It took only two games for Redskins quarterback Case Keenum to realize that coach Jay Gruden treats the preseason with indifference. For the sixth straight year, the coach hasn’t tried to gain any momentum in August.
And boy, will this team need to find momentum in Thursday’s game against the Falcons. But based on Keenum’s mindset entering the dress rehearsal for the regular season — given the preseason finale versus Baltimore on Aug. 29 is a pure throwaway — Washington will again be exposed come September.
“We don’t want to be at our best right now,” said Keenum, who will try to win the starting job with his performance at Atlanta. “Going into games, I want to be perfect and I want to make all the right checks and all the right reads and all the throws and go score touchdowns every time, but this is a process. That’s what training camp is about, it’s about learning. … I feel like we haven’t even tapped into even a portion of our potential that we have as an offense.”
No team wants to peak in the preseason, but the Redskins usually don’t seem to even be awake when games start to count. Washington lost its first four season-openers under Gruden before it waxed hapless Arizona in Week 1 of last year. The Redskins too often look confused at the start of the season because many starters play so little in August. And it’s happening again.
Certainly, injuries and holdout Trent Williams are somewhat to blame for the 0-2 preseason record. The left side of the offensive line is uncertain. Three receivers are nursing injuries, and tight end Jordan Reed and running back Derrius Guice, who’s not yet medically cleared after a torn ACL last year, haven’t played yet. Quarterback Colt McCoy’s bid to start is now a non-starter as his recovery from a broken leg suffered last season is taking longer than he’d hoped.
Those are all reasonable explanations for why the offense has stalled outside of a few big plays. But even the healthy starters saw limited action, with many skipping the opener and barely playing into the second quarter of the second game. The starters will likely get one half versus Atlanta and then skip the Baltimore game. That’s less than one-fourth of preseason snaps.
“I think a few plays that we were close to kind of getting in a rhythm,” Keenum said. “You get to that point where you’re almost there and then you’re out of the game, so it’s tough. You kind of get left wanting more, but I’m excited.”
Fortunately, Gruden hasn’t let poor showings in Week 1 snowball. While the coach has a 1-4 record in regular-season openers, he’s 8-6 in Weeks 2-4. This season, they will need to show resiliency with a schedule that features four 2018 playoff teams in the first five games.
Hopefully, they’ll be ready.
correction: An earlier version of this story ran with a photo of Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden. It has been corrected.
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