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.
What: Redskins vs. Bills