The problem with the running game might not be the ball carriers. There were not many openings for the running backs against the Falcons and it’s hard for the best of backs to gain much yardage without blocking.
Matt Jones is still the starter and he has said all of the right things and he has looked pretty good in practice.
“We’re going to keep working on it,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “We’re not going to panic in the first preseason game but we also understand that in these games you are who you are and what you put on tape. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to work on it and get better at it. That’s all you can do.”
Jones appears to be the clear starter but the team doesn't appear to be over it's rushing struggles. Right now, Christ Thompson is the backup to Jones but the story said Thompson admitted he's better off as a third down back, which means the team could possible bring in Pierre Thomas once again. Some of the younger backs looked good against second and third teamers, but that may not translate against first team defenses once the season starts. This is something we've been hearing since the spring: the Skins may have to take to the air more often than they would like again in 2016.
With tight end Jordan Reed aligned in a tight slot position to the right and running back Chris Thompson split further outside, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins pounced on a defensive move. When safety DeAngelo Hall walked up to the line of scrimmage across from Reed, Cousins called an audible.
It turned into a touchdown pass, though if there had been officials it might have been a pick play (can’t rewind practice tape to check it if you don’t have it). But once Hall crept to the line, the Redskins changed to what amounted to a screen by Thompson. That freed Reed to run to the corner and catch Cousins’ pass.
As the story said, it was an example of how quickly the offense can adjust to a move by the defense. And the story said it's not just Cousins, but the entire offense. Something to keep in mind is Cousins, Reed and Thompson are in their third year in this offense, so they quickly were able to change their assignments.
Washington Redskins rookie Josh Doctson will remain sidelined at least another week or two because of an Achilles injury suffered in late May, according to multiple sources. But there is a sense that his left foot is improving and there’s still hope that he’ll be ready for the season opener.
Doctson injured his Achilles in an organized team activity session on May 25 and was placed on the physically unable to perform list before training camp.
The Redskins had said two weeks ago that they had hoped Doctson would return within one to two weeks. Since then, he’s been limited to mostly catching passes, which is why the new timetable comes as no surprise. Once his foot is healthy, Doctson would then have to work himself into playing shape. Last week, Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan told SiriusXM NFL Radio the injury is “not going to be a long-term thing.”
It's not as if the Packers' running game was deficient last season; they ranked 12th overall in the league in rushing yards per game (115.6). But McCarthy wants to start this season the way they finished last year. They averaged 131.0 yards rushing per game over the final six games, including playoffs. In the two playoff games, they rushed for 141 yards against the Redskins and 132 yards against the Cardinals.
"We wanted to run the ball,” McCarthy said. “Eddie Lacy and James Starks is our 1-2 punch. That's been an excellent combination now going into our third year with those two guys. It's important to establish that and make sure those guys touch the football."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is confident that the team’s run game can complement a lethal passing attack this season.
And not until the third quarter did the yards on the ground start to come in bunches, as the Redskins had just 12 rushing yards on their first nine carries before finishing the evening with 79 yards on 24 carries.
“We are going to stick with it,” Gruden said. “We are going to fix it. We have to get our line coming off better. We have to get it to the right people. Atlanta played very good defense. They loaded up the box and did a nice job stopping us. That is no excuse we have to run the ball better.”
The Skins run game only got better later in the game. After Jones played in just the first series of the game, Chris Thompson and 2016 seventh-round pick Keith Marshall worked with Colt McCoy and the second-team offense, although neither running back was able to do much when the ball was placed in their hands. Against Atlanta’s third-team defense, though, rookie Robert Kelley and 2015 practice squad member Mack Brown sliced up the Falcons. Running the ball was a problem last year, and some who follow the team think it will continue this year. Those same beat writers think the team will have to throw the ball with Kirk Cousins and a talented WR corps.
"It's his overall command of the offense," Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said.
"Kirk has done a nice job of handling it," McVay said. "You start to see him understand where the progression takes him based on that coverage and understanding situationally how aggressive I can be on certain window-type throws and how whether second or third down alters my approach and how I attack a play."
For now, the signs of growth are evident to them and Cousins himself.
"A better understanding of the nuances," Cousins said. "The basic design of plays I've always understood from Day 1. But there are so many nuances and unique situations that only experienced players and quarterbacks are able to navigate properly. So just continuing to get put in those situations and react and make quick decisions and the right ones is where I'm continuing to grow."
Cousins was the #17 QB through the first seven weeks of the season, but really started to produce after his Week 8 bye, averaging 20.9 PPG in his final nine games. That was the 4th-highest per game average during that stretch. He averaged 9.28 YPA in that span and threw at a 4318-yard, 36-TD pace. The team added Josh Doctson to an already talented receiving corps, so Cousins could offer top 10 numbers again in 2016.
Tight end Jordan Reed won’t be playing on Thursday night.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday that Reed, who signed a five-year extension this offseason, will be held out of the team’s preseason opener against the Falcons. Reed is dealing with a sprained left thumb and will remain home to get treatment while the rest of the squad goes to Atlanta.
As the story put it, Reed has dealt with a variety of injuries over the course of his NFL career, although this appears to be more precaution about playing him for a series or two than a serious issue that could impact his readiness for the season.
The way he entered college was far different than how he landed in the NFL. Keith Marshall was a big-time recruit, wooed by college heavyweights and celebrated by Georgia when he committed. In the NFL, he was a seventh-round pick by the Washington Redskins who's trying to earn a roster spot.
