already have 18 penalties against them this preseason. This is coming off a season in which the Redskins were penalized 116 times (4th most in the NFL). I don't have the official stats to back this up, but I am will to bet that the Redskins were among the league-leaders in the personal foul category.   

Discipline is something that is unique to only good NFL teams. Last year's Redskins we the exception to that rule, managing to make win the NFC East and make the playoffs despite being one of the most penalized teams in football. That trend won't continue in 2013. The Redskins are a good team, but they aren't good enough to give away free yards all the time. 

Special teams is also still a question

With the exception of a few great individual efforts here and there, the Redskins special teams unit has been a pretty mediocre bunch these past few seasons. Too many kicks were blocked, too few returns netted positive yardage and too many game-changing opportunities were missed. Losing special teams ace and Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander to the Cardinals didn't help matters. 

Hopes were that a fresh face could give a spark to this unit when Danny Smith was replaced by Keith Burns as special teams coordinator this offseason. So far, I don't see much difference in the results. The Redskins have given up long returns in both preseasons games (the long return versus Tennessee was negated by a penalty). Outside of a few solid moves by Skye Dawson, the return game has been pedestrian.  

While it has been a small sample size thus far, it would behoove the Redskins to remember that you have to win all three phases of the game, not just two.