Commanders

Hailey: Washington's preseason opener was a very useful one

Commanders

Preseason openers can be ugly — like, Bay Bridge on Friday evening of 4th of July Weekend ugly — but luckily for coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team, their first outing of the exhibition schedule turned out to be a very positive experience for players and coaches alike.

Though no viewer would confuse the Burgundy and Gold's matchup with the Patriots on Thursday with a playoff contest in mid-January, plenty of Washington's key players showed that they're well on their way toward being ready for Week 1. Others, meanwhile, weren't as locked in in the 22-13 loss, which can be just as useful to figure out.

First, let's focus on the encouraging developments.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed two throws for more than 20 yards, one to Terry McLaurin and one to Logan Thomas, while he was leading the first-team offense. That trio, along with Antonio Gibson, will need to be in sync all year long if this franchise is to make the playoffs once again, and they all popped against the Pats. Fitzpatrick's backup, Taylor Heinicke, also was in rhythm once it was his turn to run the show, something that hasn't always been the case in practices this summer.

Then there's Sam Cosmi, the rookie right tackle who was quite unsteady throughout the early parts of training camp. Cosmi began progressing once the padded practices commenced and that trend continued at Gillette Stadium. He held up just fine on the edge in his first taste against a group of rushers who weren't donning the same jersey as him.

 

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As for Chase Young — you've heard of him, haven't you? — well, he made sure to introduce himself to Cam Newton before being removed from the lineup. Everyone's already aware that No. 99 is a complete star, but it sure doesn't hurt to be reminded of it approximately three minutes into the preseason. 

Some lesser-known backups thrived, too. Jaret Patterson, the undrafted running back from Buffalo, displayed serious burst on the ground and secured a clutch third-down catch on Washington's first-half touchdown drive. DeAndre Carter and Dax Milne logged lengthy punt returns for a unit that hasn't been accustomed to that the past couple of years. Sammis Reyes, who had never played the sport until a few months ago, moved the chains with a reception of his own.

And, lastly, there were no major injuries for the defending NFC East champions. That is always a must-have for any successful August action.

Now, not everything was perfect — and that's probably how Rivera prefers it. 

The defense, between the starters and second wave, held the Patriots to two field goals in the first half, yet the tackling was lacking at times. On the other side, Temarrick Hemingway and Ricky Seals-Jones, two tight ends fighting for a spot behind Thomas, didn't capitalize on a couple of crucial throws that came their way. Oh, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's bunch gave up a 91-yard TD on the ground as the fourth quarter was concluding.

Perhaps the worst part of the evening, however, was Dustin Hopkins' field goal struggles. While Rivera will appreciate being able to review the aforementioned mistakes with his roster as well as other issues he notices in the coming days, watching his kicker miss two attempts -- coupled with previous concerns about his performance -- isn't something that's fun to build on.

But, other than that concerning component, everything else that went awry on Thursday can be corrected and honed, and improved. That's the point of these August games. 

Thanks to the wacky ride that was 2020, Rivera had limited chances to get to know those who would go on to suit up for his new squad. This time around, he's led Washington through OTAs, minicamp, the first portion of training camp and, now, a preseason tilt. And so far, he's got to be pretty pleased with what he's witnessing.