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Reviewing the preseason mags

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Reviewing the preseason mags

As I wrote yesterday, my first step in pre-training camp prep for the upcoming season was to study the Las Vegas odds.Step No. 2? Plunk down 50 at the local bookstore for a stack of preview magazines so you dont have to, assuming, of course, youre only interested in the CliffsNotes version.Heres a brief on the four previews I picked up:Athlon SportsRedskins predicted finish in NFC East: Last.Money quote: The Redskins return everyone in the defensive front seven, which was their biggest strength in 2011. also upgraded a punchless receiving corps. Considering that they lost six games by only one possession last season, dont be surprised if the Redskins compete for a playoff spot.Intriguing nugget: Robert Griffin III was tapped best rookie QB over Indys Andrew Luck and is predicted to be the NFCs offensive rookie of the year. Griffin will have more talent around him than him, the magazine says, Thus, Griffin should have more success this season than Luck. But, it continues, RG3 better bring his Superman socks to D.C.Lundys Predicted finish: Last.Money quote: Thanks to tackling machine London Fletcher and new comers Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins were much improved in 2011. Rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster showed promise. But after three straight-double digit losing seasons and four consecutive last-place finishes, hopes for a turnaround in Washington are in Griffins hands.Intriguing nugget: On Coach Mike Shanahans future: Turning the offense over to Griffin should buy Shanahan the fourth year on his contract. However, the 60-year-old Shanahan knows this is the last season hes playing with house money.Pro Football WeeklyPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Robert Griffin III could be this years Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, and the Redskins weapons appear to be stronger. It could come down to the play of two key units the offensive line and secondary to determine whether this is a comeback season or another hear at the bottom of the still-loaded NFC East.Intriguing nugget: No position earned a grade higher than a B, which went to the defensive line and linebackers. Running backs received the lowest grade, a C-.Phil Steeles Pro FootballPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Factors pointing upward this year are that they were -14 in turnovers last year, had two net close losses, were only -3.1 yards per game (like an 8-8 team) and had 65 starts lost to injury. On the negative side of the ledger us that the schedule gets a lot tougher this year (18 to 3) and they play in the same division with a pair of Top 5 NFL teams (NYG & PHI)Intriguing nugget: In Shanahans 32 games as the WAS HC, his QBs ran the ball 61 times total! The team wants Griffin to improvise on third down but also stay in the pocket as much as possible.As you can see, there are two common themes in each of the four previews: the Skins are expected to be division basement dwellers once again, but theres also optimism that RG3s arrival could signal the start of a turnaround.

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Need to Know: Stock up-stock down for the Redskins’ win over Packers

Need to Know: Stock up-stock down for the Redskins’ win over Packers

Here is what you need to know on Monday, September 24, 14 days before the Washington Redskins visit the New Orleans Saints.  

Talking points

Here are some players who saw their stock go up during the Redskins’ impressive win over the Packers and some who saw their stock drop.

Stock up—For the third straight game, DE Matt Ioannidis got a sack. There are many who say that Jamison Crowder is the best late-round gem that Scot McCloughan found in his two drafts as the general manager of the Redskins. But you may have to consider Ioannidis for that title. He was a fifth-round pick who now has 7.5 sacks in the last season plus three games. The Temple product also is a stout run defender. 

Stock down—Right tackle Morgan Moses had to leave the game with a concussion in the first quarter and Ty Nsekhe came in. The substitute got flagged for at least three penalties including a couple of false starts and a holding penalty that cost them field position in the second half. There is a myth going around that he’s just as good as Moses and Trent Williams. He’s good enough to have as a swing tackle, but don’t think that there is not a considerable drop off when he enters the game. 

Stock up—During the past week QB Alex Smith took plenty of fire for being a check-down type of quarterback. He didn’t really stretch the field in the first two games. His only completion of over 34 yards came on a short pass that Adrian Peterson turned into a 53-yard gain. Sunday he aired it out a couple of times with a 46-yard TD bomb to Paul Richardson on the opening drive. In the second quarter, he dropped a dime to Vernon Davis, who was streaking down the right sideline. That play was good for 50 yards and it helped set a touchdown that gave the Redskins a comfortable 28-10 halftime lead. Smith completed 12 of 20 passes for 220 yards, an impressive 11 yards per attempt. 

Stock down—It wouldn't be accurate to say that WR Josh Doctson didn't have an impact on the game. He drew two pass interference flags that helped a scoring drive including one in the end zone that set up Adrian Peterson’s two-yard touchdown run that lifted the Redskins to a 14-0 advantage. But a first-round draft pick needs to have more impact than that. He was targeted three times and he did not catch a pass. He is running out of time to get that breakout year he needs in this third NFL season. 

Stock up—TE Jordan Reed didn’t catch a ton of passes but his four receptions for 64 yards had an impact. In particular, a pass he caught in the second quarter created a swing. The Redskins faced third and six from their own six. Smith went to Reed over the middle about 20 yards downfield. Reed caught the pass, eluded some tacklers with a couple of nice moves, and ended up with a 34-yard gain. That got the Redskins going on a 98-yard touchdown drive. That was their longest touchdown drive since a game against the Bears in 1999 when they drove 99 yards for a TD.

Injury report

OT Morgan Moses left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. 

The agenda

Today: Open locker room 11:30 a.m.; Jay Gruden press conference 

Upcoming:Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 14 days; Panthers @ Redskins 20; Cowboys @ Redskins 27

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Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

A few years ago, the hit would've been celebrated. Last year, it would've gone down as a drive-ending sack.

But in 2018, with the NFL's new emphasis on defenders not being able to fall on quarterbacks with a lot of force, Clay Matthews' very normal-looking third quarter takedown of Alex Smith was ruled roughing the passer.

As a result, the Redskins got to stay on the field. And for the second week in a row, Matthews found himself at the center of a very controversial call.

"Unfortunately, this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't like and I think they're getting soft," the veteran said after Washington's 31-17 win over Green Bay. "I've been playing this game for over 20 years and that's how you tackle."

Matthews has a point. In a sport that's concerned about dirty or dangerous collisions, this looks like a flawless hit:

But the roughing the passer flag was tossed not because of where Matthews hit Smith or when he hit him. The issue, in the eyes of the officials, is the way he finished the sequence.

"I had judged that the defender landed on the quarterback when he was tackling him with most or all of his body weight and that's not allowed," referre Craig Wrolstad said following the contest. "That was basically my key, that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight."

The person on the not-so-fun end of the exchange had no problem with it, though.

"It's tough," Smith said during his time at the FedEx Field podium. "I'm glad I don't play defense... I felt like he’s playing football. He’s played a long time. He hit me right in the strike zone."

Smith wasn't the only 'Skin to speak out in support of Matthews, either.

"What else do you want the man to do?" Josh Norman (who actually has the same agent as Matthews) asked reporters in the home locker room. "Like, seriously, what else do you want the man to do? "

"When I saw it, there was no malicious, ill intent," Norman continued. "I understand the rules of the situation, but at the same time, it sucks being a defender now. They hit your pockets and then they hit you for a penalty."

The NFL is clearly trying to make itself safer, which is both smart and necessary. But its approach in how its doing so has been confusing in a few critical areas, and this part of roughing the passer enforcement has temporarily surpassed the catch rule and the helmet rule as the most muddled of them all.

After all, when the QB and other opponents have no complaints about a tackle but the refs and the wording of the rule do, there's a disconnect. One that should be addressed.

"I think there's some gray area here with this that needs to be ironed out," Smith observed.  

For a signal caller who was accurate for much of the afternoon, that statement might've been the most on-point part of his day.

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