WASHINGTON — From Kirk Cousins’ zero-TD, two-pick performance and a total of nine penalties to the admittedly misguided coaching decisions and the out-of-its-depth defense, the Washington Redskins did not look ready to open the regular season.
So now the question becomes: Can they get their act together in time to host the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday and avoid an 0-2 start?
“I think we were ready to play,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday. “We just didn’t make the necessary plays to win.”
Not even close.
After winning the NFC East last season despite never beating a team with a winning record, the Redskins opened this season with a dismal 38-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
There were all sorts of problems for Washington (0-1).
Cousins showed, according to Gruden, that he still has some growing up to do as an NFL starter.
There were the two interceptions and also other issues, such as miscommunication with DeSean Jackson on a run-pass option and several poor throws, including a trio early that were too low.
“He’s going to have some bumps along the way. That’s what all quarterbacks go through,” Gruden said. “How he responds to those downs will make or break him as a quarterback.”
The running game, which was not really targeted for improvement in the offseason, flopped early and then was abandoned: Washington’s 12 rushes were a league-low in Week 1. Gruden partially tried to explain that away by saying his team was behind in the second half, so wanted to accumulate chunks of yards via the pass.
“That’s the approach we took for this week,” he said. “Next week could be totally different.”
Gruden acknowledged that there were “two bad decisions,” in hindsight, on fourth downs in the first half. On fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 40 during his team’s opening possession, Gruden opted to punt.
Then, later, on fourth-and-6 at the Pittsburgh 38, he chose to go for it — and Cousins completed a pass to running back Chris Thompson short of the first-down marker.
“Wasn’t good,” Gruden said.
Those two words apply to Washington’s defense, too.
The front seven did not generate much of an effective pass-rush, except Ryan Kerrigan’s early sack-strip of Ben Roethlisberger, which went for naught when the Steelers wound up recovering the football.
The run defense was nonexistent, as DeAngelo Williams replaced the suspended Le’Veon Bell and gained 143 yards while scoring two touchdowns. And Antonio Brown was allowed to roam free for eight catches for 126 yards, including a 29-yard TD on a fourth-and-1 play.
Brown was mostly covered by Bashaud Breeland, while this offseason’s big splash, $75 million signing Josh Norman, stayed on his side of the field.
“We have just got to go back and look and correct our mistakes and then study Dallas and figure out things that we might be able to do differently from a personnel standpoint, from a coaching standpoint and go from there,” Gruden said, speaking generally about his team’s defense. “But the game is done. We’ve got to learn from it and move on.”
Notes: Gruden said the Redskins were deciding whether to re-sign DE Cullen Jenkins. In preparation for such a move, the team waived C Austin Reiter and released G Nila Kasitati from its practice squad. Reiter could be brought back as a practice squad player.
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