BUF-WAS grades: Cousins, Redskins' offense look sharp in win over Bills
Washington Redskins 21, Buffalo Bills 16
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Redskins’ 21-16 win over the Bills:
Quarterback grades: Kirk Cousins, 79.4; Colt McCoy, 64.5
Kirk Cousins catches fire in the second quarter
Cousins’ game started out poorly, with an opening-drive interception on a forced ball to the boundary, but he went on a tear to close out the half, throwing touchdown strikes on Washington’s final three possessions. Two of his three scoring tosses were under duress, an area of his game that has been outstanding this preseason. When under pressure this month, he has a QB rating of 121.4, and when blitzed, his rating is a ridiculous 136.0.
McCoy wasn’t asked to do much in the second half, as Washington seemed content to focus on running out the clock after a lengthy first half. He completed seven of his eight passes for 59 yards, but his only toss longer than 10 yards through the air was a seam route to a wide-open TE Logan Paulsen that got the Redskins out of the shadow of their own goalpost in the fourth quarter.
Top offensive grades:
OT Trent Williams, 81.3
OT Ty Nsekhe, 80.0
WR DeSean Jackson, 79.9
QB Kirk Cousins, 79.4
TE Vernon Davis, 77.7
Redskins flash their depth at tight end
Considering the health struggles Jordan Reed has endured throughout his career, Washington has to be excited about Vernon Davis’ performance last night. Not only did he snag all three balls thrown his way, 20 of his 42 yards were after the catch and he broke two tackles. It’s early (and a tiny sample size) to be saying he’s back, but if the Redskins can expect this type of production from Davis going forward, they will have possibly the deepest and most versatile group of receivers and tight ends in the NFL.
Last night was LT Trent Williams’ first (and possibly last) action of the preseason, and he put up a clean sheet in pass protection, yielding no sacks, hits or hurries. This season he’ll need to elevate his run blocking if he is to get back to where he was in 2013, but only once after his rookie season in 2010 has he given up more than four sacks in a season.
Top defensive grades:
DI Ricky Jean-Francois, 80.9
CB Josh Norman, 79.8
CB Greg Tole, 78.4
CB Mariel Cooper, 77.5
LB Terence Garvin, 76.9
New faces in the secondary appear to be paying off
Washington’s CBs obviously had a big day, as not even included in the top five defenders is Kendall Fuller, who may have given up three catches but also had an interception and a pass defensed. The trio listed above was targeted a total of 10 times, and gave up just three catches for 41 yards, and Josh Norman’s pass break-up prevented a touchdown.
Jean-Francois did most of his damage on the pass rush, as he notched a sack and a hit. While the entire defense racked up three sacks and 20 pressures, tacking was an absolute disaster, as the Redskins missed 16! Four players accounted for two each, including rookies NT Matt Ioannidis and ILB Su’a Cravens.
Get the Redskins’ in-depth 2016 preview right here.
Quarterback grades: Tyrod Taylor, 50.0; EJ Manuel, 75.3
EJ Manuel targets the middle of the field short, early and often
While we were excited to see star WR Sammy Watkins’ first action of the preseason, after the first seven pass plays both his and starting QB Tyrod Taylor’s days were done, as the two failed to hook up in limited action. Manuel played the remainder of the game, and while he graded out reasonably well, it’s alarming how much he honed in on one passing area. He completed 14 of 16 throws between the numbers and short of 10 yards from the line of scrimmage for a total of 130 yards. While this is impressive efficiency, it is concerning that he completed just seven of his other 22 passes, including going just one for seven in the same yard range but outside the numbers. Buffalo obviously isn’t asking him to be their starter going forward, but should Taylor miss time with injury, opposing defenses will certainly be aware of this bias.
Top offensive grades
OT Chris Martin, 76.5
OT Cyrus Kouandjio, 75.8
OT Justin Renfrow, 75.7
QB E.J. Manuel, 75.3
C Fernando Velasco, 74.9
Most of the offensive standouts came from the offensive line
The Bills had plenty of problems in pass protection last night, but almost none of them came from the four players above. The quartet combined to give up one sack (charged to Renfrow) and no other pressures on the night. On the opposite end of the spectrum were RT Seantrel Henderson and LG Ryan Groy, who combined to yield a sack and seven hurries.
Top defensive grades:
ILB Brandon Spikes, 81.8
CB Corey White, 79.8
S Colt Anderson, 76.6
DI Jerel Worthy, 74.7
ED Lorenzo Alexander, 73.6
Brandon Spikes, Lorenzo Alexander the only bright spots on an otherwise brutal day for the linebackers
Spikes was the highest-graded player of the game for either team, despite surrendering a penalty. He had two defensive stops and no missed tackles, which sounds benign until compared to other Bills defenders, as the rest of the defense whiffed 15 times. OLB Kroy Biermann, ILB David Hawthorne and CB Kevon Seymour combined to miss eight of their own. Not surprisingly the trio found themselves at the very bottom of our grades for the evening, joined by teammate LB Randell Johnson who also missed a tackle.
Get the Bills’ in-depth 2016 preview right here.