<
>

Redskins' run game lacking in preseason loss to Falcons

The Washington Redskins knew their passing game would be good, and it looked good for one series with all the starters in Thursday's 23-17 preseason loss at Atlanta. But they failed to generate a ground game and the defense did not stop the run. Both are big keys if the Redskins want to improve this season. There's a long way to go, but they could have used a better start in those areas.

QB depth chart: There's no doubt about the order here: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld. Cousins played only one series but completed all five of his passes and looked calm and decisive. Cousins showed the ability to scan the field quickly and then get rid of the ball. He did not try any downfield attempts.

Maybe that dude could start: Safety Duke Ihenacho. That's not a knock on David Bruton at all; he has had a strong camp and deserves to be in the starting lineup. He has been with the starting group since he signed. But Ihenacho was very active and looked decisive after missing most of the last two seasons because of injuries. If nothing else, Ihenacho provides good depth.

Who got hurt: Tight end Niles Paul hobbled off the field in the first half, but coach Jay Gruden said he'll be able to practice Saturday. Last year, Paul suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener and was lost for the season.

A surprise player who impressed: Sudfeld. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 89 yards in the second half (Rashad Ross dropped a deep ball), showing decisiveness on his throws and poise in the pocket. The rookie's height (6-foot-6) allowed him to see over pressure, which helped him stay calm. Sudfeld looked better in the game than he has during two weeks of training camp. He didn't handle the last series as well, but it was a good first night for him.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Redskins looked ...: OK and showed some good signs. Cousins and the passing game looked good, but he played only one series. Starting running back Matt Jones carried the ball only twice for one yard. The defense showed some good signs; linebackers Preston Smith and Will Compton had good showings, for example. The defense held quarterback Matt Ryan to no completions in four attempts. But the Redskins struggled to slow the run without blitzing.

One reason to be concerned: The Redskins' top running backs -- Jones, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall -- did not do much. They carried a combined eight times for no yards; and the blocking didn't help, either. Jones still needs to finish runs better to gain yards after contact, and that didn't happen. Marshall is fast but has to learn not to bounce everything outside; he lost too much power trying to do so. The Redskins have been optimistic about their running-back situation, but that faith must be rewarded in games. It's good that the last two backs, Robert Kelley (seven carries, 40 yards) and Mack Brown ran better, but they're not starting options.

Top rookie: Linebacker Su'a Cravens is still learning to play inside linebacker in the NFL, but he made an impact Thursday thanks to his speed. Cravens does very well when he can read the play, and he made two plays because of that ability. He also made a good stop on special teams. The trouble for him comes when he doesn't read a play fast; that's when he gets a little engulfed by linemen.

Dominance: Punter Tress Way was terrific. He punted seven times for a 48.3-yard average, with his first effort downed inside the Atlanta 2-yard line. Way was inconsistent in the first half of last season but was excellent in the second. He has carried that into this summer. You don't want him punting a lot, but you have to like that when he does he can really benefit a defense that will need all the help it can get.