They play em, I write about em …
The highly dismissible third preseason game breakdown.
Hang a banner? The Washington Football Team may have finished 1-2 after getting roasted 37-3 by the Baltimore Ravens, but they own the best record in the NFC East this August, their first Preseason “title” since the 2013 team went 4-0 before going 3-13 in the regular season. Before we look too much into this team’s highs and lows of the last three weeks, let’s remind ourselves that it’s only August and many of the players who were on the field last Saturday will not be on the 53-man roster come Week One. But there’s enough out there to make one suspicious in September.
Quarterback Carousel: Only two saw action, with Kyle Allen completing 10-22 passes over six first-half possessions in the first half while Steven Montez went 5-10 over four second-half drives. Despite multiple QB’s seeing time this August, nobody did anything to force a move up or down the depth chart.
Running in Place: The ground game garnered just 45 yards on 14 carries with Jonathan Williams leading the way (5 carries for 26 yards). Jaret Patterson did nothing to wrap up the Babe Laufenberg Trophy (2 carries for minus-1 yard, plus three catches for 15 yards), but nobody offensively had a night of note.
Pass Catch Fever: Antonio Gandy-Golden caught four passes for 39 yards and was responsible for the only third down conversion of the night. Dax Milne grabbed three receptions for 36 yards while seeing extensive first-half work. Tight ends John Bates and Sammis Reyes each caught a pass.
Third and It’s August: The offense moved the chains on 1-11 attempts while the defense got off of the field on just 5-14 money downs. The team had 10 passes to one run on third down, with Allen completing 3-7 passes for one conversion and Montez going 1-3 with a run of no gain and no conversions. The top target was Gandy-Golden, who caught two of three passes for one conversion. Yardage breakdown: 0-1 on short-yardage, 0-2 on four to six yards needed, and 1-8 on long-yardage. Not only were eight of 11 third downs from seven yards or more, but only three third downs took place in Ravens territory (and none inside the 30-yard line).
Preseason Preparations: This is the segment of the final preseason recap where I take a possession off, wondering what I’ll do this fall. Previous years have seen this space be littered with James Bond comparisons (it was the 50th anniversary of the start of the series and the buildup to “Skyfall”). I drew “Saved by the Bell” parallels when Alfred Morris was the leading running back while I compared Kai Forbath’s weekly highs and lows to a certain karate dojo, using the phrases “NO MERCY!” and “I’ll let you know when he’s had enough!”. And of course, there was the Kirk Cousins era where one compared each outing in 2016-17 to Star Trek episodes (we all need a little “Trouble with Tribbles” in our lives). One can only imagine.
The Defense Rests: With a big chunk of starters sitting, it was a time for back end of the roster guys to make their case for inclusion in the final 53. Linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk led the team in tackles for the second straight week with 10 stops. Veteran cornerback Darryl Roberts added nine tackles, which one never likes because it either means the run defense is soft and the opponent is getting to the third level or the pass defense is allowing too many catches. David Bada and Bunmi Rotimi each notched a sack. And we know that the eventual regular season defense will be much better than the one that was at FedEx Field Saturday.
Special Situations: Dustin Hopkins made 1-2 field goal attempts, connecting from 48 yards while having a 55-yarder blocked. The return game saw Isaiah Wright run one back 22 yards while the coverage team allowed a 14-yard punt return and a 25-yard kickoff return. Punter Tress Way made us proud by averaging 44.3 yards per kick while planting four inside the 20 with no touchbacks. Last year, Way finished second in the league with 73 punts on the season (Braden Mann of the Jets had 82 because, well … the Jets). How many times will he have to kick this year?
Flying Flags: Only two penalties for 25 yards, meaning they were whistled seven times all preseason. There were individual games where the teams were flagged more than that. This week, defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence and Jerome Reaves were both whistled for unnecessary roughness. Each led to a Ravens touchdown, although Lawrence’s penalty turned a 4th & 11 from the Washington 40-yard line into a 1st & 10 from the 25. Lawrence had a roughing the passer last week.
The NFC Least: Years ago, a former Washington executive dubbed the NFC East the “SEC of the NFL,” and at one point, it was (we’ll dial up 1980-95 when the current four teams each appeared in the Super Bowl and NFC East clubs went 8-2 in the big team). But last year, the quartet was more Sun Belt than Southeastern, going 23-40-1 to post the worst division record in the league and almost notch the worst record since realignment (thank you 2008 NFC West). Well, the flab four picked up where they left off last winter, finishing a combined 1-11-1. They can’t be this bad once the regular season begins, right?