The Washington Redskins enter their third preseason game of four with a minimal amount to take away from the first two games. Granted, it is preseason, but it should also be a time when you are maximizing repetitions, and seeing exactly what type of roster you have. The casual fan has no idea how training camp went, nor do they know exactly how productive these practices have been leading up to this Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. What the casual fan can see is results, and the Redskins haven’t generated much positive in these first two outings.
This week, fans should (and I stress SHOULD) expect to see a healthy dose of the starting defensive and offensive units in what is considered to be a dress rehearsal for the regular season opener. What that generally means is, during the third preseason game, the starters log a high number of snaps, and usually play at the very least, one half of the game, and in many cases even longer. Coaches actually game-plan by using plays and schemes similar to what they will use during the season that aren’t as “vanilla” as the ones they have used in the first two preseason games. They will also try various personnel packages while at the same time shortening the rotations to somewhat resemble who they plan on having on the field week 1. This is important offensively because teams want to use this third game as a chance to establish cohesiveness, and right now, it seems like that is going to be tough for the Redskins to do when they are yet to name a week one starting quarterback.
That said, what I don’t want to see: Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins alternating series with the starting unit on Thursday night; what I would like to see: head coach Jay Gruden make a decision, and roll with one quarterback, and get him ready for week one whomever that may be. A case can be made for both Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskin to be the week one starter, but if Gruden is smart, he will start Keenum who has played in this league behind some pretty bad offensive lines, and lived to talk about it. He is also a veteran that has seen a lot, and will understand how to get this team moving at the NFL level. The Redskins can’t afford to spend the first few weeks “figuring things out” with Haskins, so they have to ride with the guy that has proven he can do it, and let the young thundercat learn, get comfortable, and continue to build up his library until it’s go time.
Offensively, the Redskins need to find answers this week. Some of these guys need to separate themselves from the rest. Offensive line wise, Wes Martin needs to prove why he should be starting as a rookie undoubtedly, and Ereck Flowers need to build off last week’s performance and solidify why the Redskins brought him in to be the starting left guard. The more important battle other than quarterback is unquestionably the starting left tackle competition between Geron Christian and Donald Penn. Christian has not been progressing as quickly as the Redskin coaching staff would like, but Penn is 36 years old and the Redskins will be hard pressed to have to rely on him to stay healthy for 16 games this season.
The most frustrating competition that needs immediate answers is the wide receiver battle. I can’t name one receiver that I just look at and say “this guy without question has to be here” outside of Terry McLaurin; that isn’t based on his in-game production because he hasn’t done anything. It’s strictly by default. Outside of that, they need to pick 6 bodies, put them in uniforms, and say “this is what we rocking with”. If Josh Doctson isn’t in that mix, don’t play him tomorrow night, and waste reps a Robert Davis could be getting, or a Darvin Kidsy or Kelvin Harmon. Get these guys ready to play. If Doctson is in fact part of this teams plans, then they need to throw him the football, and let him do what he does. Get him involved and make him a part of this offense. If not, don’t waste his, or anybody else’s time having him out there running decoy routes. It’s counterproductive.
The Redskin defense showed some flashes of brilliance last week in limited snaps, and will look to build off of that success this week against a more than formidable Atlanta Falcon offense. They will be tested from all facets of the game, and it will be a great measuring stick going forward to see where they are as a unit heading into opening day. There are plenty of personnel questions that need to be answered defensively as well, but for the most part, the starting unit looks to be cemented. Shaun Dion-Hamilton is currently the second starting middle linebacker next to Jon Bostic, but he may be in jeopardy of being overthrown by Josh Harvey-Clemens or possibly even rookie Cole Holcomb. Look for Hamilton to stand out Thursday and make some plays to remind the coaches and his teammates why he belongs in that slot.
The defense as a unit needs to look to establish DOMINANCE; not the typical “bend but don’t break completely” type of production Redskin fans are used to seeing. The defensive line needs to spend the majority of its’ time in the Atlanta Falcon backfield, and I don’t mean via offsides penalties. The outside linebackers Ryan Anderson and Ryan Kerrigan need to do what they do and set the edge while collapsing the pocket. For the defensive backs, it’s simple: stay focused and maintain your discipline, but above all, make plays. This current starting defense on paper should make opposing offenses at the very least concerned when they look across the field on Sundays. Thursday night should be no different and mark the beginning of the Redskins defensive dominance.
The Redskins will be without some key players in this game to include Colt McCoy who is not 100 percent, and Trent Williams who is still holding out due to seemingly irreconcilable differences between he and the Redskin front office. Other notable players that will not play Thursday are wide receiver Trey Quinn and cornerback Fabian Moreau. Still questionable are Derrius Guice (who may receive a few carries) who has yet to be cleared for contact, wide receiver Paul Richardson (who is more than likely not to play), defensive linemen Tim Settle and Caleb Brantley, and starting tight end Jordan Reed.
Thursday night, the Redskins coaching staff will have a bullseye on it. The offense should start to resemble a team that has been practicing with each other for the last month. The defense should be taking it up another notch by keeping this Atlanta team out of scoring position. The special teams need to not allow the opposition to score, and to make sure they are maintaining disciplines at every position. Special teams will also serve as the main opportunity for some of these fringe players to prove that they belong in one of the final open roster spots. The Redskins can’t afford to start this season 0-1, and maybe even 0-2, with the first 2 games being within the division. It all starts with Thursday by putting everything you have been practicing together and making it work.
Establish an attitude.
More importantly, establish an IDENTITY.
All units. All teams. Who are the Redskins?
Thursday night should be the first realistic sneak-peek of what this team should resemble on opening day. Are they the same ole mediocre Redskins? Are they a team that if they decide they are going to win football games, nobody is going to be able to keep them from accomplishing that? Only time will tell, and the Redskins are running out of it with this preseason winding down. Hopefully, we see the Redskins put together a productive outing Thursday night, and resemble a quality football team. If not, you will be hearing about it from me next week...As you were...
Photo Credit: Washington Redskins