What I’m Watching For as the Skins Face the Colts:
1. Robert Griffin’s Development:
-Week 2 of the preseason was perhaps a bit of a wake up call to the Redskins and Griffin, that there were going to be some significant growing pains for a rookie QB, especially one who has some talent deficiencies surrounding him. Griffin needs to show that he can fix his mistakes and recognize the limitations around him. It’s a good match-up for him as the Colts will bring a steady pass rush, but aren’t so good to have a quality secondary. Griffin will need to work on getting the ball out of there more quickly than he did last week, as well as seeing the pressure better. If he can avoid the rush, then he has the advantage against a weak secondary so we should see some big plays. Though the playbook will still be pretty basic, hopefully we will see Griffin do a better job of hitting his timing routes and going through his progressions. These have both been somewhat of an issue throughout camp (though completely expected for a rookie), and this would be a nice time to work on these areas.
2. State of the Offensive Line:
-Trent Williams is expected to be closer to 100% this week, after noticeably struggling last week while fighting through a bone bruise. Chris Chester also returns (and is also hopefully close to 100%), meaning that for the first time in the preseason we may see the Redskins week 1 starting offensive line. Now I know coaches expect Kory Lichtensteiger to be ready to reclaim his job from Maurice Hurt, but at this point I’d put those odds at no better than 50-50. So far the line (as it has throughout camp) has looked pretty shaky. They’ve allowed quite a bit of pressure and penetration, which has made it problematic to evaluate the quarterback and running back play. Hopefully the return of Chester can help stabilize the unit, but given how widespread the problems have been it’s hard to be confident about that.
3. Running on Empty:
-Last year’s promising rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster are both nursing injuries and won’t play this Saturday. Also, veteran Tim Hightower, who is returning from an injury that has kept him out of the preseason (and most of camp) will play, but it figures to be a more limited role. That leaves the primary rushing duties in the warm-up game to the regular season to 6th round rookie Alfred Morris. Morris, who if not for injuries would be fighting for a 53 man roster spot, showed some nice potential against the Bears. He saw few openings running behind the Skins line, but when he did he got nice production. Hopefully, he’ll have a nice performance against the Colts and will have more running room to showcase his talents. The most important thing of course is that both he and Hightower stay injury free throughout the game.
4. Finding Fred Davis:
-Davis despite being the Redskins franchise player, and probably their most dynamic returning weapon, has yet to see a pass thrown his way this preseason. While part of it has to do with the fact that the Redskins have kept him in as a blocker more, it would be nice to see him begin to establish more of a presence in this offense. With the improvements made to the wide receiver corps, Davis should have less attention from opposing defenses this season. Davis needs to prove himself to be a pass catching weapon for him to have a positive value to the Redskins, as this preseason has shown once again how much of a liability he is when asked to block.
5. Defending Against Tight Ends:
-The Colts drafted the top two tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) in the draft in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and are prepared to feature both this season. This is a good match-up for the Skins defense that has had some issues stopping tight ends in the past. In addition to having to face Jason Witten and Brent Celek twice a year (each), the Redskins will have to face off versus Heath Miller, Jermaine Gresham, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Greg Olsen, and Kyle Rudolph this year. If they can’t defend against tight ends effectively their defense will struggle mightily.
6. Getting After the Quarterback:
-Though Brian Orakpo may be out, the Redskins need to show they can put consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Redskins secondary is the weak point of the defense, meaning the only way to stop the pass is to win the battle up front. Last week versus the Bears, the Skins couldn’t get much pressure on Jay Cutler, despite a pretty mediocre Bears offensive line. They have to show improvement in this area, even without Orakpo. While the news is promising on Orakpo for the start of regular season, it would be nice if the Skins could prove they can still be effective without him, in case the injury flares back-up.