1. Young secondary versus Steelers passing attack:
- CB David Amerson, CB Chase Minnifield and S Bacarri Rambo should all get work tonight versus the Steelers starting unit. This should prove to be a good test for the three young defensive backs as the Steelers have a fair amount of talent among their starting receivers and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, who will test the rookies (Minnifield should count as a rookie). Last week both Amerson and Minnifield did a good job, but the level of QB play they faced was pretty weak. Also the Titans never really challenged them vertically. That is likely to change tonight as the Steelers will try to throw the ball deeper. This could also be a good challenge for Rambo to see his reaction to facing a veteran like Roethlisberger.
Given that next week the Redskins face a Bills team that will be without their starting quarterback (though even if Manuel was playing he wouldn't be a great test for the rookies), and in the 4th week they will face back-ups, this is the biggest challenge they will see all preseason. Amerson and Minnifield might not be relied upon as starters once the regular season starts, but Rambo will definitely be counted upon. The Steelers starters are only expected to play a quarter, but it can be valuable to these young players.
2. Run defense versus Steelers rushing attack:
- Last week the Redskins starting run defense really struggled giving up two long TD runs and over 100 yards in the first half to the Tennessee Titans. This week they need to redeem themselves and will once again face some decent competition. Steelers rookie RB Le'Veon Bell is expected to get the start tonight, and will have his first preseason action. The Steelers are also utilizing more a zone blocking rushing attack, with a healthier offensive line. It might not be Chris Johnson, but it's a good challenge.
Last week over-pursuit and poor angles led to those touchdowns, those are the key things to watch for this week. Last week given the results it was easy to see the Redskins run defense failed, this week though it may be a little tougher (hopefully) to grade the Redskins defense. Keep an eye on the defensive line to see if they are winning their battles in the trenches. While the end result matters and you want to see how the linebackers and defensive backs pursue/tackle/react, if the Redskins are losing the battle up front that is what will cost them long term.
3. Kirk Cousins versus Steelers defense:
-Cousins is expected to play for the first half tonight against the Steelers. He was near perfect (just one Logan Paulsen drop away from being so) last week versus the Titans, so it will be interesting to see him against the Steelers 1st and 2nd string defenses. The Steelers might not be as aggressive as they would be in the season, but they should give a tougher look than what the Titans gave Cousins last week. The Steelers are one of the most disciplined and stingy defenses in the league, so If Cousins has success versus them it will be a big plus to this offense.
4. Back-up running back battle:
- Mike Shanahan didn't fully commit to using rookie running backs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison, but they are both likely to make appearances tonight. Both need to make up some ground as Roy Helu Jr. appears firmly entrenched as the back-up to Alfred Morris. Veterans Evan Royster and Keiland Williams also appear to be well ahead of the rookies on the depth chart. The Royster/Williams battle tonight could be interesting to watch as they appear to be competing for one roster spot (along with the rookies as well). Royster is probably the better runner, but Williams helps on special teams and could boost his case on those units as well.
5. Back-up Offensive line battle:
-Last week the 2nd team offensive line really struggled committing a number of penalties and mistakes that led to broken plays. Even some of the team's good runs in terms of yardage was in spite of the line and not because of it. This 2nd unit needs to perform better against a tougher defense. Right now the Redskins back-up offensive line jobs are up for grabs so it would be nice to see some of these guys separate themselves from the pack.
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