With two preseason games in the books, the Redskins are starting to get a feel for the rookies they’ve added to the team. While training camp is vitally important for these rookies; getting the chance to get on the field against different opposition and get some good reps on film is huge. The Browns left their starters in the game slightly longer than the Redskins did, giving some of the Redskins’ younger players a chance to test themselves against tougher opposition.
When rookies are given the opportunity to showcase themselves, coaches look for them to be consistent and improve on their mistakes. Fourth-round corner Bashaud Breeland has been criticized for being too physical and grabbing onto receivers past the initial five yards allowed. Against the Browns, Breeland consistently made plays and showed he was working on not grabbing onto receivers too much.
This is the play on which Breeland recovered the fumble caused by Bacarri Rambo. What went unnoticed on this play was how well Breeland covered Josh Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards last season. He lines up in press coverage.
Breeland isn’t intimidated by the presence of Gordon. He isn’t afraid to be physical against the NFL’s best receivers. He gets his hands on Gordon and guides him to the sideline, closing the throwing window for the quarterback.
Breeland doesn’t overdo it with the physicality though. Once he passes the initial five yards, Breeland takes his hands off Gordon and sticks to his inside hip. Once he has the route secure, he then turns to locate the ball. Quarterback Johnny Manziel is forced to check down before Rambo eventually causes the fumble that Breeland recovers. This was an excellent play by Breeland and one that should give him confidence, given the quality of the opposition.
Breeland made a couple of other standout plays to break up passes.
The Browns face a third-and-12 situation. Breeland lines up in off-man coverage.
The pass protection breaks down, forcing Manziel to leave the pocket and roll to his right.
Manziel thinks he has an open receiver crossing the middle of the field, but Breeland does an excellent job tracking his receiver as the play breaks down. Breeland undercuts the route and nearly comes away with an interception.
Breeland displayed his capabilities in zone coverage as well.
This time, the Browns are going for it on fourth and two. Breeland lines up well off the line of scrimmage.
The Redskins call for a zone defense that asks for Breeland to drop deeper in his coverage. Manziel spots an open receiver underneath and pulls the trigger.
But Breeland was reading the throw the whole way and breaks on the ball.
Breeland arrives just as the ball does, landing a hit on former Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong that knocks the ball loose for an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
Breeland was seen as a raw player who could have been a much higher pick had he elected to go back to school for another season. His talent was on full show against the Browns, but he’ll have to come back next week against the Ravens and prove he can do it consistently if he wants to earn more playing time.
Another rookie who stood out was guard Spencer Long. Long played at left guard and showed promise against the Browns starting defense.
On this play, Long finds himself matched up one on one in pass protection with defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Taylor had been causing problems for starting guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester before Long entered the game.
Taylor gives Long a stutter-step move, but Long mirrors Taylor’s movement and stays in front of him. Long engages and lands both hands to the chest of Taylor.
Taylor attempts to use his power as he bull-rushes Long, but Long has inside leverage and sets a good anchor that helps him absorb the rush attempt from Taylor.
As the rest of the pocket collapses, Long stays strong and maintains his block on Taylor, allowing quarterback Kirk Cousins time to deliver his throw.
Long also showed off his athleticism, making a key block on a third-down screen pass.
This is a simple screen pass to slot receiver Santana Moss.
Long does a good job getting out to the second level and recognizing the biggest threat to the play.
Long works back to make the key block and take the defender out of the play, allowing Moss to sneak past behind him and convert a third-and-19 play for a first down.
Long also made several good blocks in the running game. Coach Jay Gruden hasn’t been shy on praising Long this offseason, and with Chester struggling at times so far this preseason, Long could potentially earn some regular-season playing time.
Like Long, Ryan Grant has been a name on the lips of coach Gruden. Gruden said Grant looked like a 10-year veteran in training camp. He put in a performance against the Browns that certainly lined up with the positive comments from Gruden.
Grant’s best asset is his route running. He might not have the speed of DeSean Jackson, or the physicality of Pierre Garcon, but he knows how to run routes and create separation. This is a simple comeback route.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t help Grant by staring him down the entire route while his corner is watching closely.
But Grant cuts sharply back towards the ball.
He also does a good job of continuing back towards the ball, instead of stopping after the cut. This maintains the separation from his corner. Grant extends his arms out and uses his hands well, to further ensure the completion should he receive a hit from an oncoming defender.
It might look like a simple route, but Grant made it so. Cousins stared it down the whole way and the corner should have been able to close the gap quickly with his eyes on Cousins. But Grant’s route was good enough to make the play successful.
A rookie that has surprised me most in preseason so far is running back Silas Redd. Redd went undrafted and faces plenty of competition to make the roster. But he’s shown he can run the zone scheme effectively and has been much better than expected in pass protection.
This run was a perfect example of how to run the zone scheme. It’s a stretch play to the right.
Redd’s aiming point is the gap between the right tackle and tight end, but before he even receives the hand off, a cutback lane is appearing.
Redd makes a good read and presses the hole to get the linebackers to overpursue the front side of the run, leaving them vulnerable to the cutback.
Redd sticks his foot in the ground and cuts upfield, picking up 10 yards on the run.
The zone scheme can’t be executed any more perfectly than that. Redd has picked up the scheme quickly, making seamless reads, compared to fellow rookie back Lache Seastrunk, who occasionally stutters while making his reads.
Redd’s pass protection also caught my eye.
This was Colt McCoy’s touchdown pass to Nick Williams. Redd lines up in the backfield to the right of McCoy and is being trusted to pick up the edge blitzer.
Redd gets himself as low as possible as he approaches the block.
Redd then explodes into his block hitting up and under the pad level of the defender.
Redd’s block knocks the defender back and off-balance, allowing Redd to begin driving him back.
It may have only come against second- and third-string players, but Redd certainly caught the eye. Protection is usually a problem for young running backs, and those that show willingness to work at it can often find a way onto the roster or the practice squad. Redd still has a long way to go before he’s even assured of a practice squad place, given the competition already at running back. But he’s certainly not hurt his chances.
While these are promising signs from these rookies, they can’t afford to get complacent. They all still have a long way to go before they become established players on this roster. But this game was an encouraging step forward. They need to back it up with a good week of practice and another solid outing against the Ravens on Saturday.
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