The Redskins kept the first-team offense on the field for the first half against the Packers, struggling to move the ball early before logging a 78-yard touchdown drive just before halftime.
After just six plays in the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden wanted to see the first-team offense get some run during Saturday's game against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField in Landover, Md.
But as was the case against the Ravens, the offense struggled to get into a rhythm early. All of Washington's first three possessions ended in similar fashion: three-and-out.
It was until the Redskins' fourth possession that they got the ball moving, going 25 yards in nine plays. Then right before halftime, quarterback Kirk Cousins engineered a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the two-minute offense.
"We stuttered and sputtered and missed a few throws and I had a couple runs rejected, but they stuck with it," Gruden said. "I think it was good for them to stay out there for the half, at least get a touchdown in there, have something positive happen."
Washington gained eight yards on the game's opening drive, but a seven-yard completion on 3rd-and-12 wasn't enough to move the chains. But the offense got new life when cornerback Fabian Moreau ran into Packers punt returner Trevor Davis to free a football that would be recovered by tight Niles Paul at the Green Bay 16-yard line.
In the red zone, Washington's second possession resulted in three incompleted pass attempts – the second of which was a fade to tight end Vernon Davis -- before kicker Dustin Hopkins came out for a 34-yard field goal try.
"We had a touchdown to Vernon, I fell, the ball was probably a foot short, so the defensive back breaks it up," Cousins said. "That's why I say it's a small margin of error. If the ball was a foot further, we had a touchdown on that second down, or whatever down it was, and we're feeling so good about ourselves. I think it was a good thing probably in the long run that we didn't get that throw because then I got to play the whole first half. It got us more work, and I think it's going to help our offense in the long run."
After the Packers extended their lead to 14-3 late in the second quarter, Cousins and Co. had one more chance to put points on the board before halftime.
They would do just that, moving the ball from their own 22-yard line to eventually score a four-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jamison Crowder on 4th-and-goal.
On the drive, Cousins went 5-of-7 for 77 yards. Forty-three of those yards came on a completion to Davis down the right sideline in which the quarterback perfectly placed the ball into his hands. He would also connect with running back Chris Thompson and wide receiver Josh Doctson for first down gainers.
"It was a two-minute drill, so we hit a couple big plays there," Cousins said. "Guys with individual match ups, we throw the ball with accuracy, we protect well and good things happen. But it takes all 11 and when we were moving the ball, that's because all 11 of the guys were executing. No sacks in the first half, no turnovers, there's still a lot of positives and we can go back and fix everything that wasn't good enough."
While Washington wants to turn in more touchdown drives like that, they'll need to have a more balanced attack moving forward.
Cousins would finish the game with 144 passing yards, but Rob Kelley and Thompson combined for just 10 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
Over the first two preseason games, the pair has combined for 22 yards on 16 attempts.
"We're building something and we've got to do some things and quite frankly we didn't get them done today, but I'm not going to give up on it by any stretch of imagination," Gruden said of the running game. "We've just got to continue with our plan and build on what we've done, or haven't done, learn from it, move on and get ready for the Bengals and try to figure out a new plan."