BALTIMORE — In the aftermath of a blowout loss, Washington linebacker Will Compton found the bright side.
“It’s preseason,” he said. “Shoot, my rookie year we were 4-0 easily in the preseason and ended up going 3-13.”
A 23-3 thumping by the Ravens in Baltimore on Thursday night doesn’t matter much to the Redskins, considering most starters played just six snaps in the exhibition opener.
“It showed us that as much as we may have been making some plays in training camp in Richmond and feeling good about what we’re doing, I think it’s a realization that we’ve got a long ways to go,” said quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was 1 of 2 for 5 yards. “That could be a good thing in the long run. It could be good to have that wake-up call. It could be the best thing we need right now.”
Teammates weren’t shying away from Cousins’ assessment. Practices had been light and up-tempo, but Washington’s first live work against a real opponent showed holes — the running game, ball protection and penalties.
The offensive line — specifically Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff — struggled. Cousins was sacked and the team committed seven penalties for 91 yards, not far below the total of 138 yards it gained on offense largely with second- and third-stringers.
“I didn’t think we did as well as we should have, and now we see there’s a lot of things that we have to work on,” third-down back Chris Thompson said. “I’m not down about it, but we just have a lot of things to fix.”
Coach Jay Gruden didn’t put a lot into this, planning to get starters on offense and defense in for six plays and out. Cornerback Josh Norman lamented the quick hook saying, “You get set up for that cake you think you’re about to eat and you can’t devour it.”
Starting strong safety Su’a Cravens and linebacker Trent Murphy sustained knee injuries and were scheduled for MRIs. Murphy, who is suspended for the first four regular-season games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy, was on crutches in the locker room after the game.
“Any time you have to go get an MRI, I’m concerned,” Gruden said. “So we’ll see.”
Three fumbles also concerned Gruden. Rookie Samaje Perine was guilty of one and also dropped an open pass in a case of first-game jitters.
“We have to really concentrate on ball security,” Gruden said. “We focus on it. We fundamentally drill it. We just have to make sure it’s pounded in our heads a little bit more.”
The play of rookie defenders Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and undrafted Nico Marley as well as free-agent addition Zach Brown provided some optimism. Washington’s first-team defense forced a banged-up Ravens offense into two three-and-outs at the beginning of the game, but when the regular season gets going the competition will be tougher than Ryan Mallett working behind a makeshift line.
With that in mind, Cousins said no Redskins players should be happy about how things went.
“There wasn’t one phase of the game or one position that can walk away saying, ‘Oh, we had a great night tonight,'” Cousins said. “I think it’ll give us a sense of urgency as we continue to practice and get ready for the next game.”
There are three more to go before the season starts. But left tackle Trent Williams, like Cousins, says the product must improve.
“We’re professionals, so there really is no such thing as overreacting,” Williams said. “You’ve got to be hard on yourself. Even though it is preseason, it’s a dress rehearsal. You’ve got to take it as if that was the real thing. You’ve got to take a closer look at it and get better on it.”