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Need to Know: Five things to watch for tonight in Redskins vs. Browns

Aug 13, 2015, 5:52 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 13, seven days before Washington Redskins play the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field.

What to watch for

CLEVELAND—Here are five things to watch during the Redskins’ preseason game against the Browns:

Robert Griffin III—Yeah, this one is pretty obvious. He should play more than he did a year ago in the preseason opener against the Patriots (10 snaps, four pass attempts). Griffin has looked much better in training camp this year that he did in 2014, his first season working in Jay Gruden’s offense. But it’s a big leap from training camp to a full speed, live contact preseason game.

The backup quarterbacks—Jay Gruden said that the competition between Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins will be decided in the preseason games. Cousins gets first crack at it, taking over after Griffin plays for about a quarter. McCoy will probably take over in the fourth quarter. Both will have to do quality work with some players who are unlikely to make the team.

The rushing attack—We’ve heard a lot about more power running and we’ve seen a lot of it in Richmond. It has worked pretty well but the Browns will test it tonight. It also will be fun to see Matt Jones get some physical contact and finish off some runs.

An attacking defense—Joe Barry is bringing an attacking, one-gap scheme to the defense. The problem with such a scheme is that it can lead to some big plays by the opposing offense if it’s not executed correctly. They will have to be fundamentally sound and stick with their assignments from the starters, who should play about a quarter like their offensive counterparts, to the reserves.

Talent at tight end—Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen both are out for tonight’s game and Niles Paul will play briefly, if at all. Gruden said that the TE snaps will primarily go to Je’Ron Hamm and Chase Dixon. Paulsen’s toe injury could be more than a short-term deal so this is a chance for both Hamm and Dixon to make their cases for roster spots.


—Redskins Hall of Fame linebacker Chris Hanburger was born on this date in 1941.

Today’s schedule: Redskins @ Browns, preseason, 8:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet

—It’s been 227 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 32 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason Lions @ Redskins 7; final cuts 23; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 42

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  1. colorofmyskinz - Aug 13, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    Defense will be real interesting to see with full contact as well. Hope Matt Jones knee tweaks are nothing more. All eyes on RGIII for sure. Hope he gets plenty of reps. TE? Well what can you say. Garbage in garbage out. Is it any surprise to anyone that a little soreness sidelines Reed when he clearly stated this is his year of healthy and 16 games? Still cannot believe we did not go after a TE in early FA and draft. This was a glaring hole. I give Reed 2.5 full season games before sidelined for 6.

    • colorofmyskinz - Aug 13, 2015 at 6:42 AM

      Maybe we could get one from the steelers. They seem to have 6 that could start for us ranging from 6’7″ to 6’4″. Most of which better than Reed and Paulson, complete TEs. Not these half ability types. Can block but can’t catch or can catch and can’t block.

      • troylok - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        The Steelers could use a running back so trade them Redd for a tight end

    • wonderfulfaison - Aug 13, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      I disagree. The hole at TE was not glaring. The holes in the OL, LB, DL, and both S spots were glaring. The hole at TE is glaring now moreso because of the potential loss of Paulsen, not Reed.

    • shermanp79 - Aug 13, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      totally agree!! There were a few short term FA too, that would of been an upgrade, if didn’t want a high priced guy. How many 6ft TE are there starting? We lack that big target, which could help our poor RZ scoring. A big guy who can block and catch helps both the running and passing game. Even if they kept Reed and Paul, they could at least upgrade Paulsen.

      • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:08 AM

        Who are these guys you mention? List them so we can follow their seasons – provided they even make a team. Gresham? C’mon. He’s a guy they may have moved on now or next week but not any earlier. If he was the bees knees then we would’ve tried to sign him.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 1:54 PM

          I agree! The Gronks or even Gronk lights in the NFL are few and far between. I’m sure we can find 5 Logan Paulsen like players to pick up but are we getting any better at tight end by doing so? No

    • marriannem - Aug 13, 2015 at 4:23 PM

      The Redskins had little choice but to draft the best O Lineman available at 5.

  2. thankslittlebrandonbanks - Aug 13, 2015 at 6:40 AM

    All the talk of alternate tight ends has focused on Hamm or Dixon (even Cooley). Is Devin Mahina considered to have no shot?

    • rtcwon - Aug 13, 2015 at 12:48 PM

      My guess is he may have the most long term potential so they’ll keep him under the radar so he doesn’t get poached off the PS. Let one of these other two fill in for Paulson until he’s back. Compton can also fill in at blocking TE.

      Regardless, third TE is about the lowest priority on this team besides 6th WR or 6th DL.

      • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 1:57 PM

        Whoa! Some ‘up here’ will have your head for placing that value on the 3rd TE. They’re going to remind you of how the Redskins won their first SB with Clint Didier, Don Warren, and Doc Walker all having significant ROLES with the team. I’d, of course, point out the different era as well as that none of them were dominant but each filled a role.

        The way some talk about TE, you’d think it was QB, LT, then TE as far as importance to a team.

  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Aug 13, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    Right side of the O.L.: How will Moses and Scherff look into pass protection?

    • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      That’s who I want to see but not just pass protection. I want to see if they can carve a hole in the run game. I’d also expect them to keep getting some work with second unit but that might be wishful thinking.

  4. kenlinkins - Aug 13, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    Pretty close to the 5 things I want to watch for, but in general terms as a team I want to see if the Head Coach’s and new GM’s talk about Character shows up tonight. Will this team have a boxers mentality, can they take a punch to the gut and not fold? Can they counter punch when the other team finds a weakness, can they adjust and still find success? Tonight we fans get to see if the Redskins have a still have a glass jaw and if they have learned to roll with the punches without “biting the ear” of the Browns. IMO the score will not matter if they can show that they are a better team now then what they were in 2014?

    • rtcwon - Aug 13, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      wtf are you talking about?

      I think all that nonsense means you’re looking for a team outcome but pre-season is all about individual’s execution of their assignment.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 2:18 PM

      I have to agree that the expectations you have seem to be better aligned to what we want to see for the start of the season or when we play one of the better teams in the NFL.

      • kenlinkins - Aug 13, 2015 at 3:02 PM

        I disagree, if you wait until the start of the season to find if guys can play together as a unit you will be behind all year. You can find an individual’s talent level in practice, but to find how to make 2 + 2 = 5, you must find out which guys work well together in preseason games. IMO this teams needs to learn how to play like a team and not a group in individuals who case show case themselves. Too many players on past teams didn’t care about “Unit Pride” and didn’t knew how to take one for the team. My hope is that those guys are no longer on the roster come opening day. “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 4:03 PM

          In many ways an individual performance is reflective of some team cohesion. Certainly big plays can be an exception. However, if for example Jones and Morris combine for 45 yards and one scores a touchdown in a given drive then most likely there is player unity on the field. The offense is blocking effectively, the play calling was correct, maybe the QB made some critical 3rd down completions. Anyway, the issue I see with your idea of player unity is that you really can’t establish where it is in these games because starters play a fraction of the time. Maybe in the 3rd preseason game team unity can be critical but I have to think it is very hard during preseason to establish any real sense of player unity with at least the starters.

  5. hk2000 - Aug 13, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    I know coaches don’t like to show their cards in preseason games, but considering how vanilla our play calling wa last year, any hints of creativity or anything different from what we so all season long would be a huge relief.

  6. redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    Let the games begin!

    1) I want to see how Chris Thompson performs as a fully healthy back. It’d be interesting to see both Thompson and Jones share the load for a quarter or two.

    2) Can Crowder display the same big play ability in games he demonstrated in practice? Grant is still a favorite of mine that I hope becomes a red zone threat for the team.

    3) Watch for Baker to have a big game today in limited action. I really think he is perfect for a one gap 3-4 system that will be used this season.

    4) Which defensive backs will be used in this game that don’t have a jersey that reads “Fragile! Handle with Care”

    5) Watch for Preston Smith playing positions other than outside linebacker on defense in Preseason. I expect to see him along the line at times. It may not be in this game but his inside game shows too much promise in college not to use it in Preseason.

    Am I just one of few that enjoy watching the rookies play in these ‘quasi’ games?

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      I thought I saw Crowder is out with a hamstring strain. I did want to see him play.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:16 AM

        Damn! You’re right – Well I hope it makes a quick recovery since it’s a shame to lose the momentum he had early in TC.

    • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      “Am I just one of few that enjoy watching the rookies play in these ‘quasi’ games?”

      No. My family begs to watch something else – especially when I’m watching it a second time on DVR.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        Same here! most of mine don’t even care about the results unless there is an injury.

    • ET - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:22 AM

      Re: 5) I hope you’re right about Preston Smith. While he hasn’t wowed anyone as an edge rusher, I feel like Barry can work Smith in situationally while he learns. If we end up with two or more players who can line up with hands in the dirt or on the edge, all the better for creating mismatches or confusion on the other side of the ball. I’m very curious to see Barry’s scheme in action, even though tonight won’t be a full representation.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        The guy is 6’5 270 and could easily add 20 pounds to his current frame. I hope they look to use him like Houston uses Watt in the next few seasons. I don’t expect instant stardom from Smith this season since he is a bit of a tweener right now. Maybe I’m wrong and he can work the edge as a linebacker but that’s now what he excelled in at Mississippi State.

