BALTIMORE -- The sensible way to approach the Washington Redskins' preseason opener is to understand what it means: nothing. The Baltimore Ravens defense unloaded looks the Redskins weren't prepared for, making life more than difficult with the starters on the field. Maybe, in a real game, they would have adjusted.
But sensible isn't the only way to view the Redskins' 23-3 loss to the Ravens. Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins played only six snaps and threw two passes. In those two series, the Redskins gained minus-1 yard. So forgive him if he's not taking that sensible approach. The defense, for the most part, played well. But the offensive struggles overshadowed all.
"It showed us that as much as we have been making plays in camp and feeling good about what we're doing, it's a realization that we have a long ways to go," Cousins said. "It can be a good thing in the long run. It could be good to have that wakeup call. It could be the best thing we need right now."
The Redskins' starting offense allowed one sack and produced 2 yards on three runs in its six plays. It was hardly the sort of debut Washington wanted. The Ravens front did whatever it wanted. That's where the problems begin.
Washington's defense has thrown a lot at the offense during training camp. But Cousins said this was different: Baltimore was using more man coverage than they've seen; the Ravens also were using different stunts and blitzes. It wasn't about who was missing -- tight end Jordan Reed; receiver Jamison Crowder -- as much as it was about what the Redskins couldn't do.
"It's tough," Cousins said. "The running back has to be locked in. The center has to be locked in. The guards need to pass stuff off. It takes reps and reps and reps ,and that's why we spend so much time weekly on preparing for the blitz and learning what a team does. If you're not on it, it will be like what happened [Thursday], which is a lot of sacks and a lot of pressures. It's hard to get into a rhythm."
The second-team offense had the same issues, as Washington managed just 47 yards in the first half. The Redskins want to be a better running team. It was hard to really see that happening -- if six plays are enough to judge, that is.
"We didn't get a lot of movement," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Hats off to the Ravens defense, they are stout and have some big guys up front. Very good defense for the first six plays. We have to do better."
The Redskins will cling to the notion that Baltimore is a tough defense to play in this sort of situation.
"That's the mantra of that defense," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. "First preseason game, you don't expect that complex a look. They did it, and we have to adjust to it."
When you play only two series, you don't make those adjustments.
"[In a game] it takes a few drives, maybe even a quarter," Williams said. "They did the same thing to us last year [in a Redskins win]. We were playing behind for a little bit of the game and then started to get things rolling. We made adjustments."
For Cousins, it was a chance to learn what he can do with receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. On the game's first play, he threw a play-action pass to him over the middle. It was high -- but Pryor has made that catch in practice. But this time he did not. It's one thing to make that throw in practice; it's another to do it in a live game. Pryor and Cousins haven't worked in games together.
"I was trying to use Terrelle's size and thought maybe if I put it up there he would make it right and I could play it safe and not throw it into danger," Cousins said. "When you go over the middle there and in practice you throw the ball high, they can't hit you so you catch the ball and move on. In a live game it's a different feeling. It changes the flow of things. There's less room for error and you don't want to leave the ball that high. You won't come down with it cleanly if he can get hit."
The offense finished with a many fumbles as points. They dropped passes. They averaged 2.9 yards per offensive play. Starting running back Rob Kelley finished with two yards on three carries. Rookie back Samaje Perine fumbled once, dropped a pass and endured rookie lessons in pass protection. It could all work to their benefit, Cousins said. A month from now no one will remember the score, but the lessons learned will linger.
"In the long run it's probably a good thing," Cousins said. "Obviously, you don't want it to persist through the preseason. It needs to be fixed. But if it's fixed, we'll point to this night as a night that helped us get going in the right direction."