DefenseGrade vs. Falcons:CComment:Its tough to assign a passing grade when the end result was surrendering 24 points and suffering an eighth straight loss at FedEx Field. But we will this week and here are three reasons why:-- The Redskins front did a good job stuffing the Falcons ground game. The unit, led by Ryan Kerrigan, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, limited running back Michael Turner to 67 yards on 18 carries (3.7 yard average). Atlantas longest run, in fact, was for 13 yards. In all, Atlantas pass-first offense amassed only 83 yards on the ground after back-to-back weeks of rushing for 121 and 119 yards.-- The unit continued to capitalize on the scoreboard, as well. Kerrigan doesnt possess the vertical leap of a NBA player, but the linebacker used timing and anticipation to jump and pick off a Matt Ryan screen pass in the second quarter. Once Kerrigan had the ball secured, he raced 28 yards for the games first touchdown and the defenses third touchdown of the season. The last time the unit scored three times in a season was 1999, when it scored four.-- Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes 345 yards and two touchdowns and tight end Tony Gonzalez hauled in 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. But the Redskins battered secondary did not yield a long, backbreaking pass play (they gave had given up nine passes of 30 or more yards in the previous four games). Ryans longest completion was for 29 yards and only two others went for more than 20. Additionally, the go-ahead touchdown reception by Julio Jones in the fourth quarter required a near perfect throw and catch over Josh Wilson.Overall, the Redskins' defense held an undefeated Atlanta team a touchdown below their season average. But its no reason to celebrate. Much work remains for Jim Hasletts beleaguered unit, which still ranks dead last against the pass in yards (328.6 per game) and touchdowns (13) and struggled to get the Falcons off the field (Atlanta converted 9 of 17 third downs).
On Thursday, the Redskins earned their first preseason victory of the season, defeating the Falcons 19-7 on the road in Atlanta.
But after the game, celebrating an exhibition win was not in the cards. Attention was turned directly to the health of Washington's star tight end.
After absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the second quarter, resulting in his helmet flying off, tight end Jordan Reed was forced to exit the contest. No. 86 started feeling concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed after the game that Reed had entered the concussion protocol.
The tight end has a history of concussions. If diagnosed with a concussion again, this would be the seventh documented instance for Reed since he started playing college football.
On Redskins Postgame Live, saying that NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich was furious about Neal's hit would be an understatement.
“Just looking at that hit, I thought it was a dirty hit. It was dirty," Matich said. "The safety coming up had plenty of time to see what was going on. Reed was in the grass. Reed didn’t duck his head down, and ended up taking a helmet to his head because of a defender coming in low and didn’t expect Reed to duck."
Matich completely put the blame on Neal and emphasized that there's no place for a hit like that, especially during exhibition football when the games don't count in the standings.
"Reed didn’t duck his head. That defender came in high," he said. "That was a dirty hit. It would have been dirty in the regular season, and especially dirty in the preseason.”
The play resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. But it's fair to question whether Neal deserved a harsher punishment.
Santana Moss was asked whether he thought Neal should have been ejected for the hit, and he had no doubt in his answer.
“It should have been," Moss said. "I saw last week in a preseason game a guy had one shot to the head and he was out of there."
Inconsistent officiating has been an issue in the NFL for several years.
As the league continues each year to alter the rules in order to make the game safer, Moss wants to see the officiating improve its consistency as well.
"That’s one thing I wanted to see, that our officials do better," Moss said. "We talk about all the rules they are changing and the way they’re going to ref these games. When you see something like that, instantly get the guy out of there. This is something that we’re not trying to tolerate. If you allow guys to do this, you’ll find guys in situations like Jordan Reed.”
The NFL continues to try and make the game safer. Many rules have been put into effect recently to eliminate hits like Neal's. Of course, defenders largely dislike these guidelines, claiming it takes away from their ability to defend receivers. Some fans may dislike the lack of contact as well.
“It takes away some spectacular hits that fans want to see," Matich said.
But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business.
"Ultimately, this is family entertainment in the NFL. Head trauma is not good for business," Matich said. "It’s just not. You have an expense of losing some of those fantastic hits, but you also have fewer concussions and problems."
While Neal's hit may have been deemed acceptable and regarded as a great hit a decade ago, there's no place for a hit like that in today's NFL.
"I thought that hit right there was just plain dirty," Matich said.
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In the Redskins' 19-7 preseason victory over the Falcons, outside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy arguably solidified his spot on the 53-man roster.
The former Auburn linebacker recorded three tackles and two sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble. The other, McKinzy blew by the left tackle using a Demarcus Ware-like technique to have a free run at the quarterback.
McKinzy, who is positioning himself to be on an active roster to start a season for the first time in his career, was asked by NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay if any of the coaches had said anything to him regarding his stellar performance and roster status.
"I had a couple of coaches saying 'good job,' but I haven't talked to anyone," McKinzy told Finlay. "I stayed out there a little longer than I was supposed to."
After the clock hit zero and the initial on-field postgame exchanges concluded, McKinzy stayed a little bit longer on the turf. He had to let his emotion out.
Just three days prior, the linebacker's stepbrother had passed away.
"I haven't cried all week. I haven't let anything out. I haven't told anybody. That was just my time to let it all out," McKinzy said. "I feel a little better, and when I get around my family, I'll feel even better. I'll see them tonight."
Despite his devastating loss, McKinzy was able to stay focused on football. Very few people, if anyone, in Redskins Park knew what the linebacker was going through.
He didn't want anyone to know, either.
"No one really knew. I didn't tell anyone because, at the end of the day, it's still my job," he said. "I don't want any pity from nobody. I just want to go out there and do my job and show that I can keep focus, no matter what's going on in my life."
"I have to do my job," he continued. "In that building, the only thing that matters is football. Everything else, you have to keep outside the building."
The linebacker was able to do just that on Thursday, as his standout preseason continued. In the three seasons since he went undrafted, McKinzy has just one NFL tackle to his name. He's changed his body and gotten quicker, and if this preseason is any indication, he could be a viable pass rusher for the Burgundy and Gold in 2019.
While No. 58 would not say he dedicated his performance to his late stepbrother, it did give him, if anything, a little extra motivation.
"I would say half and half," on whether he dedicated his performance to his late step-brother. "I came out today saying I was going to work on some things, and I worked on them. I came out and said I was going to start reading, being better with my keys and more consistent running to the ball. Just paying attention to what the tackles were giving me, the whole nine."
While he's likely played himself onto the 53-man roster, McKinzy doesn't believe he's a sure thing yet.
"I wouldn't say lock, I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "It felt real good just to be back out there and do what I know how to do."
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