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Five takeaways from Redskins-Falcons, including notes on Landon Collins and the receivers

Five takeaways from Redskins-Falcons, including notes on Landon Collins and the receivers

The Redskins won't go winless in the 2019 preseason. On Thursday night, the team took down the Falcons 19-7 in their third exhibition contest of the year.

The biggest news of the night, unfortunately, is the concussion Jordan Reed sustained in the first half. The star tight end has had numerous head injuries in his career and as of now, it's unknown if he'll be ready to play Week 1 against the Eagles.

Aside from that tough blow, though, Jay Gruden learned plenty of important things about his roster. Here are five of the biggest takeaways.

1) Derrius Guice should help this offense right away

After his promising performance, the running back tweeted out a handful of happy emojis — and for good reason. He got the chance to play for the first time in more than a year, but he sure didn't run like someone who's been out of football for that long.

In Atlanta, Guice broke plenty of tackles, showed a sweet combination of patience and burst and found a way to pick up yardage when there wasn't much to pick up. In all, his 11-carry, 44-yard evening indicated that he has the potential to really elevate Jay Gruden's offense. 

2) This team has to be especially careful with its turnovers

Case Keenum's first half fumble put the defense in a difficult spot and led to the Falcons' lone touchdown of the game. Those are the kind of mistakes he and the Burgundy and Gold can't afford much of this year.

In 2018, Alex Smith may not have lit it up with his right arm, but he did a fantastic job at limiting his turnovers. Between Keenum, Dwayne Haskins and maybe Colt McCoy, there probably will be a spike in giveaways in 2019. 

Now, if those signal callers can keep that spike to a minimum, maybe the Redskins can put together a playoff-caliber campaign. If not, things will be ugly, because they simply don't have the firepower to make up for lost possessions.

3) Landon Collins looks like a force on the back end

The expensive safety popped with some run stops as well as a terrific read and near-interception of Matt Ryan on Thursday. Afterward, he gushed about how well he and Montae Nicholson are meshing on the defense's last line.

If you like picture-perfect form tackling, then you're going to like watching Collins go to work all season long. He and Nicholson could become one hell of a duo for Greg Manusky.

4) Cassanova McKinzy may be a sneaky good pass rusher

Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat are the headliners at outside linebacker, but don't overlook McKinzy. The 26-year-old posted two sacks and also jarred the ball loose on one of those takedowns.

Much like what they'll need to do on the interior defensive line, it'll be necessary for the Redskins to rotate Kerrigan and Sweat so they aren't worn out by November. Maybe McKinzy can be that third threat and a specialist on third downs for the unit.

5) There are a lot of useful receivers, but no true No. 1

Cam Sims put together his best stat line of the preseason and Kelvin Harmon showed up as well. Then you have Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin who figure to see tons of snaps on the outside, plus Robert Davis, who's had the best August of all the wideouts.

As mentioned earlier, there isn't an abundance of big-time playmakers on offense and that includes the receivers, where no true No. 1 exists. Maybe, just maybe, there are enough good targets, though, to keep defenses off balance and provide the QB multiple places to go in passing situations.


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Rushing to judgment on Dwayne Haskins? Maybe these numbers will change your mind

Rushing to judgment on Dwayne Haskins? Maybe these numbers will change your mind

Dwayne Haskins has thrown 57 passes in his first two NFL starts, and while everyone — from Dwayne to his coaches to his teammates to Redskins fans — would've liked those attempts to have generated more production and success, it's necessary to keep that number in mind.

Again: He's thrown just 57 passes as a starter in the NFL.

Despite that miniscule amount, some are rushing to judgment about the rookie's long-term future in the league. It's more than fine to look at what he's done through two starts and closely analyze it and even criticize some of it, but it's far too early to say definitively what he will become as a pro.

(Note: His appearances against the Giants and Vikings aren't being taken into consideration in this story, due to him coming into both contests while trailing and without a full week of reps with the first-stringers. He struggled in New York and Minnesota, but he was put in spots where struggles were almost certain.)

To put it simply: His past two efforts, while discouraging, don't mean he's a completely doomed passer who should start considering other careers. And to emphasize that fact, here's an exercise.

Let's put the stat lines from a few quarterbacks' first two starts next to each other, but withhold their names. For example, check out what this pair of signal callers did in their first and second times out as the No. 1 option: 

  • QB A - 34-of-52 (65.3-percent completion rate), 466 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs
  • QB B - 34-of-67 (50.7-percent completion rate), 357 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs

QB A is a baller while QB B is a scrub, right? Not exactly. QB A is Marcus Mariota. QB B is Matthew Stafford. Mariota is currently sitting behind Ryan Tannehill and almost surely won't be a Titan in 2020, while Stafford has been entrenched in Detroit since 2009.

Here's another comparsion: 

  • QB A - 45-of-66 (68.1-percent completion rate), 446 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • QB B - 22-of-46 (47.8-percent completion rate), 319 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs

Look at that 20-plus percent difference in completion percentage between QB A and QB B, plus the large edge the former has over the latter in yardage. Well, QB A is EJ Manuel and QB B is Matt Ryan. Yep.

The point of this story is setting in by now, but here's one more side-by-side: 

  • QB A - 34-of-57 (59.6-percent completion rate), 358 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT 
  • QB B - 43-of-76 (56.6-percent completion rate), 533 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs 

QB A doesn't come close to matching QB B's yardage output, but he does have a slightly better (though still not ideal) completion percentage and two fewer picks. Turns out, QB A is actually Dwayne Haskins while QB B is Andrew Luck. If there were any folks in Indy ready to call Luck a bust through two starts, they surely now realize how foolish they were being then.

Of course, there have been young players — like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes — who looked like stars the minute they took over. Unfortunately, Haskins doesn't find himself on that immediate path.

Also, while it'd be unfair for the Redskins to make a decision on whether Haskins is the answer after he's started twice, the reality is he may only get six more chances. Washington is going to have a premium draft pick next April and could choose another highly touted arm. It doesn't need to settle on how it feels about Haskins yet, but that date could be coming somewhat soon, meaning he must improve quickly.

Regardless, those who want to grade Haskins and evaluate him right now absolutely can, but those who want to call it one way or the other need to stop. As the above numbers show, if two starts was the be-all and end-all for pro passers, Marcus Mariota would be a legend while Matt Ryan would be selling insurance.


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Redskins cut edge rusher Noah Spence, promote Carroll Phillips from practice squad

Redskins cut edge rusher Noah Spence, promote Carroll Phillips from practice squad

The Redskins cut former Buccaneers second-round pick Noah Spence Tuesday and promoted Carroll Phillips from the practice squad, according to Ian Rapoport

Washington signed Spence in mid-September after the Bucs cut him at the end of training camp.

Hopes were high for Spence in Tampa after he recorded 5.5 sacks in his rookie season, but has only recorded two sacks in the three seasons following 2016. 

Phillips joined the Redskins practice squad in Week 9 after playing in limited snaps with the Jaguars and Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017. 

The Illinois product figures to be the fourth man in the Redskins pass rush rotation behind Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat and Ryan Anderson.