The Washington Football Team hosted the Cincinnati Bengals for its second preseason game and secured its first victory. Here are five takeaways from the 17-13 home win.
1. The front seven was disruptive.
Running against this defense is going to be a problem. Just ask Joe Mixon.
Mixon, who rushed for 1,000 yards in both seasons where he started at least 13 games, didn't find many running lanes with the Bengals' starters, and when he did, they were quickly filled by a burgundy-clan defender. His first run -- an outside pitch to the left side -- was blown up by Jon Bostic, who forced him inside for a one-yard loss.
The Bengals tried a similar play on their next drive, this time to the right, and Montez Sweat dragged Samaje Perine down for another loss. Cole Holcomb and Daron Payne were just as aggressive by stuffing Cincinnati's rusher for minimal gains at best.
Cincinnati finished the game with 111 rushing yards, which is progress from the 179 yards gained by the Patriots. If Washington can keep making improvements against the run, it's defense will be even more formidable.
2. An up and down night from the starting offense.
Washington's first play of the game saw Logan Thomas rumbling down the sideline for a 22-yard gain. After that, it took some time for the offense to get back its momentum.
The pass to Thomas was immediately followed by two incompletions and a four-yard gain. Then, a promising seven-play drive ended with a failed fourth down conversion. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the ball was ripped from Cam Sims’ grasp, which resulted in a Cincinnati field goal.
But on the starters' final drive, the offense settled back in with a nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive fueled by a 29-yard grab from Dyami Brown. Antonio Gibson accounted for nearly half of the offense's production on the drive with four straight plays for 30 yards. The drive ultimately resulted in a game-tying 34-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins.
There's clearly plenty of firepower in Washington's offense, and its weapons occasionally shined. But it's equally apparent there are still a few kinks to work through before the regular season.
3. A brighter spotlight on the rookies.
Ron Rivera is not afraid of giving young players a chance to prove themselves. He drove that point home again Friday night with several rookies getting time with the starters.
William Jackson III being ruled out before off kickoff meant Benjamin St-Juste was one of the starting cornerbacks on the outside. Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen tried to challenge him after Washington's fumble with back-to-back throws in his direction, but both resulted in incompletions, the last of which was a breakup against Ja'Marr Chase.
On offense, Brown's ability as a deep threat has already been mentioned, and his 29-yard completion got a roar from the crowd. Brown ultimately finished with two catches for 33 yards. Jaret Patterson, one of the stars from Washington's first preseason game, got his first carry of the night with the starters. Patterson had another strong night with a third-down conversion in the second quarter and 133 total yards, including a 37-yard kick return, and a touchdown.
Rivera has raved about the talent in this rookie class, and as more opportunities come, there are plenty of examples that justify that excitement.
4. Taylor Heinicke had an exceptional night.
Almost every aspect of Taylor Heinicke’s skillset was on display against the Bengals. He evaded would-be tacklers and scrambled for 26 yards. As electrifying as those moments were, though, his best performance came as a passer.
Heinicke was accurate and efficient through about two quarters of action. He completed his first eight passes for 54 yards, and he directed two scoring drives of 10 and 11 plays, respectively. One of his best plays, while impressive, ultimately didn't count; an end zone shot to Sims was ruled an incompletion, but he delivered the ball exactly where it needed to be for Sims to make a play.
Heinicke finished the game 11-of-13 for 80 yards and 92.3 rating -- an improvement from the 9-of-15, 86-yard performance. And judging by the cheers, he's still a fan favorite.
5. An improved performance from Dustin Hopkins.
Despite Dustin Hopkins missing both of his field goal attempts against the Patriots, Rivera maintained his confidence in the veteran kicker. On Friday, Hopkins proved why that faith was not misplaced.
Prior to Patterson's 1-yard score, Hopkins scored all nine of Washington's points and drilled one 34-yard attempt and two tries from 31 yards. Tress Way mentioned earlier this week that he, Hopkins and Camaron Cheeseman worked on fixing issues that came up against the Patriot, and that effort paid off.
Rivera has stuck with Hopkins, an 83.9% field goal kicker, even when he found himself in a slump last year. Tonight, Hopkins was back to his old ways.