So we are back again for another edition of Hogs Haven Round Table. The game Thursday against the Buffalo Bills will be the first time we can see the Washington Redskins take the field this year, what areas of the team will you be paying the most attention to? And what do you expect to see out of those areas of the team?
I have to pay close attention to that offensive line. It's an area that always interests me, but I have to be honest in my motivation for being so this time around. Simply put, this starting five versus a terrifying Buffalo front four scares the bejeezus out of me, and while assessing their performance I'll likely be screaming "LOOK OUT" to Robert Griffin III like the annoying jerk during a scary movie. The silver lining in this is that I can't see Griffin taking too many snaps, so it's not like the line has to hold true for long. If anything, this is a chance for a hobbled unit to gain some encouragement after losing 60 percent of its starters to injury. What better way to boost morale than keeping a rookie quarterback's jersey clean versus Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus and Mark Anderson?
The safety position for sure. Raheem Morris not only has personnel changes but is instilling different techniques and schemes than Bob Slowik used. I'm also interested in seeing Rex Grossman....he can run this offense, so that gives us a good means to determine and grade the other WRs. Seeing Kirk Cousins in action will be interesting as well. I predict he'll have a better pre-season than RGIII, which will likely have fans all hot and bothered for the wrong reasons (he's seeing third teams).
It would be a complete and total lie for me to suggest I will be paying more attention to any other player or position than RG3 and the quarterbacks. That likely goes for everyone, so let's go from there. During the first preseason game, I usually have a short list of individuals that I am anxious to see in uniform in a game situation. For me, that list currently consists of: Niles Paul, Keenan Robinson, Josh LeRibeus, Kirk Cousins, Pierre Garcon and Jarvis Jenkins. For guys like Garcon, Jenkins and Paul, I am looking to see how they are faring with a new position, new team and new health. I expect the Redskins to make a big deal of getting the ball to Niles Paul this preseason, in the hopes that teams might actually care when he is on the field with Fred Davis and the other receivers. The rookies-Cousins, LeRibeus and Robinson-are guys I want to see "fit in" in the first action. While it would be fun to see Keenan make a big tackle, Josh make a big block or Kirk make a huge throw, my main hope is that none of these guys does something that stands out as a huge error. I'll take error-free in the first preseason game over flashy highlight all day long.
I'm highly interested in just how well the offensive line does. If all holds true that has been said lately, the starters will hopefully be back by the first week of the season with an exception of Jammal Brown (he is a question mark at this point). That being said, that means at least 40% of the line versus the Bills will consist of depth guys who likely will fill in at some point in the year. I'm also anxious to get a chance to see RGIII get a few snaps, although I'm sure the play-calling will be a bit ‘vanilla' in the preseason. I can't ever remember a time in the 30+ years of following the Redskins that I have focused so much attention on one player, so it will be a good thing to finally see him in a game situation.
The secondary really is a major question mark to me at this point in terms of safeties and back-up corners so I will be paying close attention to just how well they do. I have an eye on a few players I view as "bubble" players: Terrence Austin, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Banks, Alfred Morris, Chris Baker, Bryan Kehl, Logan Paulsen, Kevin Barnes, and Tom Compton. Those guys are likely on the borderline of making the team so their performance in the preseason will determine if they make the team or not.
I'm really interested to see our RG3 and the "first team" receivers go against the Bills secondary. We all know about Mario Williams and the front line of Buffalo, but they also have a challenging secondary. Jairus Bird and George Wilson are a great combo at safety and the Bills also have good corners in Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, and Leodis "MY MAN!" McKelvin. But beyond those guys I'm looking to see how Garcon, Hankerson, Moss, and others play against rookie corner Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina and second year corner Justin Rogers out of Richmond.
Another wrinkle of this is keeping an eye on Rogers and McKelvin in special teams to see how they compare with the Redskins "developing" special teams unit. All in all I think the Bills are a great opening opponent for the Skins because they have a veteran core mixed in with some talented youngsters.
I'll be paying most attention to the offensive line, in particular the rookies. I'm excited to see how Gettis and LeRibeus translate to the NFL level and how Tom Compton looks at tackle as well. While some of those guys might not be playing with the firsts, the Bills have depth on the defensive line. I'll be looking at technique more than anything; Do they take good positions, what's the hand placement like, are they anchoring properly, those sorts of things.
I expect Gettis to be the furthest along out of the rookies in terms of technique. He played at a high level last year at a well-coached school at Iowa. Compton could be a little raw, but his athleticism should help him overcome that. As for LeRibeus, it will be interesting to see how he gets on at left guard and center, should he see snaps at both positions.