NASHVILLE — Tight end Fred Davis and linebacker Brian Orakpo provided some positive signs for the Washington Redskins in a 22-21 victory over the Tennessee Titans in their preseason opener on Thursday night.
It was a mixed bag of a performance by the Redskins with the front-line players still on the field, as quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball accurately, but the three key rookies in the team’s secondary suffered some exhibition-season growing pains. The night’s most encouraging moments for the Redskins, though, may have come when Davis had a first-quarter touchdown catch and Orakpo gave the defense a pass-rushing boost that included a sack.
Preseason games generally mean little to established veterans like Davis and Orakpo. Eight of the team’s starters didn’t play Thursday night. But Davis and Orakpo are coming off serious injuries that cut short their 2012 seasons. And even after participating in the early stages of training camp without any setbacks, both had said they were eager for some game action, even if it was just of the preseason variety.
“It felt good to be back out there and just to be able to make plays,” Davis said. “Being out of football, you start to miss it. Being able to come back and make plays felt really good.”
Davis had two catches for 14 yards, including his three-yard touchdown on the Redskins’ second offensive series. The touchdown came on a second-down play on which Cousins faked to his left toward tailback Roy Helu Jr., then rolled to his right and threw a pass to Davis in the back of the end zone. Davis made the grab, but also was given a 15-yard penalty for falling to the ground as part of his touchdown celebration.
Said Cousins: “Fred certainly is a talent and a guy who’s played a lot of football here. We love seeing him show up there in the stat line with a touchdown catch.”
It was the sort of confidence builder for Davis for which he and the Redskins had hoped. The Redskins lost one of their most reliable receivers last season when Davis suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. It was far from certain that Davis would be back with the team this season, given that he was a free agent in the offseason and drew interest from the Buffalo Bills and other teams. But Davis re-signed with the Redskins, and has seemed to be running well on the training-camp practice field.
He had a catch for an 11-yard gain on a third-and-two play earlier on the same drive to set up his touchdown.
Orakpo, too, produced a play or two Thursday that the Redskins hope were sneak previews of things to come this season. He put pressure on Titans quarterback Jake Locker on a third-down play on Tennessee’s opening possession of the night. Orakpo didn’t get a sack on that play. But he forced Locker to move up in the pocket, and fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was there for a sack.
Orakpo got a sack on the Titans’ third possession of the game, maneuvering around Tennessee left tackle Michael Roos on the outside before chasing down Locker.
“It’s just preseason,” Orakpo said. “I’m just trying to get back acclimated to the game. I was a little rusty out there, I felt like . . . I had to do something. I messed up on the run fit on that long run they had. I had to do something to make up for it. The sack was relieving. Obviously getting sacks is huge in this league. I’ve just got to keep building off of it.”