As we sit one day away from the home game against the New England Patriots, it occurs to me we have a lot to be thankful for going into this season. The Redskins offense has faced last season's #1 and #2 ranked defenses in the last two weeks. Both the Ravens and the Steelers put pressure on Jason Campbell and our offensive line, and bot the Ravens and Steelers boast world-class weapons in the defensive secondary. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are guys who won't let you get away with a bad decision.
The results for both Campbell and our offensive line have thus far been mixed. The numbers paint a not-so-encouraging picture. Jason Campbell's four completions are kind of sad-looking. But when you consider he has taken less than 30 snaps so far, and has just 13 pass attempts, you realize that the numbers can be--and are--misleading.
When the so-called "live bullets" are flying through the air on September 13th, Jason Campbell will be asked to make quick decisions, refrain from turning the ball over, and put the offense in a position to succeed prior to each snap. What better test can you give a man than having him practice those things against the Ravens and Steelers? He has proven an ability to audible out of bad plays in his limited action this preseason, and we have seen him throw the ball away on a few occasions already.
My point isn't that JC is going to be Dan Marino this season. My point is that in a season where so much is riding on his individual performance, there is plenty to suggest that he will be ready to be the quarterback that got us to 6-2 last year. And we have the Ravens and Steelers to thank for that.
On the defensive side of the ball, our biggest test this preseason will come against the Patriots. Even without Tom Brady, the Patriots were the #5 overall offense last season. Our inability to get sustained pressure on the opposing quarterback over the last few years has been an Achilles heel of an otherwise stout defense. Making Tom Brady a little uncomfortable tomorrow night will go a long ways toward proving we are making strides in that department. Against a lesser offense I would be forced to question how meaningful our pressure was, but preventing Tom Brady from doing his best impression of a statue in the pocket would say a lot.
In last season's "dress rehearsal" game against the Panthers, the Redskins got undressed and spanked. I believe the score was something like 47-3. I suppose that the low bar this team has set for themselves in certain situations (the low bar referred to here being not getting beat in the 3rd preseason game by 44 points) works to our advantage. But I think we can all agree that we expect to compete against the Patriots' starters and anything short of getting into the end zone one of the first two or three drives would be considered...bad.
I realize the preseason schedule is by and large a "luck of the draw" type of deal. But for the Redskins, the chance to get reps on tape against some of the best units in the league on offense and defense should prove to be a major benefit. And in a year when so many long-term questions linger--at quarterback and head coach specifically--this particular slate of preseason games could be the difference between discovering an identity in September and discovering an identity in November.