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Yes, the Patriots are better than the Redskins, but we already knew that

Aug 6, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

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RICHMOND—Last year, the Redskins and their fans got a reminder of just how little preseason games mean. They went 4-0 during the practice games and looked pretty good in doing so. That was followed by a thud of a 3-13 regular season.

Here’s a pro tip for you—joint training camp practices mean even less than preseason games do.

Yes, what you have been hearing out of here about the Redskins-Patriots joint practices is largely true. Tom Brady is moving his team’s offense through the Redskins defense like the proverbial hot knife through butter most of the time during 11 on 11 scrimmages. And Robert Griffin III has been uneven in directing the Redskins’ offense. The third-year quarterback has thrown some excellent passes in rhythm; he also has looked hesitant and unable to figure out what to do with the ball at times.

In fact, Brady looks like a quarterback who has been playing in the same offense for 15 years. That’s because he is. Griffin looks like a third-year quarterback who is learning a new offense. And, of course, that’s because that is what he is.

It would be a mistake to read too much into where Griffin and the Redskins are by comparing them to the Patriots. New England is the league’s model franchise. Jay Gruden, Griffin, and the organization are just taking the first steps down the road trying to build something like what the Patriots have.

Also, be careful not to overanalyze what happens during these practices. There are many differences between them and what actually happens during an actual game. There is no game planning. The quarterbacks wear no-contact jerseys and that means that the pass rush is throttled back considerably. There are no adjustments made as the game rolls on, no coaches observing from up in the booth to come up with counter moves, no using one play to set up something else later in the game.

It’s vanilla on vanilla and that favors a team like the Patriots, who have been drafting players into their system for 15 years, over the Redskins, who are starting over.

This isn’t to say that the Redskins should shrug their shoulders, tip their helmets to the Patriots, and move on. They need to use the practices as a learning experience and as a motivational tool.

But the fact that the Patriots look sharper than the Redskins right now, in early August, should not lead to a conclusion that the Redskins will struggle this year like they did in 2013. It does mean that the Redskins have a lot of work to do if they are ever going to get to where the Patriots are but we already knew that.

  1. deepball1 - Aug 6, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    after the first practice, Mike Mayock and all the NFL experts covering the Skins were gushing over how Brady had his way with the Skins defense and how the Pats cornerbacks were jamming the Skins small receivers and dominating them.

    How about we wait until the game begins and the Skins linebackers finally get to rush Brady and hit him. He was protected during these 3 practice days. And how about we wait until referees enter the paradigm and start calling HOLDING on the Pats cornerbacks.

    The Skins new coach and new system weren’t going to look as smooth on the very FIRST practice the other day and its very nearsighted for the experts to judge the Skins on a initial get together. I will be surprised if the Patriots dominate the Skins Thursday when the 1st teams get together, even though the Skins have about 5 starters who won’t play. The Pats are good. Enuff said.

  2. cowboyhater - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Well said deepball1. I like your optimism…but the fact is that even though no one hit Brady, and their corners dominated our WR’s this still should be a concern. Yes there is no game planning, and everything is vanilla as mentioned, but when you strip everything down and it becomes just talent on talent without any real play calling or preparation the Patriots have showed us that their top guys are just better than our top guys. That should concern you (at least a little..). If RG3 continues down this road of indecisiveness in the pocket like he did throughout last year, this offense will not work. He will start resorting back to his old habit of just taking off and running the with ball, which will more than likely lead to another injury. What I have heard, and yes I know it’s the second string, but Cousins has looked very decisive with the ball, and knows exactly where to go with it. Just saying……..

    • kenlinkins - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      I have been reading the same thing about Cousins and I am looking forward to what he and McCoy can do with the 2nd string guys in the preseason games. Cousin lost 2 games in a row by one point (and had a lead in the 3rd quarter in both that the Defense and Special Teams didn’t protect) before throwing in a real stinker in NY to end the season. While I am not saying he is more than a back up NFL QB now, unless I start to see some real development out of RG3 I wonder how the Redskins can keep Cousins here (and happy) if RG3 is a bust. You must remember that the deal to bring RG3 here has two costs. 1. the Draft Picks used to get him here 2. the cost in Draft Picks to replace him if he is a bust! Let’s hope RG3 starts to show more in the preseason.

    • Rich Tandler - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      I can only speak for myself and I don’t know who you “heard” from but I have not been impressed by Cousins at all. Perhaps he looks a bit more decisive but all too often his decision is to throw the ball right to a defender. If he has a significantly better grasp of the offense than Cousins does it is not evident to me.

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      • cowboyhater - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        There was an interview on 980 that had Chris Russell with Jim Miller and a former GM earlier today and indicated RG3 looking very hesitant in the pocket, but Cousins was hitting receivers in stride. This is why I look at your writings to get the actual happenings on the practice field. Thanks Rich ( I think?)

        • Jay - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:51 PM

          Per Football Outsiders, Cousins had a passing DVOA of -42.6% and DYAR of -314 yds ranking 45th and 41st respectively amongst QBs in the league.

          I know some don’t like the fancy stats, but given that they’ve been applied equally to all QBs in the league, these numbers were well below average in terms of value per pass play and not even comparable to a replacement level player in terms of cumulative stats. As bad as RG3 was last year Cousins was actually significantly worse.

          Don’t get me wrong, I love Kirk and hope he succeeds but we’ve tried this experiment and it didn’t work. When you factor that against RG3’s enormous upside, I think we gotta stop having this debate.

          Have patience and give RG3 some time. He’s got immense physical tools but he’s just gotta develop his craft. I’m confident he gets there (although I guess I’m biased).

        • Rich Tandler - Aug 6, 2014 at 7:32 PM

          I hit on Cousins in the reports every once in a while in the reports. Maybe he had a particularly good day when Miller was there but Miller has just a one-day snapshot while I’ve watched every minute of every practice. As I’ve said, Griffin looks like a third-year quarterback learning a new offense. So does Cousins.

  3. kenlinkins - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Rich< I have been reading about the Redskins use of the Nickel, Hybird Nickel, Dime, and Amoeba Nickel Defense where only TWO D-Linemen are used (Hatcher and Cofield). If the Redskins run this type of defense often (say against running QB's, Quick/short pass teams, teams in the NFC East) do they really need to keep 7 or even 6 D-linemen (thinking Murphy is listed as OLB) as on Avg the Redskins will only use 2.5 D-linemen per play? With Bomen starting on the PUP List, he is "banked" and can be moved over later. If the Redskins find a WR, RB, O-Linemen they do not want to risk on the Practice Squad, could this be a way to find a spot on the 53 man roster (by keeping only 5 D-linemen)? (Assumes Hatcher is ready to play come Sept 7th, w/o him most of the Nickel / Dime defense's do not set up well, or did I just answer my own question, any plan the keys on one player for so much i.e. pass rush on passing downs, is just a bad plan?)

    • Rich Tandler - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      I think 5 DL is very risky, you have to keep a second full set, IMO. If you do cut it tight there, they should not use it for a 7th WR or 4th RB. I’d keep an extra LB or DB. If the DL is playing fewer snaps, a backer or DB is playing more.

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  4. theskinsman - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    It’s a bit early to assess the skins. Let them have a few weeks to work together,and we’ll see.I’m just hoping that they show progress.

  5. READYSETGO! - Aug 6, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Best Redskins article of the year! As close to X’s and O’s as allowed. Fan’s are eager along with the team’s and its important to remain focused. Injuries and players returning from injury seems to be the most valued topic, along with the adaptation of scheme, tempo, and maturation.

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