The Washington Football Team are dipping into the tail end of their time in Richmond and are preparing for a preseason exhibition game with the Baltimore Ravens. Kirk Cousins’ contract talk is behind us (for now) and with a thorough sample size of observations and facts to draw from after 11 days of camp, here are my top 5 talking points we have covered in our comprehensive coverage so far.
5: Questions Surround Josh Doctson’s Hamstring
At practice on Sunday during 7 on 7 drills, Doctson impressed everybody. He has had a good, even great camp up until the conclusion of the drill where he came up gimping. Doctson proceeded to take off of his helmet and walk over to the trainer’s tent on the fan side of the field. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so in the tent working on his hamstring. He did not return to practice and didn’t participate in the morning walk through the following session.
Naturally, Washington Football Team fans should have a certain level of nervousness due to this news because Doctson only played in 2 games last year with ACL issues and was a first round selection. The Washington Football Team did a good job predicting that they would need help at receiver this season, anticipating the loss of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon when they selected Doctson. Unfortunately J-Doct seems like he is an injury prone player and it will be impressive if he can manage to stay fully healthy for an entire NFL slate.
4: Expectations for the Defensive Line
There were four additions this off-season for the stalwarts up front. The team snagged Johnathan Allen with the 17th pick in the draft. D.C. added Phil Taylor, Stacy McGee, and Terrell McClain in free agency for about 8 million between the three. These names are proven NFL talent that can be described as players looking to prove they are starters instead of just role players, mostly due to injury.
Allen is clearly the most intriguing of the group. He can rush with an arsenal of moves, he can stop the run, and he is young with a high ceiling. Taylor was a former first round pick, but hasn’t played since 2014 and only played in 5 games that year. He appears to still be working his way back towards being truly competitive and will have a lot of responsibility if he is to line up as the team’s starting nose tackle, as some are projecting him to do. McGee has looked the best of the three free agents. He will be a mentor to Allen and probably will give up playing time as the season progresses. McClain has also shown some moves, but not as consistently as McGee.
All of this information and opinion begs the question: what should we expect from this position group? I don’t think it’s fair to hope for a ton of sacks or QB pressures. What this group needs to do better is open up lanes for edge rushers in blitzing situations. They need to clog the middle more and dissuade teams from leaning on the run. Ultimately, if the defensive line can provide more assists for the linebackers and secondary than letdowns, then this defense will improve from last year.
3: Jordan Reed’s Absence
The superstar Tight End is on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a toe injury. I believe that Reed is the most important player on this team. Without him, Washington goes from Playoff contender to 5 or 6 win team.
Reed’s injury is not expected to be serious. He is not needed at training camp or the preseason for this team to be successful. With both of those thoughts in mind, its tough to predict what his appearance on the PUP list means. On one hand, it continues to create skepticism that he can stay consistently healthy. On the other, it doesn’t feel like this particular injury is all that threatening.
2: The Safeties
D.J. Swearinger was one of my favorite additions the team made this off-season. He is an outspoken, big hitting, proven player at a position that was arguably Washington’s worst group last year.
Su’a Cravens has been moved to the strong safety spot for good. After playing a hybrid role last year as a rookie, Cravens returns to the position he played in college.
One of the themes from camp so far is players and media alike discussing how new Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky has simplified things. That seems fair, especially when you examine how the team has stopped experimenting with moving cornerbacks to safety and gone out and signed a natural free safety and moved Cravens back to strong.
1: New Offensive Weapons
It’s easy to look impressive at training camp if you are a running back or a wide receiver. You don’t receive a lot of pressure from defenders, who aren’t allowed to wrap up and actually tackle. Half of the sessions the defense is literally walking.
Still, Terrelle Pryor and Samaje Perine have looked good and been a frequent talking point for the media and fans.
Pryor is an athletic monster, still learning the nuances of his position after switching from QB. He is coming off of a 1,000 yard receiving season with the Browns but only caught 4 TD passes. He is an entertaining and low risk experiment the Washington Football Team are running. Pryor’s jumping skills, smooth running style, and ability to make one handed snags are impressive. Plus, he allows Kirk Cousins, who is more well known for his strong arm than accuracy, to have a receiver with a large catch radius.
Perine was banged up in college, but is a strong, low to the ground running back with breakaway speed. This running back group for now belongs to Rob Kelley, but Perine appears to have skills that can be applied immediately, particularity in the red zone, an area where the Skins struggled in 2016.
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