Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden on Tuesday confirmed he will rest his starters on offense and defense in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gruden the previous day said he was considering playing members of his first-team offense against the Buccaneers in an attempt to gain better momentum into the team’s Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Houston Texans.
But the first-year head coach said he decided against playing the starters after the offensive unit put in two solid days of practice this week at their Loudoun County, Va., headquarters.
“It's my intent now for after a couple good days of practice to let the other guys play, let the backups play,” Gruden said Tuesday. “So, we can solidify those roles – [it’s] very important.”
Gruden had said he wanted to see more out of his first-team offense after Saturday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
In what was supposed to be the unit’s dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener, they completed just 5-of-8 passes for 20 yards and an interception, made several costly penalties and had trouble at times keeping Baltimore’s defenders out of the pocket.
But had an offensive starter suffered a serious injury playing in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Buccaneers, then any possible momentum built towards the regular season could go out the window.
“Feeling good means you’ve prepared yourselves and you’re healthy, and we’re fairly healthy right now and that’s the big thing I want to get out of this group,” Gruden said. “I want to make sure we’re healthy going into Houston. So if we don’t play the starters, it’s only because I want them to be 100-percent healthy going into Houston.”
With the plan for Thursday night’s game at Raymond James Stadium in place, Gruden said he’s looking forward to seeing the second and third stringers compete for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
“In general, we feel pretty good about who [the starters] are,” he said. “And now we need to find the key backups, and who they are, and make sure they get the ample reps to make the football team and show what they can do on the field.”