Kicker Dustin Hopkins nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired ot give the Washington Redskins a 15-13 win over the New York Jets in their second preseason game of the year. Quarterback Alex Smith made his Redskins debut, going 4-of-6 passing for 48 yards. One of those incomplete passes bounced off the hands of seventh-round draft pick, wide receiver Trey Quinn which would have been a potential red zone touchdown. The defensive line looked good and wide receiver Cam Sims stated his case to make the team. However, the headlines for Thursday’s game starts with yet another set of injuries at running back.
1. Another Week, Another Injured Running Back(s)
For the second straight week, the Washington Redskins’ top headline following a preseason game is about the health of a running back. The Redskins entered training camp with running back being one of its strengths with a great deal of depth. Unfortunately, that depth shrunk by one when second-round draft pick Derrius Guice suffered a torn ACL in Week 1.
Mark that with Chris Thompson’s recovery from a broken leg a season ago, the Redskins could not afford another serious injury at the position. Enter Samaje Perine, the team’s leading rusher last season. The second-year running back out of Oklahoma bust open a 30-yard run on his first carry of the game. However, he would hobble off the field and met with training staff.
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) August 17, 2018
The Redskins announced Perine was being evaluated for an ankle injury. All indications say he is “fine” but if last week was any lesson, an official word is needed before the Redskins can breathe easily about the health of Perine. If he checks out, he will certainly be a huge part of the running back equation. His 30-yard burst exemplifies why he will.
Unfortunately, Perine was not the only Redskins’ running back that suffered an injury Thursday night, as his replacement Byron Marshall went down shortly afterwards with a leg injury. Head coach Jay Gruden already has said that Marshall’s MRI said he will be okay, but it’s certainly another injury scare Washington did not need in preseason, especially at running back. With Week 3’s game against the Broncos next week, usually reserved as a dress rehearsal for the starters and top backups, how much of a workload is planned will be intriguing.
2. Four Trips into Red Zone, Zero Touchdowns
Let’s face it, one of the main reasons Kirk Cousins is the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and not the Redskins is red zone efficiency. And while it’s just preseason, having four trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and come away with zero touchdowns is a bit concerning. Sure, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, the Redskins’ top two red zone targets, did not suit up, but that was the excuse much of last year’s preseason and the inefficiency trickled into the regular season.
Considering, that Alex Smith was less efficient than Cousins in the red zone each of the past three seasons, it’s something the Redskins have to show they’re improved on before easing any negative thoughts. Red zone struggles have been a perceived struggle in recent years under Gruden and it’s imperative to fix them if the Redskins are to take the next step. Washington was exactly at the middle of the pack at 16th in the NFL in red zone efficiency last season, and that was not good enough. Going 0-for-4 even in a preseason game won’t please Gruden or the offensive coaching staff.
3. MVP: Dustin Hopkins
Thanks, in large to zero touchdowns in the red zone, Hopkins got the opportunity to get points on the board. He knocked down 5-of-5 field goals, including the game-winner on the final play of the game. Being perfect on the night will certainly boost Hopkins’ confidence although his 35-yarder bounced off the goal post before falling through the crossbar.
Breaking down his attempts he was 3-of-3 from within 30 yards. The game-winner was his longest of the night at 40 yards.
In a game that did not produce much more highlights, Hopkins’ field goals stood out and accounted for all 15 of the Redskins’ points. With each made field goal, Gruden’s anxiety with his kicking game is eased. Hopkins is now 6-of-6 during the preseason, including a 52-yarder in last week’s opening game against the Patriots.
4. Cam Sims Flashed Potential
Undrafted rookie Cam Sims continues to impress. He had his good and bad moments Thursday night but all in all, the former Alabama product certainly helped his chances of making the Redskins’ 53-man roster. He led the Redskins’ with 57 receiving yards on three receptions. He was targeted six times.
His back-shoulder catch from Kevin Hogan in the final seconds set up Hopkins’ game-winning field goal. His low point occurred in the second quarter as a pass from Colt McCoy went through his hands as he anticipated the contact from the approaching defender. The ball bounced in the air and was intercepted killing a promising drive. However, Sims bounced back on the Redskins’ next offensive drive, catching a third-down pass for 27 yards as McCoy delivered the pass getting hit.
TD didn't count but Cam Sims is doing his best to earn a roster spot. pic.twitter.com/JAMjc2XFDH
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) August 17, 2018
Later in the drive, Sims worked free in the red zone and made himself available to snag a pass from McCoy at the back of the end zone for what should have been a touchdown. However, the Redskins were penalized for illegal formation for not having enough players on the line of scrimmage. The play didn’t count but showed how the 6-foot-5 wideout can be a valuable contributor down in the pay area for the Redskins.
Thus far, Sims has looked every bit of being one of the Redskins best five or six wide receivers. At the very least, he has afforded himself more time to improve and impress the coaching staff towards being part of the 53-man roster.
5. Defensive Line Dominates
There can be an argument, especially with the injuries mounting at running back, that the defensive line is the best position unit of the Redskins roster. This year’s first-round draft pick Daron Payne showed how good he can be, working a swim move to blow past Jets right guard Jonotthan Harrison to bring down quarterback Sam Darnold for a third down-sack.
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) August 17, 2018
Payne’s Alabama buddy and the last year’s first-round pick, Jonathan Allen, was just as impressive showing how dominant he can be beating a double team to bring down a running back. The two together can be a blocking nightmare, and that’s without the third starter of that defensive line Matt Ioannidis, who sat out Thursday’s game with a knee injury.
Meanwhile, fifth-round pick Tim Settle improved his stock. On Thursday, he got snaps against the Jets’ first-team offensive line and he displayed his ability to dominate, getting the best of center Spencer Long on multiple plays. He has added to the rotation of young studs the Redskins have gathered together in the past three drafts along the defensive line. Once deemed a weakness, the defensive line has become a strength, if not the strongest, for the Redskins and they’ll go a long way into transforming Washington into a great defense.
6. Pump Brakes on Martez Carter
One player that improved his stock more than any other player on the Redskins roster is running back and undrafted rookie Martez Carter. With both Perine and Marshall injured, Carter got a bulk of the carries. He was the game’s leading rusher with 45 yards on seven carries, including a 33-yard run. He made an impressive cut back on his longest run but showed it again on a modest gain. His speed and ability to one-cut can be huge for him moving forward in his NFL career.
— JW Gravley (@gravleyonair) August 17, 2018
However, let’s pump the brakes on Carter with the Redskins, in large because Gruden and his staff have cut strong-performing preseason young running backs. The Redskins are deep at running back even with the injuries, and Carter’s chances of making the roster are slim because of it. There’s still Rob Kelley, Marshall, Perine and Chris Thompson who have all stated claims or locks to making the 53-man roster. And that does not include Kapri Bibbs, who shined in the passing game with seven receptions for 47 yards against the Jets.
There will have to be a lot of falling dominoes for Carter to get a strong look with the Redskins. However, he certainly is auditioning for the other 31 teams as well, and if he continues to get reps on film, can be a name to look for in the future.