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It'll be tempting, but don't overreact to everything you saw in the Redskins' preseason opener

It'll be tempting, but don't overreact to everything you saw in the Redskins' preseason opener

CLEVELAND — The Redskins' first half of their preseason opener against the Browns was ugly at times, and some will choose to read a lot into how they performed.

Don't read a lot into how they performed.

Sure, you can be perturbed that Baker Mayfield was able to go nearly 90 yards in just over two minutes to start the game. That was a dreadful start for Greg Manusky's bunch.

Yeah, you can be upset with the offensive line's penalty issues and inability to truly protect Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins. Consecutive holding penalties and totally blown assignments aren't acceptable.

But you need to remember a few key things before making a huge assessment of this edition of the Burgundy and Gold, the first of which is taking note of who was wearing baseball hats instead of helmets on Thursday.

Offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, and Chase Roullier were all held out, meaning Cleveland's defense got a lot of rushes against a host of backup blockers. None of Washington's top three running backs dressed, either, and wide receivers Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson both didn't play.

On the other side of the ball, meanwhile, Fabian Moreau, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Jon Bostic were the only expected starters to suit up. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Landon Collins, Montae Nicholson, Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar all sat.

So, in short, the Redskins were far from full strength.

In addition, Jay Gruden explained this week how the initial exhibition contest doesn't involve much game-planning for the opponent. No one was really scouting the Browns, and the Redskins full array of plays has yet to be installed.

Now, as stated earlier, it was still unsettling to see how easily Mayfield and the home offense scored. Gruden's teams too often start slow, and even though the guys who opened the game are mostly second-stringers, they needed to be sharper and have more energy.

As for Bill Callahan's group, Geron Christian and Ereck Flowers were exposed. The center and right side of the front-five will eventually return, but with Trent Williams' future looking bleaker, the left side's issues do matter. Hopefully Donald Penn and Wes Martin will be better, but perhaps Thursday was a glimpse at what's to come.

Still, those who take too, too much from the showing are doing it wrong. The problems that emerged at FirstEnergy Stadium are worth monitoring, but you can't call them season-wreckers yet.

Wait to see how the Redskins produce when their entire lineup gets significant time. Wait to see if they improve in the next few weeks and address what ailed them here. And wait before you make any grand judgements about 2019. It's tempting to, but it's also foolish.

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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