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Redskins-Steelers: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Aug 15, 2013

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

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

“Redskins-Steelers: 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.


The most important thing that coaches and players can take away from a preseason game is preparation. Execution can wait until the regular season with the regular roster in place, but how well did the team put itself in a position to succeed before the games started counting?

Monday night's contest could ultimately reveal more about this team's preparation than any other exhibition game, thanks to the team's similar circumstances going into Week 1. The team got 10 days of rest after the Tennessee game and was able to prepare for this game with a similar practice and preparation schedule to the regular season. Both games will feature Monday Night Football matchups, and the Steelers are a similarly built team to what the Redskins need to accomplish.

This should be a great test for the Redskins, with challenges on offense and defense, and their old special teams coordinator standing on the opposite sidelines. One of the reasons the Steelers are on the Redskins' preseason schedule so often is because they provide a valuable litmus test for how this team needs to prepare.

Win, lose or draw, if the Redskins were able to properly prepare this week, they should give an efficient performance on Monday Night with the opportunity to uncork some exciting plays. If they did not, they will have two more contests to get it right before the regular season primetime opener.


The Redskins starting offense took a big step forward this week, as Robert Griffin III returned to 11-on-11 drills for the first time since last year. He will not, however, appear in any preseason games, leaving the offense in the sure hands of backup Kirk Cousins.

Cousins was nearly perfect in limited snaps against Tennessee, throwing six-for-seven for 52 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 137.2 quarterback passer rating. Preseason stats are frequently inflated, given the mixing and matching of starting and reserve players, but Cousins took all of his snaps against the Titans' first string offense. Not only was his performance indicative of his own development as an NFL quarterback, but also the chemistry he has developed with the Redskins' starting offense this offseason.

There is nothing close to a quarterback controversy in Washington, and the Redskins are not the first team to have two exciting quarterbacks on the roster. Cousins may have aspirations of being the full-time starter for an NFL team, and he is making the most of his opportunities here in Washington. Even after Robert Griffin III returns, the team can rest assured that they have a proven commodity behind him, should the need ever arrise.


Save for two plays in his preseason debut, Redskins rookie safety Bacarri Rambo looked comfortable and confident in the secondary, a starting gig that he hopes to retain for the regular season. Unfortunately, the positive plays were largely forgotten in light of the touchdowns that occurred under his watch. But the plays weren't as bad as they may have first appeared.

On the play in which Titans running back Chris Johnson scored a touchdown, there were a number of breakdowns on defense, and Johnson was given a wide-open hole around the edge. Rambo found himself in position to make a play, but essentially going head-to-head with one of the fastest athletes in the NFL. Having watched Johnson before, Rambo shaded him toward the sideline and said he expected Johnson to hit the burners and try to run past Rambo. He did not.

Instead, Johnson juked back to the inside and caught Rambo leaning. Then Johnson hit the gas. Rambo cheated an elite athlete and got caught. But he atoned for his misdeed by chasing Johnson the length of the field and nearly making a play near the goal line. This is impressive speed for the rookie and shows the ability to stick with the play for his teammates.

These are the kind of mistakes that you want to happen in the preseason if it gives Rambo film to learn from. He has the reputation of never making the same mistake twice on the football field, and he will rarely see athletes with Johnson's physical ability. Look for him to continue making strides as he looks to lock down that starting free safety position.


With the coaching staff saving wear and tear on starter Alfred Morris until closer to the regular season, Roy Helu Jr. got the start in last Thursday's contest and did not disappoint.

Getting his first start of any kind since Week 15 of the 2011 season, Helu Jr. opened up the offense for Kirk Cousins by taking 13 carries for 57 yards. He looked comfortable and confident, a huge step forward from how he looked at any point a year ago.

If Helu Jr. wins the backup job behind Morris, the Redskins have the makings of a Thunder and Lightning running back tandem, with both runners capable of running, catching and pass blocking on all three downs. Helu Jr. took the important first step in Game 1, but will need to continue performing to earn his snaps. Evan Royster also performed well against Tennessee, leading the team with 14 carries for 62 yards against the second and third-string defense.

With the secondary shaken up by the loss of Phillip Thomas, the running back depth competition could become the most interesting position battle down the stretch of the preseason. Helu Jr. and Royster likely have the early edge, but don't sleep on Keiland Williams, Jawan Jamison and Chris Thompson. No matter who wins, the Redskins' top-ranked rushing attack is certain to get better.




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