The Washington Redskins will make their preseason home debut Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField. Here are five things to watch ahead of the game:
1. How will head coach Jay Gruden split up the quarterback reps?
With Gruden ruling out Colt McCoy for Week 2 of the preseason, the reps will likely be split between Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins and Jalan McClendon.
Keenum and Dwayne Haskins combined to play the first three quarters of the preseason opener. In three series, Keenum displayed a solid command of the offense and helped account for the team's only touchdown: a 46-yard completion to a wide open Robert Davis. Haskins played much more, lining up under center for the entire second period and most of the third. An inconsistent showing from the rookie yielded an 8-for-14 passing performance for 117 yards and two interceptions.
Redskins fans will also likely see a new face line up under center against Cincinnati. Josh Woodrum played the fourth quarter last week, but he suffered a torn pectoral muscle and was subsequently placed on Injured Reserve. In a corresponding move the team McClendon, who should see snaps towards the end of Thursday's contest.
2. How much will the starters play?
Only a few starters saw the field in the preseason opener, but it seems as though that will change against Cincinnati.
"We should see the starters a little bit," Gruden said after practice Tuesday. "I don’t know how much yet. Make sure everyone comes out clean today and have a good walk-through tomorrow. Then Thursday morning we’ll have a walk-through again, see where everyone is at and make our determination.”
Assuming the defense plays, at least for a little bit, Redskins fans will receive their first look at what could be a dominant defense this fall.
The defensive line trio of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis wreaked havoc during training camp, while outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat and Ryan Anderson routinely pressured the team's quarterbacks. The starting secondary is also intriguing with corners Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar, the return of free safety Montae Nicholson and the addition of All-Pro Landon Collins.
“Those guys are fun, man. They are a force to mess with," running back Adrian Peterson said of the defense after practice Tuesday. "The guys are looking really good. I’m more impressed with the upgrades we made defensively more than anything.”
3. What will the wide receiver rotation look like?
Projected starters Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson did not play against the Browns. No. 1 slot receiver Trey Quinn played 10 snaps.
Based on Gruden's aforementioned comments about the starters, one would think all three would see game action Thursday night. However, that may not be the case.
Quinn injured his thumb during warm-ups of the preseason opener and has not practiced since, while Richardson missed practice Tuesday with a quad injury. Gruden commented on both players following Tuesday's session.
On Quinn: “I don’t think it’s a long-term thing. If anything, it might be this week and then we’ll hopefully get him out the following week.”
On Richardson: "We need the work. He can get used to the quarterbacks and what we’re doing, but if you have a [injured] hamstring or quad -- which he has a quad – it’s very hard for a speed receiver to get what we want out of him. So, the main thing for him is to get healthy as well.”
The absence of Richardson and Quinn would mean increased playing time for the plethora of other wideouts fighting for expanded roles. And while Davis and Darvin Kidsy stood out against the Browns, second-year man Cam Sims, rookies Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon and undrafted rookie Steven Sims Jr. all turned in productive training camps.
4. Can the 2019 rookie class continue to excel?
The Redskins' 2019 draft class earned rave reviews, and for good reason. Have you noticed Terry McLaurin's route-running ability? Or Cole Holcomb's instincts at linebacker? What about corner Jimmy Moreland's ball-hawking skills or Montez Sweat's size, speed and strength around the edge?
Moreland was the highlight of the Redskins defense in the preseason opener, forcing two fumbles and knocking away three passes. Holcomb started in place of the injured Shaun Dion Hamilton and "played really well" according to Gruden. McLaurin played one snap, which may say more about his future potential than anything, while the team held out Sweat after getting kicked in the calf a week earlier. All four rookies should receive playing time against the Bengals.
Elsewhere, fourth-rounder Wes Martin took some reps as the starting left guard during Tuesday's practice.
"Wes [Martin] has done a great job as a rookie coming in," starting center Chase Roullier said. "He plays to his strengths well, and he's definitely picked it up mentally very quickly and been able to jump in there."
5. Will any undrafted rookies stand out enough to push for a roster spot?
Last preseason, then-undrafted rookie Cam Sims routinely beat defenders and made contested receptions on his way to making the 53-man roster.
So far in 2019, it's unclear whether anyone will be able to take a similar path to joining the Redskins for their season opener. Running backs Craig Reynolds and Shaun Wilson have shown flashes of promise in practice but are a part of a deep and talented position group. The same goes for wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. One player to watch is Ryan Bee. The former Marshall defensive lineman stuffed the stat sheet in the preseason opener, finishing with four solo tackles (one for a loss), two quarterback hits and a sack. Bee's effort garnered unprompted praise from his head coach.
"[Jimmy] Moreland made a couple big plays, and [Cole] Holcomb played really well and [Ryan] Bee played really well on the inside," Gruden told reporters before practice Saturday. "So there were some guys we got a chance to look at and who performed nicely."