<p>When the Redskins open the preseason Thursday in Buffalo, theyll do so missing a few key players.<p><p>At least two of the five starters along the offensive line guard Kory Lichensteiger and tackle Jammal Brown will be sidelined against the Bills, while guard Chris Chester is a long shot to suit up, according to Coach Mike Shanahan. Chester sprained his left ankle Monday and did not participate in Tuesdays practice.<p><p>Shanahan also Tim Hightower, ranked atop the teams depth chart at running back, has been ruled out, as has fullback Darrel Young. Hightower still is recovering from knee surgery, while young is nursing an ailing hamstring.<p><p>Hopefully he keeps on making progress and will be able to play by the third game, Shanahan said of Hightower. &nbsp;<p><p>Shanahan said Josh Morgan will be available to play, barring a setback. The wide receiver returned Monday from a weeklong layoff due to a hamstring.<p><p>Chris Cooley did not practice Tuesday but will play, Shanahan said.<p><p>Hes been going to pretty hard, Shanahan said of his tight end. He needed a day of rest.<p><p>Cooley joked that the day off was a privilege of being in the "30 Club". He turned 30 last month.<p><p>A couple of more notes of interest from Shanahans practice news conference:<p><p>--Shanahan said the dueling kickers Graham Gano and Neil Rackers will alternate kicks.<p><p>Whoever kicks off, will have the next field goal or extra point, whatever it is, Shanahan said. Thats the way weve tentatively talked about it. &nbsp;&nbsp;<p><p>Gano will start first, the coach added.<p><p>--With Hightower sidelined, Shanahan said running backs Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. will split time. Royster will get the start.<p><style id="_clearly_component__css" type="textcss"> <style><div id="_clearly_component__next_pages_container"><div>
The Redskins take on the Browns Sunday at 1 p.m., but full coverage begins on CSN at noon. Can Washington climb back to an even record after a poor start? Weather at FedEx Field calls for overcast skies and the possibility of rain remains after a wet week in the DMV. Here is everything you need to know for the matchup:
- Time is now - For three weeks the Redskins have moved ball well, until they get in the Red Zone. Looking at the numbers, there is little reason for the hiccups inside the 20. Kirk Cousins is the second leading passer in the NFL, and last season the Redskins offense proved they can be a scoring force. Eventually, the red zone levee will break, and odds are this will be the week. Cleveland's defense gave up 30 points to a middling Miami offense last week, and gave up 25 and 29 points in Weeks 1 and 2.
- Don't get confused - Much will be made of Terrelle Pryor's standout effort in a Week 3 loss to Miami. The Cleveland receiver and occasional QB had an impressive day, totalling 200 yards and a touchdown. But Pryor should not be the focus of the Redskins defense. That needs to be locked in on stopping Browns RB Isaiah Crowell, the NFL's second-leading rusher. Crowell is averaging more than 6 yards-per-carry, and Washington's defense has been gashed on the ground this year. The key to beatin Cleveland comes in stopping the run.
- More, more, more - Running that is. Matt Jones got 17 carries against the Giants and ran the Redskins to the game winning field goal late in the game. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay on Jones late success in New York: "We got a few more opportunities and when they presented themselves in that crunch-time situation I thought he ran his best. A bigger, physical back – I thought that he got better as the game progressed and that’s what you want to see from him." More carries from Jones, especially late in the game, will mean good news for the 'Skins.
- 3-headed monster - Coming into the season, the Redskins plan on defense was to have Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith attack quarterbacks off the edge of their defense. That plan came to a crashing halt when Galette blew out his Achilles. Surprisingly, Trent Murphy is succesfully stepping into Galette's role, leading the team with three sacks in three games. While Joe Barry's unit could use more from Smith, Murphy's results are encouraging, and this could be the week all three outside linebackers get going against a rookie QB in Cody Kessler.
- Stay special - In last week's win in New York. the Redskins special teams shined. Punt returner Jamison Crowder busted a long return and Tress Way completed a long pass to Quinton Dunbar on a well-timed but gutsy fake punt call. Oh yeah - Dustin Hopkins made all five of his field goal attempts and was named Special Teams Player of the Week and Month. It wasn't all smiles on specials, as the 'Skins had an early fumble on a return and a blocked punt called back late in the game. But if Washington's special teams can continue to deliver big plays, that could be a big boost for the team. And don't forget Rashad Ross will be back returning kicks this week.
Numbers & Notes
- The Redskins have forced 27 fumbles since the start of the 2015 season, most in the NFL. The Redskins also lead the league with 18 fumble recoveries in that span.
- Jamison Crowder already has two receiving TDs this year. His next will be a career high, after just two TDs as a rookie.
- Jordan Reed needs two catches to get to 200 career receptions.
- If Trent Murphy can force a fumble against Cleveland, he would become the first member of the Redskins to force a fumble in three consecutive games since LaVar Arrington in 2003.
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When LSU fired head coach Les Miles, a lot of big-time names were suggested for the job. But what about Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay?
Albert Breer of the MMQB listed McVay as a potential candidate, along with a host of other NFL names to go with obvious college options like Tom Herman or Lane Kiffin. From Breer on McVay:
His star has risen so quickly that the 30-year-old may be an NFL head coach before colleges even get the chance to call, but he’d make a lot of sense for a program looking for energy and buzz.
Watching McVay work it's obvious he has the passion and ability to connect with young players - as he currently runs the Redskins offense that includes some players older than him. But it's worth keeping in mind the Redskins coordinator was raised around the pro game, not the college one, and with his background and offensive acumen the guess here is that McVay will stay in the professional ranks.
Even while scoring is down for Washington through three games, the Redskins offense is moving the ball well. QB Kirk Cousins is second in the league in passing yards, and the team finished 2015 with the 10th highest scoring offense.
"I’m sure he’ll be a head coach a lot sooner than people think," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said of McVay in an early August MMQB article.
It's clear McVay will get a chance as a head coach, the only question is where. Apparently that list could now include Baton Rouge.
NOTE: Former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also landed on Breer's list of LSU possibilities. From Breer, "Would Shanahan go? He’s 37 and he’s been an OC for nine years, so it’s possible he’d want to get his feet wet as a head coach. Remember, [Texans coach Bill] O’Brien went to Penn State after knocking on the door for NFL jobs, so it’s not hard to see another rising young guy doing it. Shanahan played at Texas and coached at UCLA, which means he’s not foreign to big college programs."