LANDOVER — The sloppy play crept back in. Penalties were again a problem. Dropped passes. Ugly drives. For a while on Friday night against the Buffalo Bills the Redskins looked like a team that had rested its starters last week.
But then quarterback Kirk Cousins settled down. And playing against a Bills defense that featured primarily backups, the Redskins caught three touchdown passes in the second quarter (Ryan Grant, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon) to take control.
The second and third-team defense then held on in the second half with a Mike Wakefield sack and then a Kendall Fuller interception in the end zone sealing a 21-16 win. Here are five observations from Washington’s third preseason game:
Again an issue. The Redskins committed 10 penalties for 87 yards. Add in the Atlanta game two weeks ago and Washington has struggled in that area during the preseason. Center Kory Lichtensteiger alone was whistled for three holding calls by himself. Fellow linemen Brandon Scherff and Ty Nsekhe were hit, too.
The first-team offense stalled almost the entire first quarter. Cousins threw an interception on the first drive when he couldn’t put enough on a sideline throw to Rashad Ross. Cornerback Corey White made a nice break on the ball and Cousins gave him credit for it. Dustin Hopkins missed a 55-yard field goal attempt. The Scherff and Nsekhe penalties short-circuited the third possession. The fourth was an ugly three-and-out.
And yet each of the next three drives ended in the end zone.
“Obviously we didn’t come out the way we wanted to. We struggled early,” Gruden said. “But I like the way we came back and just kept battling. We obviously got the ball in the end zone three times, which was nice. I’d like to see us be a little bit more crisp. We had a lot of penalties, a couple turnovers, one turnover called back. They had a couple penalties that kept one of our drives going. It wasn’t as crisp as I would liked to have seen it.”
Running back battle
With Matt Jones (separated left shoulder) and Chris Thompson (undisclosed) out, the chance was there for Roberty Kelley, Keith Marshall and Mack Brown. But Marshall sprained his left elbow late in the first quarter and Kelley carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards (4.3 yards per carry). His longest gain was nine yards.
“I definitely got some work in today, and I think it helped me out,” Kelley said. “Every time I get up there I try to put myself in a better situation to make the team, take advantage of the opportunity.”
This bears watching. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan left after the first series with a groin injury Caught up with him briefly after the game and Kerrigan wasn’t too concerned. He came into the game a little sore and quickly shut things down when it became apparent it was tightening up. He needs an MRI tomorrow. So does Marshall, who was hurt on his only carry and missed a chance to work with the starters, most of whom were still in the game. Less serious – right guard Morgan Moses (ankle) and cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin). They are day-to-day, according to Gruden.
After sitting out last week against the Jets, Cousins shook off the slow start and the interception. His touchdown passes to Grant was a short pass the receiver took the distance. But he put perfect touch on throws to Reed and Garcon. Friday was about building chemistry with his receivers. And if things didn’t go as expected early, the numbers were good enough by the end (12 for 23, 188 yards, one sack, one interception, three touchdowns). Even if most of the damage was done against backups.
Again, the Bills didn’t exactly put everything into this game. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor played just two series and running back LeSean McCoy was held out. In the second quarter the defense put together consecutive three-and-outs and then safety Will Blackmon stripped the ball for a turnover. They allowed just nine points – all long field goals from Dan Carpenter.
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