(Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

Following the preseason opening win over the Steelers, the players said they weren’t surprised by the positive showing because of their improved knowledge of the schemes and the tone of practices under the veteran head coach..

“I’m not surprised at all,” center Will Montgomery said. “We’ve been having success against our defense in practice. Even our coaches are saying, ‘Man, we can’t wait until game day to see how this plays out.’ I think everybody’s buying into the system and it works.”

His teammates echoed his sentiments.

Shanahan called his players’ attitude encouraging, but cautioned that significant improvement is still needed.

“I like the confidence, but we talked about talk is cheap,” Shanahan said. “You have to go out there and do it. Any time you can move the ball against that type of front, you feel like you’re headed in the right direction. We have to keep doing it.”

Offensively, efficiency inside the 20-yard line ranks high on the ‘needs improvement’ list, Shanahan said.

“It’s something we have to work on,” the coach said. “When you’re 1-for-5 in the red zone, you should have had 40 points on the game and you wind up having 16 and two missed field goals.”