Redskins eager for preseason opener against Titans
What: Redskins (0-0) at Titans (0-0)
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet (in HD) and NBC-4
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live on CSN: 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
RICHMOND—It’s been seven long months since the Redskins lined up against players not wearing burgundy and gold. Yet, some of the same questions that followed their playoff loss to the Seahawks in January are still being asked.
- If Robert Griffin III isn’t healthy enough to play Week 1, how prepared is Kirk Cousins?
- How does defensive coordinator Jim Haslett plan to fix the broken pass defense?
- Can the return of injured starters Fred Davis, Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather put the reigning NFC East champs over the top?
Those questions won’t be completely answered Thursday night at LP Field. But by the end of the Redskins’ preseason opener against the Titans, we’ll have some new information to digest.
Let’s start with Griffin/Cousins. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan has said that RG3 won’t play in the preseason and, given that he hasn’t even taken reps in 11-on-11 drills in practice, it’s safe to assume that he’ll watch from the sidelines as Cousins directs the first team offense.
Cousins won his first career NFL start in Cleveland last season and performed solidly when called upon to replace an ailing RG3 on three other occasions. He completed 68.8-percent of his throws but also tossed three interceptions – just two fewer than RG3, despite 345 fewer pass attempts.
Is Cousins more judicious with his passes? What’s his overall comfort level? He’s expected to play 10-15 snaps, according to Shanahan, so it might be difficult to drawn any concrete conclusions. But it’s important for Cousins to look sharp, get off to a strong start and build some confidence because, let’s face it, no one can be 100-percent sure Griffin will be ready four weeks from now.
“We’re going to find out how comfortable I really am,” Cousins said after Tuesday’s practice. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can up to this point. I feel like I’ve practiced hard. I’ve gotten a lot better, developed as a quarterback. As I’ve said, now we’ve got to see it happen in games – and the first chance is Thursday night.”
In addition to Cousins, all eyes will also be on the secondary, which, as you may recall, yielded 31 passing touchdowns (more than all but one team). The Redskins attempted to address that deficiency in the draft, selecting cornerback David Amerson as well as safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas.
All three are expected to start in Nashville and you can bet secondary coach Raheem Morris will be anxious to see how they perform at game speed, facing Titans quarterback Jake Locker and wide receivers Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. Again, it’s going to be tough to discern any conclusions. But we’ll know where Amerson, Thomas and Rambo stand in their development.
And finally, we’ll get our first look at the Redskins coming off injury. Well, some of them, at least. RG3 and Meriweather – both recovering from ACL injuries – are likely to sit out. But Davis (Achilles’ tendon) and Orakpo (pectoral muscle tear) could get some snaps. Davis was the team’s leading receiver when he got hurt, while Orakpo’s absence contributed to the pass rush’s precipitous decline in 2012.
In addition to the big storylines, here are three other areas the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring:
1—Position battles. Unlike previous preseasons for the Redskins, there aren’t many starting jobs on the line. According to the team’s recently-released depth chart, Rambo is listed as the starting free safety, Tyler Polumbus is the starting right tackle and Roy Helu Jr. is the No. 2 running back.
Will any of that change over the next four weeks? Doesn’t seem likely. But if you’re looking for some potential drama, those are the positions to watch.
2—The other 2013 draft picks. Amerson, Rambo and Thomas have hogged the spotlight through the first two weeks of camp. But you may be surprised to learn they’re not the only rookies on the roster.
Let’s start with the two draft picks who are candidates to sit out due to injury: Tight end Jordan Reed is nursing a bruised foot, while running back Chris Thompson missed several practices last week after experiencing some soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
As for the other draftees, keep an eye on outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins. He’s earned strong reviews and figures to push for playing time, particularly with Rob Jackson suspended the first four games.
Running back Jawan Jamison, meantime, is one of five players (Helu, Evan Royster, Keiland Williams and Thompson are the others) battling for two, maybe three jobs, behind starter Alfred Morris. Jamison needs to stand out this preseason if he hopes to stick.
3—Richard Crawford and Niles Paul are listed on the depth chart as the No. 1 punt and kickoff returners, respectively. But there’s a reason the Redskins signed undrafted free agents Skye Dawson and Nick Williams, who best (and perhaps only) route to the 53-man roster is as a returner. Aldrick Robinson and Keiland Williams could field a kick or two, as well.