After re-watching the starters and key backups, a few thoughts from the Washington Redskins' preseason opener:
Kirk Cousins moved well in the pocket and saw the sort of presence the coaches have to want. You can take that any way you want -- and I'm quite positive some will completely go overboard. He and Robert Griffin III have different strengths and different games, so one will look better than the other in an area. Accept that, please.
What I do know is that Cousins created time and space for himself in the pocket. He did so on a checkdown to Matt Jones in which he felt pressure from the left, coming inside. So he slid left, backpedaled, then dumped over the line to Jones, who turned it into a positive gain. Later, Cousins slid a little to his left because of pressure from his right -- and turned it into an 18-yard pass to Reggie Bell.
Also liked how Cousins saw the field on a bootleg to his right with the tight end covered. Cousins saw Andre Roberts break free back across the middle, where no one was around him. So Cousins hit him. The issue for Cousins always has been the interceptions and if he wants the starting job it must be by knockout, which hasn't happened.
It's not as if Griffin was bad. Again, he made some plays and that bootleg was nice. But on the third-and-2 run, Griffin passed up an open target in receiver Ryan Grant, who seemed to be in his line of vision. Grant was about to turn around after three yards with no defender a threat, but Griffin instead looked to the right and then ran. The mechanics needed to be better on some plays; on one, his front foot was not pointed at the target so the pass was on the wrong hip -- makes a difference if you want a chance at yards after the catch.
It seems if the Redskins want to succeed with Griffin, we'll see a steady diet of quick outs, slants, screens and deep play-action. He has thrown the deep ball well this summer. Big plays can cover up other flaws. For what it's worth, not sure the second fade was the primary read in the red zone but if Andre Roberts was the first read, he had no shot at a first down because of how the Cleveland Browns' defensive back played him.
Rookie left guard Brandon Scherff had some good and bad moments; the issue for him seems to be mostly about technique. Saw him lose the hand battle one time, but there were other times when he was able to quickly anchor and move his man. But he was mixed when it came to blocking linebackers, once allowing his man to get off the block and make a tackle. Could have gained several more yards. He lost on one play but did better on the next. Then, on the next play, the end got into his pads and stood him up -- but did not move him.
On one run, Scherff was initially stood up but reset and moved his man outside. At the same time, Morgan Moses drove into the linebacker to create a hole. The only reason the play failed is because nobody blocked the backside linebacker. Moses lost on the first play, allowing his man to get inside him. But he had his share of fine plays.
Running back Alfred Morris does a nice job setting up linebackers, making them think he'll hit a certain hole only to bounce. Saw that a couple of times. He will need help from the tight ends; Chase Dixon was not much of a blocker Thursday, but until Niles Paul got hurt, that didn't matter.
End Stephen Paea will set up players by his ability to penetrate. He's also strong and does not get moved out easily. Linebacker Perry Riley was able to run cleanly to the ball at times because of Paea and nose tackle Terrance Knighton.
Rookie Preston Smith showed more than he has in a lot of camp practices, albeit against backups. He moves well for a 270-pounder; his sack was set up with excellent hands. And he helped pressure the quarterback on one loop to the middle -- he bends well as he turns it upfield. Did not waste movement. He was fine against the run; did get moved out one time but made a stop on another play.
In the first half, running back Chris Thompson picked up two blitzes, including one against a linebacker.
Left guard Arie Kouandjio blocks with attitude. Time and again I saw him latch onto his man and work hard not to let go or block with a little extra oomph. Kouandjio has to improve blocking in space, but he blocks with punch in a confined area. Still has a lot to learn, but the attitude is what impressed me most.