The final preseason contest for both the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins is tonight. Therefore, Andrew York of Hogs Haven and I sat down to share the details on this final affair before the wins and losses count.
Jay Gruden announced the starting quarterback will be Case Keenum for Week 1. Is this the right call? What do the fans think?
Most fans think this is the right call, and I agree. Dwayne Haskins is a very talented, but very raw prospect, only starting one year at Ohio State and still needing refinement at many nuances of the QB position (footwork, calling protections at the line, getting down cadence and snap count, etc). So far in practice and the preseason, we’ve seen examples of how good he can be (amazing throws our other QBs can’t make), but also examples of how raw he is (slow to process the field, false starts on the OL caused by poor cadence, free rushers on the QB because he called a poor protection, etc). He flashes amazing talent and intangibles (work ethic, intelligence, charisma), but still needs time to develop before he’s ready to face NFL talent and game speed. Also, most Redskins fans don’t see Keenum as a terrible alternative, and we’d rather he get thrown to the wolves during the gauntlet of our tough early schedule (Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Patriots in the first 5 matchups) to prevent Haskins from developing bad habits or losing confidence early on.
In the fourth preseason game, we typically see zero starters on the gridiron. In that case, who should Ravens fans be on the lookout for in regards to possible playmakers for the Redskins?
Although that’s typically the case, the Redskins roster is currently in flux at several position groups, and there are a few players who will probably end up as starters this season who could be playing this week. Most notably, Dwayne Haskins will probably take the field for some or all of the first half, and he will probably have several starters on OL to protect him and at WR to give him weapons. On OL, the starters at LT and LG are likely to be Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers respectively, and both could play this week. Both players are new to the team and could use the preseason reps to get used to working together. Penn signed with the team recently as a Trent Williams replacement and is still getting into football shape, though he was a Pro Bowl nominee in 2016 and 2017. Flowers is making a position change from LT to LG, and still needs as much live action at LG as he can get before week 1. Although people are rightly skeptical of Flowers ability to amount to anything in the NFL, the position change has helped him, and he actually looked pretty good in preseason week 2 against the Bengals before stinking it up in week 3 against the Falcons. He looks best when lining up against a man and playing in a phone booth. He looks worst when dealing with stunts or having to move laterally.
In terms of the skill positions, I would expect Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson to sit, and Samaje Perine to start at RB. Perine was the “thunder” to Joe Mixon’s “lightning” at Oklahoma, breaking the Sooner career rushing record in 2017 before being drafted by the Redskins in the 4th round. He has since struggled in the NFL, but he has looked improved this offseason, and the Redskins may look to showcase him in hopes of trading him out of a crowded RB room before final cutdowns. At WR, look for Terry McLaurin and Robert Davis. McLaurin played with Haskins at Ohio State (their rapport has carried through to the offseason), has 4.3 speed, and was drafted by the Redskins in the 3rd round this year; most fans expect him to start at WR before long. Robert Davis (relative of former Panthers LB Thomas Davis) is a size/speed mismatch who took time to develop due to injury and raw technique, but has looked excellent in the preseason so far, scoring a TD in each of the first 2 preseason games and making some big plays in coverage on special teams.
On defense, I doubt any of our starters play. Look for Jimmy Moreland, a rookie slot CB who has played much bigger than his size and draft position so far in the preseason. Also look for Cassanova McKinzy, a UDFA speed rushing OLB who has looked like a serious playmaker so far this preseason and will probably rotate behind Montez Sweat in the regular season.
After three preseason games, what are the strengths of Washington? Negatives?
The strengths are the defense and the running game. The defense is anchored by the DL, and 4 of our front 5 starters are 1st round picks. We expect our DL to shut down the run and get interior pressure, and our OLBs (Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat) to get pressure on the QB. The secondary is more unproven, but is anchored by Josh Norman at CB and Landon Collins at safety. Our RB room is very crowded, with Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, and Chris Thompson (a good 3rd down back) all splitting snaps.
The weaknesses are the QB and the left side of the OL. The weakness at QB is obvious: we have a very raw rookie QB in Dwayne Haskins and a journeyman QB in Case Keenum who has been inconsistent in production the last few years. In terms of OL, LT was a strength for us until the Trent Williams holdout. Now our two LT options are Donald Penn and Geron Christian. Penn is an aging Pro Bowl LT who has dealt with injury and was only signed a few weeks ago. Christian is a 2nd year player with good measurables and athleticism, but who needs to refine his technique and gain strength. LG is a competition between Ereck Flowers and promising rookie Wes Martin. None of these LT/LG options started for the team last year, and only 1 (Christian) was even on the team last year. Penn and Flowers have been named the starters, but fans wouldn’t be too surprised to see either of them replaced by their respective competition during the season.
What’s the outlook for the Redskins this year? How many wins are you expecting?
I’d say an 8-8 season should be in the cards, though we’re hoping for more. It seems like a lot of people are writing the Redskins off as a 4 win team, but Redskins fans are a bit more optimistic than that. We were 6-3 and leading our division last year before a career-threatening injury to Alex Smith ended our season (along with numerous other injuries around the same time). Although Alex Smith allowed us to win and was considerably better than his eventual replacements Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson, we got to 6-3 because of our defense and running game. Our defense should be improved this year with several new players, most notably Montez Sweat and Landon Collins. Our running game should be improved by getting Guice back healthy. If we can just get adequate play out of either Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins, we should be a competitive team. We also need to stay healthy though, which has been a struggle recently.
Will the Redskins snap the Ravens 16-game preseason win streak on Thursday?
Probably not, preseason wins seem a lot more important to John Harbaugh than Jay Gruden.