- September 3, 2021
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The Washington Football Team’s 37-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Saturday night’s sloppy preseason finale at FedEx Field included several concerns — even for a preseason game. Dustin Hopkins missed his third field goal of August (a block), the running backs looked mistake prone (multiple drops), and cornerback Torry McTyer, one of the surprises of camp, was ruled out with a concussion.
Big picture, the numbers might matter little because the starters didn’t play. But when Coach Ron Rivera and his staff sit down to determine the final 53-man roster ahead of the deadline Tuesday at 4 p.m., there were several players who helped and hurt their cases.
With roster spots on the line, Washington thrashed by Ravens in preseason finale
Here’s everything you need to know from Saturday’s game:
Washington sat 27 players, all its starters and key backups, to see more from the down-roster players battling for a spot. The spotlight was brightest on bubble players such as wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, cornerback Jimmy Moreland, safety Deshazor Everett and running back Peyton Barber, among others.
Gandy-Golden might have looked the best. The 2020 fourth-round pick high-pointed a contested catch on the first play of the game and totaled four catches for 39 yards. He could have been more productive but missed two imprecise passes from quarterback Kyle Allen. With Rivera preaching consistency, the performance was important for Gandy-Golden, who struggled at New England but bounced back against Cincinnati .
The worst night seemed to belong to Barber or fellow running back Jaret Patterson. Barber dropped a pass, missed a blitz pickup in pass protection and averaged three yards on four rushes. His spot seemed secure last week, when starter Antonio Gibson struggled in short-yardage situations, but it now could be more of an open question.
Patterson, the star of camp, had at least two drops. This is worrisome because the undrafted free agent still needs to prove he can be a receiver out of the backfield after mostly being used as a traditional runner at Buffalo.
After the game, Rivera and Allen dismissed these concerns as jitters. Rivera said Patterson turned his head before he secured the ball, a fixable lapse in judgment.
The kicking issues that have plagued Washington all preseason reemerged with Hopkins’s third missed field goal. Rivera said this one, from 55 yards, was out of the range Hopkins set for the game, but the coach wanted to test the process anyway. Hopkins said his process was bad because he sped himself up while watching the play clock and struck the ground earlier than he would like.
In the past, Rivera said he hasn’t brought in competition for Hopkins because the misses were the result of the entire operation with holder Tress Way and rookie long snapper Camaron Cheeseman. And while the trio rebounded just before halftime with a 48-yard make, the team cannot feel confident in its unit heading into the season, having made four (31, 31, 34, 48) and missed three (40, 50, 55).
In his postgame news conference, Hopkins was candid about his struggles, which he described as operational at first and solely on him Saturday. He noted he just needs to slow down.
In the past month, Hopkins has occasionally posted on Instagram about his brother-in-law Jimmy, hospitalized with complications from the coronavirus. But when asked how it has affected him, Hopkins said he sometimes hesitates to share updates because he doesn’t want it to be seen as an excuse for his poor performances. He pointed out everyone is going through something but that he ultimately posts because he truly believes in the power of prayer.
McTyer, who seemed to have established himself as the fourth or fifth cornerback, suffered a concussion. Free safety Jeremy Reaves hit one of the stars of camp in the helmet when he came from center field to help McTyer defend a pass down the left sideline to Ravens wide receiver Deon Cain.
After the play, McTyer looked shaken up. He walked 20 yards toward the sideline but sat down near midfield, removed his helmet and motioned for the training staff. He spent a few minutes in the blue medical tent before a trainer led him to the locker room.
Rookie safety Darrick Forrest (hamstring), defensive end James Smith-Williams (sore leg) and defensive end Casey Toohill (toe) also did not play. Rivera called injuries “very disruptive” to the process of picking the final 53.
“When you don’t have guys available to play — James was not available to play, Toohill was not available to play — that’s really disappointing because those are guys you want to see play,” Rivera said. “Those are guys you have slated at certain positions, and then to get out there and miss that opportunity to work and help, that’s big.”
Maurice Jones-Drew showed Jaret Patterson that making the NFL at 5-foot-7 is possible.
Baltimore gashed the second- and third-team defense. This wouldn’t be a concern if the onslaught had been led by MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, who started for the Ravens, but he departed after one drive, and third-stringer Tyler Huntley dominated. The next seven drives ended touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, halftime, touchdown, touchdown.
While Huntley made some impressive throws, the lack of push from the defensive line and the inability to stop the run seemed like more of a problem.
The final installment of the punt returner competition between DeAndre Carter and Dax Milne never materialized. Baltimore downed one punt, and Milne fair-caught another. The return unit was a “hot topic” this preseason, special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said, because Washington had one of the NFL’s worst units last year and needs to improve.
In a possible hint to which way the team is leaning, Milne, a seventh-round pick from Brigham Young, played ahead of Carter on returns and with the wide receivers. He dropped one pass and bobbled another but made an impressive 26-yard catch to complete a strong case for a roster spot.
Andrew Golden contributed to this report.
What to know
• Trust and chemistry are growing as Ryan Fitzpatrick settles in with Washington
• Inside Washington’s kicking game struggles, and what can be done to fix them
• Being able to represent Chile ‘means the world’ to WFT tight end Sammis Reyes
• Jaret Patterson grew up a die-hard Washington fan. Now he’s fighting to make the team.
• Terry McLaurin wants to take his game to another level. He asked Doug Baldwin for help.
Washington’s NFL draft
• Dyami Brown is known as a deep threat. In Washington, he’s ready to prove he’s much more.
• Washington Football Team draft class: What each player brings and how he fits
• Personal touch separates Ron Rivera from other head coaches during NFL draft process
• For Jason Wright, WFT’s outsider president, the future is all about change
• The convincing boom beneath Ron Rivera’s campaign to change Washington’s football culture
• Ranking Washington football seasons in the Daniel Snyder era from least to most fun
• Chase Young’s upbringing made him a ‘crazy unusual’ leader, and Washington is already following
• Barry Svrluga: The Washington Football Team won’t find a better name than it already has
• Why Washington dropped its mascot and became the Washington Football Team
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