Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' preseason Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals that took place at FedExField in Landover, Md.
1. The Redskins get the ground game back on track through some powerful running from Fat Rob.
In Washington's first two preseason outings, the combination of Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson struggled to generate a balanced offensive attack.
Against the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers, the pair combined for just 21 rushing yards. Those woes continued through the first quarter of Sunday's nationally televised matchup with the Bengals, as Kelley ran the ball just one time for four yards as the Redskins did not pick up a first down on the opening frame.
But in the second quarter, Kelley finally got it going, first with a five-yard run and then a 21-yard gain in which the Tulane product sliced the middle of an overly aggressive Cincinnati defense
Kelley capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run on 2nd-and-goal, his first score of the preseason.
"I think the difference for me was the offensive line," Kelley admitted after the game. "They opened up some holes. Obviously you can see they had some holes that anybody could run through out there. I think just getting back to what got me to starting running back today. Just some hard runs, pushing the pile and stuff like that. So, we have to get back to the basics."
Kelley would finish the afternoon with 10 carries for 57 yards while Thompson chipped in with nine yards as well.
"I think we were able to do a couple different things," Gruden said. "We tried some gap pulls and some gap runs. We did some outside zone, some inside zones and for the most part I guess we executed well."
2. For the first time as a member of the Redskins, Junior Galette saw game action.
Galette joked in the days leading up to Sunday's game with the Bengals that his return to the field was like a highly anticipated movie that kept getting delayed.
Originally signed by the Redskins during 2015 training camp, Galette twice suffered torn Achilles that wiped away his last two years. Then after an impressive early training camp showing this year, Galette was held out of Washington's first two preseason games with a hamstring injury.
But on Sunday, Galette appeared on 21 defensive snaps and recorded two tackles.
"It felt amazing, man," Galette said. "Coming in here, going through the process, getting on the bus from the hotel, the pregame meal, everything felt amazing like I never left. It's been two years. Just enjoying the camaraderie, everything, the pregame music on my headphones, going out there, warming up, it felt great."
Galette's best trait as a football player is his speed rush. On his very first play, he nearly recorded a sack when the Stillman College product got a perfect jump off the line and ducked inside of the Bengals' left tackle to apply pressure to Andy Dalton.
Dalton got the ball off on a quick three-step drop, but Galette was just inches away from taking down the quarterback.
"I've been doing everything I did in the game in practice, so it just felt great, you know, to just go do it in live action," Galette said.
3. Trent Williams was disappointed in his pick-six, but remains optimistic about what's ahead for the passing attack during the regular season.
In his final preseason action before the regular season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cousins completed 10-of-19 passes for 109 yards along with an eight-yard carry on a third down quarterback keeper.
As was the case in his first two preseason showings, Cousins struggled to get the offense moving in the first quarter. In the first 15 minutes, the Pro Bowler completed just 2-of-5 attempts for 11 yards while taking two third down sacks and being called for intentional grounding on another third down play.
Opening up the second quarter, Washington's offense appeared poised to final break through, as the Redskins broke into Cincinnati territory in just four plays. But on a 3rd-and-5 attempt in which Cousins tried to locate Thompson coming out of the backfield, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict jumped the running back's route and sprinted down the sidelined for a 62-yard interception return for touchdown.
"The interception was entirely my fault," Cousins said. "He made a very good play, but I gave him the opportunity to do that by being a little late to get there. And then it was a good response to put that drive together. We ran the ball so well with some really good play calls. All those plays run together for me right now so you probably know better than me how we got down there. But it was important to bounce back, certainly."
Washington responded well, though, to the interceptions, as Cousins led a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in which he completed three different passes of at least 12 yards, locating Vernon Davis, Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Jamison Crowder for the gains.
With tight end Jordan Reed back on the field, Washington's offense – particularly the passing game -- is at near-strength entering the regular season.
"We do have high expectations, for a lot of different reasons," Cousins said of the passing game. "For one, we do protect well, we have a very solid offensive line, that's where it starts. You have to have time to throw. We do feel we have several players, not just at the receiver position, but the tight end position and the running back position who can help us in the pass game, and it's never going to be the same guy week in and week out, it's probably going to evolve each week—who gets involved and who makes the biggest difference. But we have high expectations and you have to be ready to go."
4. Jordan Reed returns from the PUP List to record two catches for 12 yards.
After spending the entirety of training camp rehabbing a toe injury, Washington's Pro Bowl tight end was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Aug. 20.
He was a full participant in last week's practices and showed little rust in his return to the field, catching two passes for 12 yards – both on first down attempts – on 18 plays.
"It's great," Crowder said of Reed's return. "I think that now that everyone is back for the offense that we are able to go forward and practice, get that camaraderie back within the unit and hopefully be ready and productive. We have Philadelphia coming."
Reed's presence changed the way Cincinnati approached Washington's offense, as the tight end was doubled on more than one occasion.
"I did feel the defense was aware of him," Cousins said. "He is a presence, has a big effect on every game plan, so we have to continue getting him out there and working together and get ready for Week 1."
5. With a chip on their shoulder, the second-team defensive unit slowed Cincinnati's backups.
After the starters played all of the first half, inside linebacker Martrell Spaight and the second defensive unit took over in the third quarter.
In the second half, Cincinnati managed just three points. Their final five drives ended with two punts, two turnover on downs and an interception.
"I felt like we did a great job," said Spaight, who finished with a game-high seven tackles. "We got a few stops out there, the turnovers, the sudden change, we did a good job and I'm thankful for that."
Late in the game, Cincinnati appeared ready to potentially take back the lead as they drove all the way down to Washington's 12-yard line with less than nine minutes remaining.
But a 3rd-and-5 attempt by McCarron, the quarterback misplaced a ball that would find the hands of rookie safety Fish Smithson, who returned the ball 63 yards into Washington territory.
"I kind of just read the quarterback and just made the play out there based off instincts," Smithson said. "The coaches did a really good job of preparing us and letting us know what they was going to do, some of their tendencies throughout the week. I just went out there and did what I was coached to do and made a play."