What to Watch for Against the Titans
August 8, 2013 in Washington Redskins
Offensive line vs Titans Defensive line:
Though this will play a role in both of the other battles to watch, the offensive line deserves their own special category. This Titans defensive front 7 is young with plenty of upside and much better than their defensive performance from a year ago. With the Redskins likely missing Trent Williams and Josh LeRibeus for this game (and of course Maurice Hurt who is still on PUP), there will be a lot of opportunities for guys fighting for roster spots to step up. The most important thing is the pass blocking of this group. While the Redskins are a run first team, their run blocking is definitely ahead of their pass blocking. Also, with Griffin already an injury question mark, you want to protect Kirk Cousins as much as possible this preseason.
Though the Redskins will be without Robert Griffin III this is a good match-up to watch. The growth of Kirk Cousins and these wide receivers/tight ends is key for this team. Though hopefully Cousins won't be called upon this season, he has to be ready, and now that he's had a year under his belt and work with the first team it will be interesting to see what he can do. The Titans added some nice depth (and a starting safety) this year to their defensive backs, so even the Redskins 2nd and 3rd team receivers should be challenged. Though it may be harder to tell the success of these receivers with Pat White throwing the ball, don't worry so much about completions (though look out for drops), but look at the route running and separation.
Running game vs Titans Rush Defense:
The Titans finished 24th in rushing yards allowed last season, but they were actually a respectable 15th in the league in yards per carry allowed. They should offer a solid test for the Redskins rushing offense that will obviously be without RGIII. The Titans don't have the strongest front seven depth, but since the Redskins offensive line depth is questionable as well it should continue to be a good test for the 2nd and 3rd string units as well. While the overall depth is weak, the Titans are pretty solid with their defensive tackle depth, so they should present a good challenge when the Redskins try to run up the middle later in the game.
Defensive Line vs Titans Offensive Line:
Now this includes the pass rushers on the outside as well, but this is one of the more interesting battles to watch. The Titans went out and signed the biggest free agent guard on the market in Andy Levitre and then drafted Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick. In addition to bolstering their starting offensive line, they went out and grabbed C Brian Schwenke in the 4th round and signed veterans Barry Richardson, Rob Turner, and Chris Spencer to have depth. That is great news for the Redskins defense (and probably the Titans offense), as they can even test their back-ups versus some quality guys. A lot of times 2nd and 3rd stringers are going up against very weak opponents, which can bolster how a defense looks. If the Redskins defensive line and pass rushers can succeed versus the Titans line throughout the game it will definitely bode well for the season.
Secondary vs Titans Receivers:
The Titans don't have any great or elite receivers, but they have a very deep group overall. While Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright get the hype, the Redskins can't forget about their most consistent receiver in Nate Washington. Their 3rd string wide receivers currently listed on their depth chart are Kevin Walter and Justin Hunter. Walter has been the number two receiver in Houston the last couple of years and Justin Hunter was a high 2nd round draft pick this April. This will mean that the Redskins young defensive backs like David Amerson, Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford, will get plenty of good competition. Though incompletions could matter a great deal in the outcome of the game, the thing to really watch is how much separation do these receivers get to judge whether or not the Redskins DB's are succeeding. The quarterback play of the Titans isn't exactly known for their accuracy, so there will probably be additional incompletions/interceptions that can't be counted on in the regular season.
Special Teams Battles:
Kick Return Battle:
This seems to be a wide open competition, but the starter according to the Redskins depth chart is Niles Paul, with Aldrick Robinson second and rookie Chris Thompson third. Undrafted receivers like Skye Dawson and Nick Williams could also be in the mix. Paul has the most experience, though he may be better suited as a lead blocker for a guy like Robinson. If Robinson can win this job he could add explosive straight ahead speed to the Redskins return game. I would expect to see Dawson and Williams get a couple chances (though hopefully there aren't that many opportunities) early in the preseason as they need a special teams role to make the roster.
Punt Return Battle:
The depth chart to the surprise of no one lists Richard Crawford as the primary punt returner, with Santana Moss, Thompson, Dawson and Nick Williams behind him. Crawford is expected to win this job and perhaps have Moss as a spot duty returner. The other guys need to showcase themselves if they want to earn roster spots. The good news for Dawson and Williams is that Moss probably won't return any punts in the game and Chris Thompson is likely to not play as he's coming back from injury, so they should get their chances.
This isn't a true battle since if Kai Forbath loses the job, he won't lose his roster spot since he'll still be the place kicker. What it could mean though is that some other back-up player would lose their job so John Potter could have a roster spot. The Redskins will need to evaluate how much of a field position difference is there between Forbath's kick-offs and Potter's. If it is fairly significant, the Redskins could justify a spot for Potter, though it would lead to a numbers crunch at another position.