The Redskins jumped out to a quick lead over the Eagles in Sunday’s season opener, but sputtered in both side of the ball in the second half. As such, Washington’s successes and shortcomings followed a similar progression.
Case Keenum’s debut
For about a half of football, it appeared we were getting the Vikings version of Case Keenum, a quarterback that efficiently works around his flaws and is capable of keeping drives alive. Though he, and eventually the team as a whole, regressed back to what we pretty much expected of them against a superior Eagles team, I was rather impressed with Keenum’s performance. His decision-making was good, he threw into spots where receivers could catch the ball and make something happen, and he spread the ball around. He actually connected with eight different receivers throughout the game. His one overthrow to a wide-open Terry McLaurin in the third quarter was incredibly costly, but if we got the Keenum we saw in the first half for an entire game, fans should be pleased.
Vernon Davis’ ageless athleticism
The fact that Vernon Davis could do what he did on his 48-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter at 35 years old astounds me. His ability to open up the passing game when Jordan Reed is not available has been crucial since he signed in Washington in 2016. Jordan Reed should be back for Washington’s home opener against Dallas in Week 2, which bodes well for the team’s offense, but knowing Reed’s injury history, we may see weeks where it’s Davis who will have to be TE1. After what we saw on Sunday, it’s comforting to know we’re in pretty good hands if that situation arises.
Terry McLaurin’s monster debut
Arguably the most promising aspect of an otherwise depressing opening game was the performance by third-round draft pick Terry McLaurin in the passing game. McLaurin was fantastic in his debut, showcasing the blazing speed, crisp route-running, and strong hands that were lauded during training camp. He made just about every type of catch you want to see out of your rookie X receiver. His 69-yard touchdown was a sight to behold, and he would have had another in the second half had Keenum not overthrown the pass. Another highlight was his sideline grab to put Washington into field goal range just before the end of the half. The coverage was tight, and he had little space to adjust to the pass, yet he came down with it, and the reception led to a field goal to end the half. With McLaurin’s potential in full view, we can finally put the Josh Doctson selection behind us.
Cole Holcomb’s presence in middle
Holcomb was a player I was particularly high on coming into the season. His athleticism jumps out at you, and his ability to go sideline-to-sideline is impressive. While the defense wasn’t great against Philly, Holcomb was a guy that stuck out for all the right reasons. He finished with a team-high nine tackles, two of which were for a loss, and he looked like anything but a day three draft selection out on the field.
The calls for Jay Gruden’s head after the game were a bit of an overreaction after just a single loss, but there certainly is anger surrounding the fanbase. Gruden did not get the season off to a start that Washington’s fanbase needed. For starters, Adrian Peterson should not have been on the inactive list, no matter how highly you think of Derrius Guice. He is simply too talented a running back to be left on the sideline, and it’s obvious his teammates know this. The abandonment of the run in the second half was also inexcusable. This has been a trademark of the Gruden era, even on the best of his teams, and it’s just poor coaching. True, the run blocking wasn’t very good, but actively making yourself one-dimensional is not the way to beat a defense like Philadelphia’s. Not a good start for Gruden and company.
Derrius Guice’s debut
Man, what a bummer that debut was. After all the hype, the promising preseason performance, and the straight-faced interviews showing a guy just looking to play some football, it all felt like it was leading towards a monster game from the LSU standout. Alas, it was not. He had really nowhere to go all day, rushing for just 18 yards on 10 carries. Adding injury to insult, he came out of the game with what is being referred to as a “meniscus injury” that could keep him out for a few weeks. Not a good start to the Guice era in Washington.
The pass rush
Not a lot to say here. What’s supposed to be the strongest aspect of our defense barely made an impact in the team’s loss to the Eagles. Cassonova McKinzy was the only player to register a sack, and the pressure on Carson Wentz was mediocre at best, as the quarterback bought time with ease on just about every key passing play in the second half. Jon Allen’s injury is also incredibly concerning. He shouldn’t miss much time, but he’s one of the best players on the line, and going into Dallas without him is disheartening.
The entire second half
What started out as a pretty promising opener for Washington soon imploded into an absolute disaster. The offense couldn’t sustain a drive, DeSean Jackson was roasting the entire secondary, and the defense could not get off the field when they needed to. The team was dominated for two quarters, and it never felt like the Redskins were actually in the game by the time the fourth quarter started.
Washington’s third-down defense was so bad that Carson Wentz’s third-down passing statistics looked like something out of a video game. Wentz was 12-for-13 for 191 yards and three touchdowns on third downs. You simply cannot win a game with defense like that. Is it a first-game fluke? Maybe, but with a big game against Dallas coming up, I think we’ll know for certain whether or not this is a real issue with Greg Manusky’s defense.