All summer long the theme out of the Washington Redskins training camp was about the defense and the potential the unit had to be an elite group.
Fans have been waiting to see how a mixture of talented veterans and young players could mesh together and become the formidable unit that is carrying high expectations.
Playing in front of their home crowd on Thursday night in the nation’s capital, the Redskins defense gave a brief glimpse of what they can do.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals in their first preseason game action, Washington’s defensive starters played with an edge and also played with speed.
Aided by questionable unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that were both against CB Josh Norman, Cincinnati was on the move early in the first quarter.
That’s when the perfect storm came together for the Redskins defense and a look at what will be needed for the team to have a chance to be successful in the regular season was on display.
With the Bengals inside of the red zone, QB Andy Dalton had a pass tipped by Redskins defensive lineman Daron Payne. The ball was intercepted by safety Montae Nicholson who raced down the sidelines for a 96-yard touchdown.
Those are the big plays that defensive players have been talking about throughout camp. To finally see it happen in live-action can’t help but assure the Redskins defense that they can do it more often.
Norman saw what the Redskins defense brought to the table and liked the energy on the field.
“We were flying around, guys out there making plays,” Norman said. “They’re hungry, you can see it. First day out.
“Guys first day out, fresh out,” Norman continued. “Like for real, they were hungry, you could tell. They were tired of going against our offense, granted, they wanted to come and make their presence felt. Today, they really did that and they showed what we can become. We always say we want to attack the ball. We want to attack whoever has that ball and go straight for them, no matter if it’s in the air or on the ground. With guys running to the ball, great things happen.”
The unit will have to clean up ill-timed penalties but overall their play impressed coach Jay Gruden.
” .. I think they did good, man,” Gruden said. “I liked the way they rebounded from the penalties. Josh Norman tried to catch the ball and he got illegal contact. Jonathan [Allen], the whistle blew and he, you know, probably needed to use better judgment there. But to recover from those penalties – I think four on the first drive – and to get the pick-six by Montae [Nicholson] was big time. I liked to see them respond, and then the next two drives, they were pretty successful.”