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— The star of the show in this game was Detroit rookie RB Zach Zenner (4 carries for 22 yards, 5 rec. for 59 yards and 1 TD on 5 targets). Not only did he have a bunch of longer plays in this game (four 10+ yard plays, including one called back for 30+ yards), but the key to me was—he had 5 targets in this game (and five catches). I think after impressing last week, the coaches purposefully threw more at Zenner (literally and figuratively) to see how he worked…and to see how much they really need Joique Bell (DNP). The answer on Joique is…zero. Zenner is ready to go now.
We all think it crazy that consider that Zenner could really be ready to start Week-1, because he’s a small-school runner and for the other reason–that I won’t type out. However, we think a guy like Melvin Gordon is totally ready day-one because a bunch of people who don’t seriously, painstakingly study this…and those that do, all echoed each other and said that Gordon ‘was ready’—despite all his negative runs in college, despite all his fumbles, despite the history of Wisconsin’s O-Line ‘pushing’ various RB numbers to hyper-inflated levels. Gordon has flaws for miles…but he looks so much like Jamaal Charles!!!!…if I hear that one more time!
No one questioned the rookie Gordon starting for San Diego day-one…because WE BELIEVE WITH OUR LITTLE, NATIONAL FOOTBALL MEDIA-PUMPED EMOTIONAL HEARTS THAT HE’S ‘THE MAN’, but anyone suggesting the rookie Zenner being ‘starter ready’ right now comes off as ludicrous. Melvin Gordon is arguably the 4th-most talented RB on his own team…and he’s been handed the keys already by every football analyst. Zenner is arguably the most talented RB on his team…and we’re aghast at the mere notion that he might force his way into a few carries on opening-day because SURELY HE CAN’T BE READY…HE’S JUST A ROOKIE!
I know. I know… ‘Ameer Abdullah (2 carries for 7 yards) is god’ people, calm down. I’m not saying Ameer isn’t good…it’s just that Zenner is as-good or better all the way around. They make a great backfield pairing. Offsetting each other’s deficiencies.
Joique Bell has 56 career games played…and zero 100+ yard rushing efforts.
I doubted Zenner would get a fair shake to play much this season, and that’s been proven wrong.
I doubted Zenner would see passing game work this preseason, and that was proven wrong in this game.
But I seriously doubt he’ll start over Joique Bell opening day…hmmmm…should I doubt Zenner anymore?
— I hope you had a chance to read my 2012-2014 ‘Rewind’ study of Robert Griffin III (2-5 for 8 yards) from a few weeks ago. If you didn’t, you could Google ‘Rewind Robert Griffin Fantasy Metrics’ and kill 20 minutes at work (or ball your eyes out for 20 minutes, if you’re a Redskins fan).
You could have just watched this horrific, now typical, RG3 performance in this preseason game. Everything wrong with RG3 was on display, like a nice little prophecy mini-bundle. His first throwing attempt (sacked) and his second throwing attempt in this game are the cornerstone of what I believe is wrong with him.
On his first pass, RG3 dropped back like a 2.5 step drop and immediately cast himself into a statue (feet dead/planted) to throw. He’s not far enough back in the pocket to begin with, but he is definitely not ready to move around either—he’s all but given up on that. So there he is planted, as the protection is backing up fast because that’s what pass protectors do—backup a little and absorb. The whole pocket backs RG3 into a tight coffin, and all that a close by defender has to do is reach and grab him. He lost nine-yards on the sack. They’ll blame the line, but his feet/mindset are the issue.
He’s trying to get rid of the ball too quickly (out of fear), that he sets his feet too early–before anything’s even open. He no longer has that bounce in his step to leave at the first sign of trouble, so he just stands there like he’s a bored crossing guard. When he does try to evade the pending doom at the last second, he’s going from totally completely still to trying to move his whole body another direction in a blink…he’s not bouncy and ‘cat like’ anymore. He doesn’t evade defenders hardly at all anymore.
After the sack, it is 3rd & 21 from his own 20. RG3 immediately drops back to pass and quick dumps a WR screen that had no intention of challenging for a longer play. This is RG3 on almost every passing play…short, simplistic passes no matter the down and distance–mixed with too many sacks and pressures.
In this game, RG3 took hit after hit…on sacks or crushing blows after he threw it–he also had two fumbles, and one lost in this limited viewing. All he’s good for anymore is short passes -5 to +5 yards away from the LOS. It’s a shame, but it’s reality–it’s time for Washington to regrettably turn the page…only they have nothing that much better to turn right now.
— Detroit LB IDP Kyle Van Noy (6 tackles, 3 solo) had some plays in this game that only he could make with his speed. He cut RBs down for no gain, where a gain looked immanent. He caught speedster rookie RB Trey Williams (10 carries for 52 yards) from behind, 38-yards downfield, after starting about five-yards behind him on a play not that close by.
Van Noy shows all signs of being something great in IDP someday, but is still not starting.
— An OLB/DE prospect our computer scouting models really liked, but feared his multiple pectoral issues in college, is former Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat (1 sack, 1 QB hit). I watched him work with Seattle as a UDFA last year, and he looked tentative and shaky. In this game, I saw the play labeled as a ‘Jeffcoat sack’, and thought that would be nice to watch him involved—with no expectations. I was impressed to see it was a real, impressive sack–him blasting off the edge, leaving the Left Tackle in despair, and just forcing his way to the QB quickly.
I then set out to watch more of his action, because I had kinda written him off as a lost cause due to the injuries–he really played well. He has his quick movement back on display…he’s a million-times better looking than last preseason. Stock back up here.
— Speaking of ‘lost causes’…what might have been with Ryan Broyles (3 rec. for 31 yards on 3 targets). He has lost that ‘it’ factor that I can see. There is no more burst off the snap, no graceful cuts on his routes. No burn after the catch. The multiple ACLs have done him in if my eyes are to be trusted.
— Redskins rookie RB Matt Jones (8 carries for 44 yards and 1 TD) looked solid/OK in this performance. It’s what I come to expect from him—a big guy running off-tackle with a lot of effort and average skills. Zach Zenner was much more impressive–only Zenner was a UDFA, and the Redskins totally wasted a 3rd-round pick on a guy who belongs in the NFL, but that there are 100 RBs just like him, and half are undrafted. Not a wasted player, just a wasted resource (a high pick).
Between Zenner and Jones, especially considering injury history, you’d rather have Zenner. Washington took Jones, and paid through the nose for it by comparison.