The Ravens also were more physical up front. I’m not sure what the Ravens do in practices, but the Redskins haven’t done a lot of live scrimmaging, instead working primarily on situations with some game simulation here and there.
That approach could have been partially to blame for the weaker effort by Washington’s first, second and third offensive lines. For a regular season game, the Redskins would have studied the Ravens’ blitz packages, and even if they got off to a slow start, they would adjust (one would hope).
Instead, they appeared caught off guard. Rob Kelley’s first carry was snuffed out because Trent Williams — Washington’s best run-blocker — uncharacteristically whiffed against Terrell Suggs. Had Williams hit Suggs, Kelley could’ve followed Niles Paul and had a nice run. Pro Bowl lineman Brandon Scherff also missed multiple blocking assignments. Normally, both linemen execute much better.
The offensive showing isn’t a complete surprise: Washington’s defense outplayed its offense in many practices. And while Williams has been his usual dominant self in Richmond, Scherff has had an up-and-down camp, losing one-on-one matchups with Matt Ioannidis and rookie Jonathan Allen. Greg Manusky’s unit got off to a good start, perhaps because leaders such as Will Compton and D.J. Swearinger work to convey Manusky’s aggressive mind-set to their teammates.
2. Disciplined rookies: Allen never lost sight of the ball while fighting through blocks, enabling him to react better. On his sack, Allen said, he was mindful of ensuring that he didn’t get further upfield than the quarterback in the pocket. So when he saw Ryan Mallette step to run, Allen was still within reach.
Ryan Anderson, using strength or speed, always seemed to find his way to the ball. He too kept his head on a swivel so he could react quicker, and took good angles while pursuing the ball.
Such discipline isn’t always common in rookies, whose zeal can take them out of position. But both Alabama products never played as if the moment was too big for them, and afterward seemed focused on continuing to grow.
3. Signs of growth: As an undrafted rookie out of Alabama A&M last season, defensive lineman Anthony Lanier displayed potential, but he wasn’t really NFL game-ready. Lanier, who made the 53-man roster, had the necessary quickness and length, but rarely played because of his lack of strength and knowledge.
Now 23 pounds heavier after an offseason in the weight room, Lanier looked ready for the league Thursday night. He routinely got a good push off the ball, driving his man into the backfield and winning physical matchups to record two tackles (one for a loss) and a sack. If Lanier continues to develop, he and Allen could wind up seeing the field together quite a bit as the interior linemen in the nickel package.
4. Free agent watch: Zach Brown displayed range and a great nose for the ball. D.J. Swearinger received only three snaps. But among the free agent defensive linemen, Phil Taylor stood out. It’s impressive to see a guy that big move so well. He proved disruptive against the run, and also generated some pressure on the quarterback.
Taylor wasn’t as sought-after as Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain, and signed to non-guaranteed deal in January. But he looks as if he’s well on his way to reclaiming his first-round-pick form after missing the past two-plus years with knee injuries. Of the team’s free agents, he may wind up as the biggest steal.
5. Bubble watch: Lynden Trail recorded five tackles and one pass breakup. Outside linebacker — even with the news that Trent Murphy is out for the season — is a crowded spot that includes Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Anderson, and Chris Carter, but Trail’s athleticism and special teams ability helps his case. …
Rookie Josh Harvey-Clemons is trying to make the transition from college safety to inside linebacker, and he certainly doesn’t look the part at 6-feet-4, 217 pounds. But coaches like his pass coverage abilities against running backs and tight ends. Harvey-Clemons is working to get stronger, and is a willing tackler. He racked up six tackles, but struggled in the open field at times. He’ll have to work on taking better angles. …
Safety also has a crowd behind Swearinger and Su’a Cravens. DeShazor Everett, Will Blackmon, Stephan McClure, Fish Smithson, Tim Scott, and Montae Nicholson (when he is cleared to play). Everett missed a chance for an interception, but as always seems to be around the ball. Blackmon missed one tackle and took a couple of bad angles and muffed a punt return, uncharacteristic miscues for him. McClure (undrafted out of Cal) had a sack.
Ultimately, these players must shine on special teams, and that’s where Everett has carved out a niche the past two years. He could be hard for some of the young guys to overtake.