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Redskins-Bills: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Aug 22, 2013

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Saturday's Redskins-Bills preseason battle at FedExField.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Saturday's Redskins-Bills preseason showdown at FedExField .

“Redskins-Bills: 4 Keys To The Game” is presented by Papa John’s.

Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.


EXTERMINATE THE INJURY BUG

The most important goal in the preseason is to get playing time without getting hurt. Football is a physical sport and injuries will always be part of the sport. However, an injury suffered in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl feels a lot better than one sustained at any point in the preseason.

Last Monday, the Redskins lost Kirk Cousins, Barry Cofield, Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson and Keiland Williams during the game. This follows up the season-ending losses of Keenan Robinson, Phillip Thomas and Adam Carriker.

Fortunately, none of Monday's injuries appear to be season-threatening, as Robinson and Hankerson returned to practice. Cofield and Cousins may ultimately sit out the rest of the preseason, but their roster spots in the final 53 were secure anyway.

Given the roster depth, the Redskins are not in nearly such dire straights as they would have been in years past, but these injuries will still take their toll. The goal of the remaining roster and coaching staff is to put together good game tape while avoiding the type of injuries that will jeopardize their future contributions to the team.

ROSTER CUTS LOOM LARGE

Almost immediately following the game, the NFL mandates rosters need to be cut down to 75. This is the smaller of the two major preseason roster cuts, but it still means that 15 Redskins will either be sent on their way or sent to injured reserve.

For most players, their fate is already seeled one way or the other. But for those five to 10 players on the bubble, this game could make or break their NFL careers. Unlike in years past, these cuts will likely involve more young players, as the team is short on aging veterans at the end of the road.

Which of these players performs best will be largely dependent on the work they have done up to this point and the playing time they have already earned in the game. That is the reason why the third and fourth preseason games will certainly look sloppy at times, but they will feature some of the grittiest football of the NFL calendar.

Watch for the third- and fourth-string players to turn it up a notch and put something on film that their current or former employers will want on the 53-man roster.

GROSSMAN VS. WHITE

It seemed like an unlikely quarterback duo at the beginning of training camp, but the Redskins are likely to have only Rex Grossman and Pat White available on Saturday night. The coaches' playing time has yet to be revealed to the media.

For both quarterbacks, the preseason has been a mixed statistical bag. White was the hero of Game 1, leading the team to a fourth quarter comeback. But he looked less impressive on Monday Night and has a preseason line of 8for-14 for 53 yards, and interception and a sack through the air. On the ground, he has tacked on nine attempts for 57 yards and a touchdown.

For Grossman, it has been a heavier workload, with similar results. He completed only 48 percent of his passes in Game 1 (to reserve receivers), but got a touchdown and 119 yards. He was more efficient in Game 2, completing 63 percent of his passed for 133 yards, with a touchdown and interception. His preseason line is 20-for-37 for 252 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

In these two quarterbacks, the Redskins have a pair with well-documented flaws, but a skillset that could prove advantageous to the final roster. In White, they have a mobile passer who can run the scout team and prepare the defense for multidimensional quarterbacks. He could also theoretically step into the starting offense and run more of the zone-read and Pistol formation offense.

In Grossman, the Redskins have a trusty backup and a player-coach that can and has mentored his younger counterparts. He provided critical value in the quarterback room last season, even without stepping foot on the field during gameday. If the coaching staff wants him to reprise his role this season, there's no reason why that wouldn't make sense.

There is also the outside possibility that the team will carry two quarterbacks and both players will be on the outside looking in. This would certainly make more sense if both Robert Griffin III and Cousins were healthy, but there is likely an insurance spot on the roster currently up for grabs.

ORGANIZE THE BACKS

Given that head coach Mike Shanahan has never played his starters in the fourth preseason game, this is likely the last time Redskins fans will see Alfred Morris before Week 1. Does this mean the Redskins will utilize him much on Saturday?

Probably not.

Morris got three carries for 12 yards before getting the hook on Monday Night and said he finds it hard to watch his teammates play from the sideline. That, however, is not a concern for the coaching staff, who knows what they have in No. 46. He is a known commodity in Year 2, and a very valuable commodity after last year's success.

Behind Morris, the Redskins seem to be heavily favoring Roy Helu Jr. in a backup role. He had a very solid performance in Game 1 vs. Tennessee and did not disappoint in his return to action Monday: one carry, 30 yards, touchdown.

Royster has also performed well this preseason, rushing 14 times for 62 yards again backups in Tennessee. He will likely see some more action on Saturday afternoon, but looks like a good bet for the final 53-man roster.

The rest of the field is somewhat hazy, however, as Keiland Williams, Jawan Jamison and Chris Thompson battle for final consideration. Williams has the advantage of age and experience in the Shanahan system, but the disadvantage of his practice squad eligibility. He needs a spot on the 53-man roster or he could be looking for work elsewhere.

Jamison and Thompson have had very limited reps so far and look to stake their claim with more consistent carries. Thompson fights an uphill battle after missing offseason workouts with injury and fumbling on his second carry last week.

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