  7. LS Dietz - Aug 13, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Scherff and Moses is the big item for me. How they perform on the right side will mean as much as anything. If they can play well, the running game and Griffin’s play benefit tremendously. If not, welcome back to last year’s problems all over again.

  8. 226thebeatdontstop - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    I want to see how Moses and Scherff do on the right side…..I want to see if Lochenstriger gets pushed back

    I wanna see if the defense can make 3rd down stops an if the ofgrnde makes plays on 3td downs..

    I wanna see the rookie rb, Trey Williams and inside linebacker Plummer..I wanna see if Trent Murphy and Preston Smith can generate pressure or get sacks?

  9. berniebernard666 - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    there is NOTHING I expect from Griffin because we have no idea if they are playin’ possum and whatever we see in preseason could be NOTHING like what we see against Miami. But the Defense, especially against the RUN has to be improved. I want to see the Defense hold the Cleveland Running game to between 10-15 yards in the first quarter. If the first team run defense is great then that will happen.

    • rtcwon - Aug 13, 2015 at 1:07 PM

      If you’re looking for improved run defense you are going to be disappointed. First, they were well above average against the run in the old scheme, which was designed to stop the run, force teams to pass. The problem with the old D was the pass, especially coverage schemes, imo.

      The trade off with the new scheme, that should drastically improve pass D, is they will be more susceptible to the run, especially in passing situations. So the question is can the improvement against the pass be greater than the drop off against the run.

  10. realfan82 - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:58 AM

    I just want to see if Griffin shows composure in the pocket now that he can be tackled. Also, I would like to see how the line performs and the new running game with the power back scheme. Also the tackling, has that improved.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:22 AM

      You’re spot on about what is most important to see out of RG3. I don’t care about him blowing up the stats as much as seeing him not rattled in the pocket. If he can demonstrate composure with good movement in the pocket, demonstrate completions to his 2nd and 3rd WR options, and checking down instead of going down; then that’s the building block he needs to get ready for the season. .

      • rtcwon - Aug 13, 2015 at 1:13 PM

        I’ll keep it even simpler, has he eliminated the unnecessary scrambles from the pocket that created most of the pressure issues last year?

        The best evidence of progress to me would be a ball chucked well out of bounds from the pocket.

  11. warpath1 - Aug 13, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    I think the first unit should play the whole first half each preseason game until they show that the can execute the offense. They need the practice so that when games count maybe they will be ready. They sure could have used it last year. Teams that have been running the same system for several years can play for shorter times, but as far as im concerned, they barely picked it up the whole season last year

    • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 2:22 PM

      Although I think this is wishful thinking, I agree. Hopefully, in one quarter they can show that they can execute the offense.

  12. brucefan1 - Aug 13, 2015 at 3:25 PM


    A HAPPY 74th BIRTHDAY to one of my all-time favorites, Chris Hanbuger!

    That smallish guy (relatively speaking) was just about as tough as old Texas saddle leather and twice as ornery as a bucking bronco! I was SO glad when he finally got inducted in Canton a few years back.

    Chris is the reason number “55” — double-nickels — was always MY number (still is!)

    I’ll always remember what my buddy’s dad (a GIANTS fan!) would always say when we were watching NYG – Skins games back in the day; “HANBUGER is gonna make MINCEMEAT outta that ball carrier! ” STILL laughing at that one!

    But it said it all.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Aug 13, 2015 at 3:48 PM

      Happy 74, Chris H.! I was just a kid in the early 70s, but a Redskins fan already.

      • bangkokben - Aug 13, 2015 at 4:11 PM

        You, me, and Matthew McConaughey.

    • kenlinkins - Aug 13, 2015 at 4:52 PM

      Happy Birthday to “The Hangman”.

  13. goback2rfk - Aug 13, 2015 at 10:50 PM

    Kirk Cousins looking good trying to win out that back-up role.

  14. goback2rfk - Aug 13, 2015 at 11:09 PM

    Nile Paul is done, looks like Reed is the next man up except Reed is hurt again. Looks like Chris Cooley may in fact get a call from Ol’ Snyder.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Aug 14, 2015 at 9:53 AM

      I think you might be right about Cooley. As long as he has stayed in shape he could help at this point! I feel horrible about Niles Paul.

      • bangkokben - Aug 14, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        Isn’t there some type a rule that doesn’t allow a team to sign a player from another part of the organization. Kind of a salary cap rule so a team can’t stash a Tight End on its broadcasting team. Archives

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