- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2018

LANDOVER — Through four seasons at the helm of the Washington Redskins, coach Jay Gruden has yet to record a victory to open the regular season. In that span, critics have questioned Gruden’s approach, saying his team is too loose in the preseason to be adequately prepared for Week 1. 

After Friday’s 29-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Redskins did nothing to quash those concerns.

The Redskins season-opener is just 16 days away, and Washington didn’t perform in the way fans would have liked to have seen in the dress rehearsal for the starters. 

Washington’s starting offense and defense came out flat, looking a step behind a sharp Broncos team. Quarterback Alex Smith threw for just 33 yards — completing only three of eight passes, a disappointing performance after a solid debut last week against the New York Jets.

Each unit had their own fair share of issues — but drops and missed tackles were the recurring themes.

To start the game, the Redskins went three-and-out and new Broncos quarterback Case Keenum led his team to an 11-play, 52-yard drive that resulted in a 50-yard field goal from Brandon McManus.

After another stalled Redskins drive, the Broncos again marched down the field — scoring on a 24-yard run from rookie running back Royce Freeman. On that scoring play, Freeman evaded three missed tackles, which included safety Montae Nicholson whiffing on what would have been a touchdown-saving tackle.

The Redskins were in a quick 10-0 hole — and that overshadowed a promising debut from running back Adrian Peterson.

On Thursday, Gruden said he was “anxious” to see how the 33-year-old Peterson, signed Monday, would perform after looking explosive in practice. Earlier in the week, Redskins executive Doug Williams said he thought there was a “lot of fuel” left in Peterson’s tank.

Even though it was just one game, it was hard not to see why. Peterson finished with 56 yards on 11 carries — ripping off gains of 13 and 15 yards. Interestingly enough, Peterson started the game in place of Rob Kelley, despite Gruden initially saying the veteran was being brought in for depth.

Peterson particularly dazzled when he converted on fourth-and-1, dancing around defenders for 15 yards. At one point during that run, Peterson stopped, shuffled his feet to evade tacklers and plowed straight ahead. It was the type of run solely lacking in Washington’s offense over the last few seasons.

But Peterson was largely the only high-point in what was a very lethargic performance from the Redskins.

With the Redskins down 17-3, backup quarterback Colt McCoy took over for Smith with 4:37 left in the first half. The starting offense’s only points came on a 10-play, 63-yard drive that stalled in the red zone. 

Keenum, meanwhile, had his way with the Redskins defense — throwing for 148 yards while completing 66.7 percent  (12-of-18) of his passes. He played the entire first half. 

The preseason is not a time to panic. The result is meaningless, after all. Still, this was the one chance the Redskins had to see extending playing time and impress. Smith did not play in the first game in New England and saw just one series against the Jets. 

Put it this way: Gruden said he wanted to see the starters play with “good energy.” They didn’t.  

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