RICHMOND—During Sunday’s practice session the Redskins first-team offense was running a play from around the 10 yard line of the defense. On the right side, DeSean Jackson got about a step clear of Josh Norman in the corner of the end zone. Kirk Cousins threw the pass perfectly, just over Norman and the other defenders and into the hands of Jackson.
The receiver dropped the pass.
Before I get started here, the point here is not to rip Jackson, who has had a very good camp and who did not drop a single pass last year. Nor is it to talk about Jackson (again) beating Norman, this time in conditions that are game-like.
No, the point here is to note that the Redskins can’t afford to make such mistakes. They don’t have to be perfect but if they can’t lose many easy opportunities for scores. While they could be improved they face what looks now to be a tougher schedule. Their margin for error will be slim.
They could well have finished out of the playoffs last year. Three of their nine wins were by six points or fewer. A mistake like the one Jackson made, when the play call and execution were right on point, may have been very costly. A loss in any of those games might have had them back to being spectators during the playoffs.
An ill-timed fumble could have the same effect. So far in training camp the running backs have been very good at holding on to the ball despite the defense emphasizing pawing at the ball whenever they are anywhere near it.
To be sure, the Redskins did survive some notable gaffes last year. In their most important game of the season in Week 16 in Philadelphia Cousins took a knee at the Eagles six right before halftime to cost the Redskins an easy three or a possible six points. They won the game anyway although what should have been a 23-10 laugher at the half remained close through the third quarter.
They got away with that one but the Redskins are probably a year or two away from possibly being good enough to drop touchdown passes and not have it put them in jeopardy of losing. Again, I don’t expect to see Jackson drop an important touchdown pass when the games count. But someone could and it could be very costly.