I meant to do this last night but things came up. I plan to watch the game at least one more time to focus more on the individual battles on both the O and D lines but here are some brief thoughts on last nights game. Before I get to those, I must remind you overly optimistic Skins fans that this was the pre-season. That the Skins starters played for about a half vs. Pittsburgh's starters playing 1-2 series (Big Ben was out after 1 series and a sack). And many times the Redskins have looked really good in their 1st pre-season game (see last year vs. Buffalo as a good example) and have gone on to struggle in the regular season.
All that said.....it was sure a damn fine game to watch against the 2010 AFC champs. I was asked earlier in the day if I thought the Redskins would beat Pittsburgh and I pretty much laughed off the question. OK, on to some quick thoughts on last night's game.
- Rex Grossman hasn't locked up the job yet, but John Beck has a lot of work ahead of him. It wouldn't surprise me to see Beck get a large chunk of snaps next week. I really believe that the Shanahans will give Beck the opportunity to win the starting job. Grossman though had a great game. Probably his best as a Redskin and I would argue maybe one of his best in his entire pro career. It wasn't a game changing HOF caliber performance that you've seen from Montana, Brady or Manning but Grossman understands the scheme. He knows his reads, where players will/should be and when to hit them. Gone were the major bad passes that we saw frequently in 2010. Also Grossman didn't fumble. Of course, Grossman was hardly touched and only occasionally pressured. It made his reads look easy and we as fans finally got to see a glimpse of what Kyle Shanahan wants to run on the field (we never really saw it in 2010). It's early, but it's clear the advantage is in Grossman's favor.
- O-Line. Wow. What most people aren't talking about is how improved this unit both in run blocking and pass protecting. I saw running lanes. Didn't see a great deal of those in 2010. Will Montgomery looks like a serious upgrade over Casey Rabach. He was getting to the 2nd level on blocking and seemed to handle a NT (like Casey Hampton) much better than Rabach ever could. Also the Skins did a good job picking up Steeler blitzes. Granted, this is a much more vanilla Steelers and not nearly as exotic as they will be when the season starts. That said, the 2010 Skins wouldn't have been able to block this version of the Steelers and would have had troubles against the Steelers 3rd and 4th string defenders. Also a big hat tip to TE Logan Paulsen who deserves more playing time alone because he is the best blocking TE on the team and has some subtle but good abilities to get open and make catches on occasion.
- D-line. I MISSED THIS FOR SUCH A LONG TIME. Maybe a few games in 2005 (like the 35-7 win over Dallas when Phillip Daniels got 4 sacks in one game) we saw something like this but the D line actually seemed to attack and win many of their battles. They did a good job stuffing the run game and did a nice job on a 3rd and short with a tackle/penetration by Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield. There was an actual pass rush from the D-line. Bowen's sack was nasty and highlight worthy.
- Kicker Battle: Gano 1, rest of kickers in competition 0. I think Graham is probably cut sometime this week. What I hope is that if this happens, the Redskins will bring in another kicker and force Gano to continue to improve. What we know is that Gano has an amazing leg power wise. What we hope is that Gano can continue improving upon his accuracy. Worth noting is that all but his final FG/XP attempts were right down the middle. The final FG attempt hooked left and hit the pole but bounced in for the score.
- Running Backs: Tim Hightower seems to be a good fit in this scheme. Nasty first cut. Good vision. Can take a hit and has some good speed. Also can catch and block. So far an excellent trade for the Skins. His one fault is fumbles and he didn't do that in this game. It will be interesting to see what he does as the season progresses. I also was very impressed with rookie Evan Royster. Not a speedster but a guy with great vision, hits the hole hard and is hard to bring down. Made a few rookie mistakes (whiffed on a block towards the end of the game) but has moved up the depth chart in my opinion after last night.
- Brandon Banks looking good may not be on the bubble after all. There was some early speculation by fans and a few media people that Banks may not make the roster. The Skins drafted 3 WRs. Both Paul and Robinson have returned punts in college. But, man is Brandon Banks exciting to watch. It is hard to keep a guy just be be a KR/PR but I have to think the Skins will try to find him a spot and just make him their #6 WR. Speaking of Robinson, he doesn't look like he's a PR at the pro level. Maybe it was nerves and I'm sure the Skins will give him another opportunity in the pre-season but that was a pretty rough start for the rookie.
Other guys who made a positive in the game: London Fletcher (man never takes a play off), Kellen Clemens, Donte Stallworth, Kedric Golston, Niles Paul, Santana Moss, Kevin Barnes, Markus White, Dejon Gomes, Byron Westbrook
Guys who need some work: Leonard Hankerson, Maurice Hurt, Roy Helu
A much more thorough write up and breakdown coming this weekend.