It’s quite a change for Marshall. But it’s one that he’s OK with because two things remain: his confidence and his speed.
“I never felt that I wasn’t good enough,” he said.
The early returns have been good for Marshall, coming off a solid day Monday. There’s a long way to go as he won’t play his first preseason game until Thursday -- in Atlanta, where he hopes to show what he can do.
Marshall is firmly entrenched among the Redskins’ top three backs, along with starter Matt Jones and backup Chris Thompson. There's a gap between this group and the rest, multiple sources say, with undrafted free-agent fullback Joe Kerridge garnering some attention. Another undrafted free agent, running back Robert Kelley, also will be one to watch.
Monday, August 8, 2016, 6:35pm
Jay Gruden still isn't sure how much his starters will play in their preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, but he does know which guys won't be playing at all when the Redskins head into the Georgia Dome.
"I ruled Crowder out myself today," the head coach said in his afternoon press conference. "Those are the four off the top of my head."
The focus has been on what Josh Norman has done, or hasn't done. But the mailbag deals with the guy on the other end: receiver DeSean Jackson -- and what sort of camp he's having.
Brian Prongay @Hcane28
@john_keim Forget the negativity to Norman...is this best D Jax has looked as a skin? #Jkredskins
9:14 AM - 5 Aug 2016
John Keim: Yes, DeSean Jackson is having a good camp and part of the reason, coaches and teammates say, is because of Josh Norman’s presence. That’s what good competition does for a player, or should do. It brings out their best and the prevailing notion with the Redskins is that’s exactly what Norman has done for Jackson.
The story pointed out another reason, too - Jackson is healthy. The last two summers he’s dealt with minor injuries that took a bit longer to return from; you can take from that what you want. This is probably the longest Jackson has practiced in training camp with Washington since signing in 2014.
During Michael's first stint with the Seahawks, the same questions were asked every summer: Is he willing to put in the work to be great? Will this be the year he finally gets it?
Last September, the Seahawks decided they were ready to pull the plug on the Michael experiment. He had spent two years with the team but was never able to earn the trust of the coaching staff. The Seahawks preferred their other options and traded Michael to the Dallas Cowboys for a seventh-round pick.
His run there ended in November when the team released him. The Washington Redskins signed Michael to their practice squad, but when the Seahawks suffered injuries at running back late in the season, they decided to bring him back.
This summer, with Thomas Rawls on the PUP list and C.J. Prosise and Zac Brooks dealing with hamstring injuries, Michael has been the first running back on the field with the starters every day at practice, with fifth-round pick Alex Collins rotating in. We still think Rawls should be the team's RB1, but it would help if he can get back on the field. In the six games in which Rawls played and Lynch did not, the rookie averaged 20.5 touches for 120 yards and 0.84 touchdowns (on a stellar 5.6 YPC).
Thursday, August 4, 2016, 7:07pm
No coach ever wants to have to resort to an emergency quarterback.
But with every player being jsut one play away from injury, every team in the NFL needs to have a backup plan when the backup plan doesn't work.
On Thursday, Jay Gruden revealed his plans for an emergency quarterback.
"We're working on that right now," he told reporter's during his afternoon press conference. "We're putting a package together for somebody. It's either going to be Jordan Reed or (Jamison) Crowder."
Washington Redskins rookie receiver Josh Doctson wore a walking boot on his left foot this morning -- but a team spokesman said it's not an indication of a setback. Doctson has worn the boot off and on to protect his Achilles, but it was the first time he's worn it at practice. The Redskins had a walk-through this morning.
Multiple sources said earlier this week that Doctson, their first-round pick, would miss at least one and possibly two weeks. The Redskins say they're being cautious with his Achilles, making sure it's 100 percent so they don't risk a worse injury. Doctson initially hurt his foot May 25 in the first organized team activity session so the last time he practiced in full was the rookie minicamp two weeks after the draft. He's on the physically unable to perform list and focused on rehabbing his foot.
So far in camp, the Redskins certainly are using Matt Jones as the top runner. He gets the first rep in individual drills, and running backs coach Randy Jordan is working with the former Florida Gator on what seems like every snap. Emphasizing body lean and ball control, Jordan watches intently as Jones works through drills.
Throughout the offseason, Jones has seemed like a different player than his rookie season.
"My approach was way different this offseason, as it should have been, just knowing I had an opportunity to compete for the starting role," he said.
Jones added a personal trainer and worked with a massage therapist as well as changed his diet. We'll see if the moves pay off. Jones is poised to be the RB1 but the Skins struggled to run the ball last year and resorted to the pass - something beat writers are saying could happen again given the talent in the passing game. Still, Jones is one of those guys to look at if you're using the Zero-RB strategy and should provide some value in the late fifth, early sixth range
Matthews will spend the bulk of his time lining up from the slot, but he still sees time on the outside.
There’s competition for the “X” receiver spot, which is the DeSean Jackson-receiver role in Andy Reid’s offense. That guy is ideally the game-breaker, the outside receiver the quarterback needs to rely on the most because he typically starts on the short side of the field. Givens has the most speed of the group. Agholor has the most riding on his success. Randle may have the most talent of the three.
Huff’s role may morph. He’s received a lot of screens over the last week.
The big question is who plays on the outside. The Birds have rotated WRs in the past but it seems like the team hopes Agholor and Randle earn the outside jobs with Givens speed getting mixed in. Overall it's not an impressive group but, as they say, someone will have to catch the balls. Factor in a slower-paced offense, and the Eagles just don't have a lot of highly-desired fantasy weapons.