BALTIMORE - With the Ravens electing to go for it on a 4th down and less than a yard, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must have smiled. When Baltimore snapped the ball, high-priced free agent acquisition Jason Hatcher blew up the middle of the offensive line, and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson ran free to the backfield and planted Ravens running back Bernard Pierce. The defense held for the stop thanks to perfect execution, and the Redskins got back the ball.
Washington has been high on Robinson since he was drafted three seasons ago, but injuries largely kept him from the field. When London Fletcher retired after the 2013 season, Washington had a big hole in the middle of its defense. Then the team did not address linebacker in the NFL Draft, and it became apparent Bruce Allen intended for Robinson to take over for Fletcher.
Through three preseason games, it looks like a smart decision. Against Baltimore, Robinson registered four solo tacles, including two tackles for a loss. The first came on the 4th down against Pierce, but the other may have been more impressive.
In the first half, Ravens speedy wide receiver Jacoby Jones got the ball from Joe Flacco on a reverse, and Robinson stayed with him stride for stride, forcing Jones out of bounds for a loss. That play showed Robinson's lateral quickness, an asset the Redskins lacked last season as Fletcher lost speed late in his career. Standing 6'3", 240 lbs., Robinson's speed will continue to surprise offenses this fall.
"I feel good," Robinson said after the game.
And the Redskins defense has looked good. When the starting unit has played together in the preseason, the pass rush has looked fierce, especially Saturday with Hatcher. Perhaps more encouraging, pass coverage has been tight. Save for a two-minute drill TD drive led by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the Redskins defense stopped the Baltimore starting offense most of the night.
"We did a great job on defense," Gruden said. "I was excited to see that."
A healthy Keenan Robinson making plays from inside linebacker should keep Gruden excited and the rest of the Redskins coaches smiling.