ReFo: Patriots @ Redskins, Preseason Week 1
It’s not quite proper football, but it’s close. Preseason is the best we can manage in August and at least it means the real thing is only just around the corner. While the first week of the preseason typically sees starters sitting or wandering the sidelines far more than they play, we do still get a glimpse of quality play from those guys lower down on the depth chart.
This game was billed as a stage for Ryan Mallett to show what he could do and potentially tempt any trade suitors, but based on his performance the phone is unlikely to be ringing off the hook. Washington took a commanding lead and it wasn’t until Jimmy Garoppolo threw a late touchdown that the Patriots got on the board at all.
New England — Three Performances of Note
The Shop Window
It was the tale of two quarterbacks for the Patriots. Mallet was in the shop window for the first half of the game and then Garoppolo played the second half of the game. It would be too simplistic to look only at which half the Patriots score came in, but in all honestly that does speak volumes. Mallett ended up with a 0.0 grade from his 29 snaps while Garoppolo ended the day with a +3.0 grade from his 27. Mallett completed just five of 11 attempts for 55 yards, while Garoppolo completed nine of 13 attempts for 157 yards and a score, and in all honesty, was robbed of a second score by the officials. It’s only one preseason game, so we can’t get too carried away but it was clear who had the better day at the office. If the Patriots were indeed trying to advertise Mallett to potential trade partners then this game certainly did nothing to aid their cause.
One Score, Possibly Two
If there was an offensive player that stood up to be counted for the Patriots it was wide receiver Brian Tyms who ended the day with a +3.8 grade after catching five of the six passes thrown his way. He was too much for the Washington backups to handle and seemed to have a connection with Garoppolo that resulted in a catch almost at will. He was responsible for the only Patriots score with a simple go route that landed perfectly in his hands in the back of the end zone after he had beaten his man down the left sideline. He should have had a second score earlier in the game on a deep pass that was ruled incomplete and drew a defensive pass interference penalty from his man. Tyms ended up with the ball in his hands despite CB Chase Minnefield pulling his arms away early and when the ball popped into the air after the pair went to ground he kept his eyes on it, hauling it in again and appearing to keep it off the ground the entire time.
On a roster boasting Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner it’s somewhat ironic that the standout performer at cornerback was an undrafted player out of West Alabama; Malcolm Butler. Thrown at seven times in the game, Butler allowed just two receptions for 24 yards, and was in close attendance at all times in coverage. Butler also broke up two passes and showed willing against the run. In all, the Washington passers had a rating of just 41.4 when throwing at Butler compared to 122.9 overall against the New England coverage.
Washington — Three Performances of Note
Return of the Rak
He may only have played seven snaps but Brian Orakpo demonstrated almost immediately what a formidable pass rusher he can be, notching a quick sack against Nate Solder around the left side of the Patriots line and getting to Ryan Mallett. That move showed the kind of speed and dip that defensive coaches love to see and that few players possess. Ryan Kerrigan on the other side also chipped in with a hurry, though wasn’t nearly as dominant as Orakpo’s move. Despite combining for just 14 snaps and eight rushes, the starting duo accounted for more than 20% of the total pressure that Washington applied in the game. Only Frank Kearse (a hit and two hurries) and Chris Baker (one hit and one hurry) posted more than one total pressure in the game. That’s something Washington will want to fix going forward.
Second Team Line Moving Piles
Often any momentum a team generates in a preseason game is blown to pieces when the second- and third-string offensive line comes in, but in Washington quite the opposite happened. Five linemen graded in the green when it came to run blocking for the Redskins; Trent Williams and four backup players. Josh LeRibeus (+2.3), Adam Gettis (+2.2), Tevita Stevens (+1.2) and Maurice Hurt (+1.2) all graded well, opening up holes for the running backs and only Hurt failed to parlay that into a significant positive overall grade, ending his day with a +0.4 overall thanks to a holding penalty. The running backs certainly made some moves on their own in this game, but there was encouraging signs from the backup unit on a team that has struggled on the line in places in recent years.
There is often a danger of thinking that run blocking is down only to the offensive line and everybody else is just a passenger, but it isn’t the case at all, especially for a team like the Redskins given the formations and schemes they like to run the ball from. Tight ends and fullbacks are important parts of the blocking scheme and FB Stephen Campell, TE Ted Bolser and converted wide out Niles Paul combined for a -11.8 run blocking grade between them. Paul struggled particularly with trying to block former Saint Will Smith, a guy who must outweigh him by a clear 50 pounds at this stage. Washington was running the ball well overall, but when their plays were getting blown up it was often one of this trio that was losing out on their assignment.
– Colt McCoy was the best Washington performer among the passers, ending the game with a +2.2 grade and a 150.9 passer rating.
– Lache Seastrunk flashed with the ball in his hands, knocking off 63 yards on 12 carries with some strong cuts and good speed.
– Roy Finch might struggle to talk coaches into keeping his return man job given this game. He fumbled on a kick return only to get lucky with an offside flag on the play before muffing a punt and getting flagged for an illegal fair catch signal on the same play. Rough night.
PFF Game Ball
There were a few standout players in the game and ironically the Patriots have three of the best cases despite losing the game comfortable – such is preseason – but the one who impressed me the most and earns himself the PFF Game Ball was Brian Tyms.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam