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More to watch tonight than just RG3

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More to watch tonight than just RG3

What: Redskins vs. Bills
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet (exclusive HD broadcast), NBC NonstopOn Saturday, a pair of scuffles broke out on the practice field at Redskins Park. Two days later, Coach Mike Shanahan stopped practice after a questionable hit.Indeed, the time has arrived for Redskins to begin hitting players not wearing burgundy and gold, and Thursday night theyll finally get that chance.First impressions will be made, careers will be launched and a long-suffering fan base will get its initial look at the rookie quarterback whos already been hailed as a savior.With that as a backdrop, heres are three things, in order of importance, that the crew at www.csnwashington.com will be watching as the most anticipated preseason in years gets underway:1) Robert Griffin IIIs debut, of course.The best word to describe Griffins performance through two weeks of training camp is uneven.The 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly on the many designed running plays that have been installed to accentuate Griffins dual-threat ability. When he gets into open space when carrying the ball, defenders are left grasping at air.But weve also been reminded quite often, actually that hes still a rookie. Griffin has, at times, struggled with his accuracy and shown the tendency to hold onto the ball for too long while reading the defense.It should also be noted that Griffin has been put on an accelerated track in practice, where the coaching staff has constantly challenged him.We feel that the harder it is in practice the easier it will be in the games, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. We know its going to be tough and were trying to put him in all these tough situations so he is prepared.Added Griffin, who is expected to take 12-20 snaps: It helps me learn what Coach is going to call in those situations, so I can get my mind set on what I need to be ready to do as far as play calling goes.The encouraging news is that Griffin has made progress in each of the teams 11 practices. By his own admission, he struggled mightily on Day 1 of training camp. And, by many accounts, Tuesdays practice was his sharpest.The question now is whether hes prepared to take the next step: making plays in a live game against defenders who are not only allowed to hit him but will relish the opportunity to do so.Mike Shanahans advice to his protg?Let the plays happen, the head coach said, dont try to make it happen.2) The injury-riddled offensive line. Griffins success against the Bills might hinge on how well the big guys up front protect him.Sidelined are starters Kory Lichtensteinger (knee) and Jammal Brown (hip). Another starter, Chris Chester, is questionable after spraining his ankle Monday.If Chester joins the others on the sideline, expect backup Adam Gettis to join fellow reserves Maurice Hurt and Tyler Polumbus in lining up with the first team.Recent acquisitions Jordan Black and Tony Moll also figure to see some playing time.If the patchwork offensive line doesnt get the job done, its going to be difficult to fairly assess Griffin.3) The kicking competition. Incumbent Graham Gano is expected to get the first kickoff. After that, the battle between Gano and veteran Neil Rackers will begin in earnest.On Wednesday, special teams coach Danny Smith explained how he plans to ensure each kicker gets ample time to prove himself. Gano and Rackers will attempt a field goal or extra point and make the ensuing kickoff, Smith said, then theyll switch.Gano is 10 years younger, a familiar face in Washington after spending three seasons here and boasts the stronger leg. But, Smith said, that doesnt necessarily mean hes got an advantage very Rackers, who has an additional nine years of NFL experience and a better career field goal percentage (80.0 vs. 73.8). Obviously I know Graham better, but my job is to get to know the other guy well too, and we have four games to do so, Smith said. You guys will know it too, Im sure most of you will be able to pick it after four preseason games. Its going to be on production.Unofficially, both kickers are 16 for 19 in three head-to-head kicking competitions. But Smith said hell place more emphasis on games.Ultimately its games, Smith added. Its execution under pressure.

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Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

The Redskins travel to take on the Giants, and despite recent history holding them down in New York, at 0-2 Washington is desperate for a win. Not only are the Redskins winless and the Giants undefeated at 2-0, New York already has a NFC East division win, pushing Jay Gruden's bunch further down the standings. Here are five things to know for Sunday's action, which kicks off at 1 p.m. from The Meadowlands. Weather looks good for the game, and all the coverage starts at noon on CSN.

  1. No more talky talky - All week, it seemed New York players were taking shots at the Redskins. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins had choice words for DeSean Jackson, and former Washington linebacker Keenand Robinson sounded off about the 'Skins a few different times. That doesn't even bring into account the mountain of trash talk exchanged between Odell Beckham and Josh Norman since last year's heated matchup between the two. Finally, on Sunday, the talk will end and the gmae will start. 
  2. Got to get over the hump - The Redskins struggles this season can be attributed to multiple factors, but a big one is the offense's inability to score touchdowns. Kirk Cousins has passed for nearly 700 yards in just two games, the Washington offense has moved the ball well until they get in the Red Zone. "We’ve got to be ready to execute," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said of scoring TDs. "We did put a little extra emphasis specifically on some of those things."
  3. Giving up ground - Look at the box scores from Week 1 and 2 and it's clear the Redskins do not run the ball enough. Matt Jones has 20 carries in two games; ideally a running back would get close to 20 carries per game. Repeatedly Gruden and McVay have said they strive for a run/pass balance, but don't expect that to come this week. "We want to run the ball, we want to be balanced there’s no question about that, I think every team does. But, really at the end of the day, the best way we think to attack will be shown on Sunday," Gruden said. The Giants are giving up about 70 yards per game on the ground, and while the 'Skins absolutely need to commit to the run, this might not be the week it starts.
  4.  Man on Manning - For the second time in three weeks, the Redskins face a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Eli Manning. Manning has had an impressive start to the season, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes with 3 TDs and just one interception. If Manning has a weakness, like any quarterback, it's when he gets rushed and hit consitently, and the Giants offensive line is not a strength. The Redskins pass rush has not been particulary effective yet this season, but team sources suggested some changes could be coming, particularly on third downs. Trent Murphy showed good burst last week against Dallas, and if he can maintain that pace and Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith play at their top level, the pressure could mount on Manning. 
  5. Playing slots - With Beckham, Cruz and Shepard, wide receiver is obviously a strength for the Giants. That said, cornerback should be a strength for the Redskins as well. Much has been made of the potential Norman-Beckham matchup, but look for the Redskins to show new looks in nickel coverage, perhaps even bringing Bashaud Breeland into the slot to combat Cruz and/or Shepard. 

Numbers & Notes:

  • The Redskins have not won in New York since 2011.
  • If Kirk Cousins throws one TD pass he will tie Gus Frerotte (48) for eighth-most career touchdown passes in Redskins history.
  • Pierre Garçon is nine catches away from 500 career receptions.
  • Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from 50 career sacks.

Want more - listen to #RedskinsTalk Podcast below for Giants preview with Ralph Vacchiano.

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Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

When the Redskins drafted Kendall Fuller out of Virginia Tech, many considered it a steal. Widely considered one of the top corners in the country going into the 2015 college football season, Fuller's draft stock fell after a knee injury, allowing the Redskins to poach the Hokie in the third round. 

The good news for Fuller and Washington is that his knee has not been an issue. Fuller played throughout training camp and the preseason, showing the rookie learning curve at times while making plays and strong tackles in other spots. Through two games, however, Fuller has not made the 'Skins active roster.

"Right now he’s just the odd man out, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be forever," coach Jay Gruden said of Fuller. 

In losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas, the Redskins pass defense has struggled in spots. Josh Norman has been stout, but the rest of the defense has looked confused in assignments and missed some coverages at times. A rookie like Fuller is unlikely to be the solution, but it is possible he could help, especially facing a Giants offense with Eli Manning throwing to Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard.

Gruden did not rule out Fuller playing this week, but it didn't sound like a ringing endorsement either.

"It could be just for this week, might be next week," Gruden said, "he’ll be up and ready to roll."

The coach explained that Fuller is getting good work on the scout team and working on his readiness.

"He’s mentally getting himself there. Physically, I think he’s starting to feel really, really good. I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets up.”

On game days, the 'Skins have dressed Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Dashaun Phillips, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler at corner and then DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, Deshazor Everett and Will Blackmon at safety. Duke Ihenacho dressed for the second game but was inactive Week 1. What hurts Fuller is that some of the safeties can also play corner as needed, certainly Hall and Blackmon, and Everett is a special teams star while Blackmon works as kick returner.

Versatility is a key that for now is slowing down Fuller's progress. Coming off a knee injury, and with potential of being a top-tier corner, the Redskins are unlikely to ask much of Fuller on specials. 

Whether Fuller plays Week 3 in New York, or doesn't make the active roster until later in the season, the Redskins brass still views their rookie as a long-term asset. Impatient fans tired of watching the Washington defense give up pass completions may want to see Fuller sooner.