WASHINGTON—The much-anticipated start of the professional football season was ushered in here with a flop on Sunday, when Miami defeated Washington 17-10 in a game dominated by defense and missed opportunities.
And while the running game was likely the biggest positive takeaway for the losing side, there was another exciting facet of Sunday’s season opener: the debut of four promising Washington rookies.
First-round pick Brandon Scherff was thrown into the deep end from the start, when the young guard from Iowa was given the nearly impossible assignment of stopping Ndamukong Suh, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Scherff proved he was more than up to the challenge, preventing Suh from recording a single sack, or even putting any pressure on Washington’s newly appointed starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“I was impressed with the way Brandon played,” Washington Head Coach Jay Gruden told reporters. “For his first game, he performed extremely well.”
However, the task for Scherff does not get any easier. In Week 2, Washington will host the Saint Louis Rams, known for their bruising defensive line
Like Scherff, outside linebacker Preston Smith also made an immediate impact in his regular season debut.
Although Smith lost the battle for the starting job to second-year-player Trent Murphy in the preseason, the rookie shined on Sunday: in one of only 12 snaps played, he recorded a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery on a wacky second-quarter play that saw the football kicked, pushed, and generally mishandled for almost 25 yards.
Running back Matt Jones, Washington’s third round pick out of the University of Florida, showed glimpses of his promise in his backup role this week, tallying 28 rushing yards on just six carries.
Four of Jones’ carries came in the second quarter, when the bulldozing back ran for at least four yards on each of four consecutive plays, helping to advance Washington’s only touchdown drive of the game.
Although Jamison Crowder, Washington’s third round pick out of Duke, only played 14 offensive snaps, his biggest contribution came on special teams.
Crowder returned two punts on Sunday and totaled 23 return yards for an average of 11.5 yards per return. If Crowder can hold that number throughout the season, he would likely end up among the league’s top-10 punt-return men.
Washington’s three other rookies — safety Kyshoen Jarrett and linebackers Houston Bates and Martrell Spaight — dressed for Sunday’s game, but did not play a down. On Monday, Bates was cut by the team.
Washington and its six rookies will look to earn their first regular season win when they host the Rams at FedEx Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday.