Has anyone else noticed that it's starting to feel a lot like football season? I certainly have. As the week rolls into the weekend, I'm left anticipating Redskins football. OK, I get that it's only week two of preseason, which at the end of the day means very little. But I'm still excited. Anyway, Dan Ciarrochi and myself have put together a list of eight storylines to look out for on Saturday night.
1. Robert Griffin III's Consistency
Lets get this one out the way quickly. Mike Shanahan announced today in his press conference that the starters would be getting around 30 to 35 snaps, roughly equivalent to the length of the first half. Griffin looked solid in his first outing last Thursday, but he only had six passing attempts. On Saturday, expect that number to be in double digits, I would have thought between 15 and 20 passes. I want to see Griffin's ability to start and maintain drives, and just how consistently he can put together long drives. I know that doesn't all ride on his shoulders, and that the offensive line and run game need to play their part. But if he can managed to do this, then he will have a solid foundation to build from.
2. Cohesion of the Offensive Line
I'm just as eager to get this one out of the way as I was with the Griffin topic. It feels like not an hour goes by without someone mentioning the state of the offensive line. But with over a week of film study, practice and preparation with all the new parts getting used to each other, can the offensive line start to open up the run game? The opening two drives against the Bills were three and outs, because they got nothing in the run game. We need these guys to come up big and help take some pressure off Griffin. The Bears are a team that prides itself on a stout defense, they wont be easy to run on. But if we can manage to eliminate the negative runs, and pick up some yards on every play, it will be a huge step in the right direction for the patchwork line.
I took the low hanging fruit, which is always the ripest by the way. What have you got Dan?
3. Jason Campbell Returns to DC
Dan: Jason Campbell downplayed any excitement he may have about returning to the stadium of the team that drafted him, but how could you blame him? It’s not like there was a lot to fondly remember about his time there. That said, it wouldn't be surprising in the least if Campbell was in full-blown "F U" mode and torches the secondary this Saturday. Or maybe he just rifles a ball hard enough to re-injure Tanard Jackson’s shoulder. That’s a more likely possibility.
4. Jay Cutler’s First 2012 Preseason Appearance
Dan: Cutler was held out of the Bears’ preseason opener because of a coach’s decision. This will be his preseason debut, so it could be a chance for the Redskins first-team defense to make some plays as Cutler shakes some of the rust off.
Dan: Remember when Ryan Kerrigan was drafted last season? Remember every scouting report not being able to have a sentence without the word "motor" in it? Well that was Shea McClellin this past April. I had my concerns of whether or not he could play with the same speed and expliosiveness afterneeding to bulk up 15 or so pounds at a new position. However, judging from his preseason debut, the extra weight will not be a problem. I’m interested to see how guys like Tyler Polumbus and Willie Smith do against the talented youngster.
6. Cedric Griffin vs Big Wide Receivers
Dan: Big receivers give the Redskins fits, which has to be a reason why they acquired the 6-feet-2-inch Cedric Griffin in the offseason. The big duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall could be a nice test for Griffin after having a shaky start to the preseason. Griffin has the size to contest physical wide receivers at the line, and Alshon Jeffery is a guy who Griffin could neutralize despite Jeffery making his presence known during the Broncos game.
That last point is a great one, it would be nice to see a corner able to cover those big receivers, and not a replay of Reed Doughty being out-jumped by Andre Johnson in the end zone. But did anyone see Cedric's odd stance last week? Anyway, allow the Brit to round up the rest of the list.
7. Chris Baker
With the injury to Chris Neild, the Redskins need Baker to step up. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett admitted that starting nose tackle took too many snaps last year, and Baker could be a useful player to spell him some snaps here and there. He's impressed against second and third string defenses, but it'd be nice to see him play some downs against the Bears first team.
Roy Helu Jr looked set to see some snaps this week, before he was injured. Now with Helu and projected starter Tim Hightower out, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris are likely to see the majority of the snaps. Many people came away surprised and impressed with Morris after the Bills game, but I was disappointed the Redskins reverted to a power run game with him in the game. I'm eager to see him run the zone scheme, because I've seen him run it effectively in college.
Just as a late bonus, another potential storyline is Trent Williams vs Julius Peppers, should Williams play in the game. But that is unclear as of right now so I'll leave that as it is for now. Thanks to Dan Ciarrochi for his contribution (and for giving me two of my storylines). Click the button below to go follow him on twitter.