WASHINGTON — Monday night’s Redskins Browns preseason game at FedEx Field does not lack story lines.
If you want, you can watch the Johnny Football/RG3 show. Mr. Football — Johnny Manziel — will split snaps with Cleveland starter Brian Hoyer and see how he fares in his second preseason action.
You can watch former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan run Cleveland’s offense and see how much it resembles the things he did here with Robert Griffin III.
You can watch to see former Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, who signed with the Browns this week. You can watch and listen to Jay Gruden’s brother Jon call the game on ESPN. Or you can watch two rookie head coaches go head-to- head in Jay Gruden and Mike Pettine.
See, I told you. Here’s what else to watch:
We know that the starters will get about a quarter in this week’s game, according to Jay Gruden. I am anxious to see the entire Redskins offense on the field together for the first time. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson return from injuries, as does Jordan Reed, who missed some time with a virus. It will be good to see them go up against a very strong Browns defense.
We saw the first team get 11 plays last week against the Patriots, which resulted in a field goal. Griffin and the offensive players all said this week that the main focus is scoring touchdowns — they can’t keep settling for field goals. The offensive line is still a big question mark, so this will be a good test as well. All camp long, coaches have stressed third down blitz pick-up and getting rid of the football. They’ve been working on these things daily and need to get better. Running back Chris Thompson will not play this week with an ankle injury.
“It’s unfortunate,” Jay Gruden said of Thompson’s injury. “It opens up opportunities for others.”
Those “others” are Silas Redd, Evan Royster and Lache Seastrunk. All should get significant work tonight. Royster has been the healthiest so far, and has been getting plenty of reps in practice.
I know the talk will be about Manziel and the Browns’ offense, but their defense is the perfect kind of test for the Redskins offense.
Jay Gruden agrees.
“Every team in the NFL gives you different problems, but Cleveland’s defensive personnel is obviously very good with Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and all those guys, and then Baltimore the following week,” he said. “So we’ll get a good taste the next two weeks. See where we are, and how far we have to go.”
This group has been focusing on tackling for the entire training camp. They did a pretty good job of it last week, and should have a good week this week as well. The defense will face a scheme they have practiced against for the last four years, and Kyle Shanahan will put Hoyer and Manziel in the same situations as he used to put Griffin and company the last four years.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher still won’t be out there this week — he’s aiming for next Saturday against the Ravens to make his Redskins debut. He said this week that he is working himself back into football shape and feels no effects from the knee surgery.
Safeties Ryan Clark and Phillip Thomas should play this week, while Brandon Meriweather may not — he sat out the last two days of practice with a sore toe. Linebacker Darryl Sharpton probably won’t play either.
Last week, Zach Hocker performed better against the Patriots, while Kai Forbath struggled, missing a field goal and booting a kickoff out of bounds. This battle will continue throughout the preseason — while both guys have been sharp in practice, they need to translate that to the games.
Forbath has struggled with kickoffs during his time with the Redskins.
On top of everything else, ESPN and Monday Night Football are in town which means Jay Gruden’s brother, Jon, will be in the broadcast booth, calling the game. What does Jay expect?
“He called a couple of my games last year in Cincy,” he said. “Jon is Jon. He’s going to be positive if he can, but if I do something out-of-line ignorant, I’m sure he’ll call me on it.”
Just your average week two of the preseason. See you at FedEx Field.