Redskins-Broncos: What To Watch For, Preseason Week 3

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Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels and Perry Mattern provide the storylines and matchups to watch for prior to the team's third preseason game against the Broncos. 

Adrian Peterson will play, but how much?

Now that the Adrian Peterson news has started to sink in (yes, he’s on the Redskins) after a couple of days, the next logical question becomes how much will he play this Friday against the Broncos? Head coach Jay Gruden hasn’t explicitly stated the amount of carries he plans to give Peterson but he will, for sure, be on the field to make his Redskins debut.

A lot of this is practical. The reason for Peterson working out and ultimately signing with the Redskins was a matter of need in Washington, with running backs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine both sustaining ankle injuries that will keep them sidelined for an indefinite time. Gruden said in Wednesday’s press conference that Chris Thompson will also not be playing in Friday’s game, meaning Peterson, Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs will handle the load, with the possibility that De’Veon Smith, who also signed Monday, could see some snaps as well if absolutely necessary.

“If we get him up to speed, which I think he’s played enough football where he knows even and odd, so I think he’ll be OK,” Gruden said of Peterson. “I’d like to get him a few touches in this game and see where he’s at.”

It’s hard to discern what “a few” touches means considering football drives are fluid, but Gruden did expressly state that he wouldn’t have Peterson in the game during medium to long third down situations. That’s extra responsibility he’d rather give to Bibbs or Kelley, who have the system down.

As for the future, much of that depends on the recovery timetable for Perine, who did practice without pads on Wednesday.

“I think there is a lot of factors involved in our final decision when it comes to the running back position,” Gruden said. “My whole thing is -- I just want to get these guys in here, give them a chance to get the ball in their hands [and] see what they can do and then we’ll make the decision accordingly."

(Jake Kring-Schreifels)

The starters should play more than they have the past two games.

Jay Gruden has continued to tease Redskins fans with Alex Smith and the entire offense’s playing time. Expect this week to be different.

After executing just one drive – an effective one that lasted 11 plays and covered 71 yards – that led to a field goal, the first team offense took a seat. While quarterback Alex Smith will undoubtedly play more than he has this preseason, he still won’t be surrounded by all of the first teamers. Running back Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed will both be out. As for left tackle Trent Williams, Gruden said he didn’t know.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Preseason Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

In last season’s third preseason game, Washington’s starters played the entire first half as the offensive unit struggled to get things going before putting together a couple of solid drives later in the second quarter. Playing time could be based on performance again. Two touchdowns in two drives? Maybe the first-team offense takes a seat.

That likely won’t happen against the Broncos defense. Denver’s top-end pass rush got even better this offseason with the first round selection of NC State’s Bradley Chubb. For all its problems in 2017, Denver still allowed the third-fewest yards per play in the NFL.

As for the Redskins’ first-team defense, no players were ruled out by Gruden Wednesday. However, linebacker Zach Brown hasn’t practiced much this week – he could be out. Don’t expect defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis back either from his injuries sustained at New England.

That still leaves a bulk of the defensive starters with another chance to impress. The Redskins have still not allowed a point in the first quarter this preseason and just six points in the first half overall. The starters played multiple series last week, so the expectation is that they’ll play into the second quarter this week.

(Perry Mattern)

The secondary should have some opportunities to stand out.

If you didn’t watch last week’s game against the Jets, and you only listened to Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, or even cornerback Josh Norman, you’d still come to the correct conclusion that the defensive line was the unit that stood out the most. Even with limited snap counts, a line featuring Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen showed its potential in the first quarter – and that’s without Matt Ioannidis being available.

Which unit will stand out against the Broncos? Let’s go with the secondary.

Because the third week of preseason is considered the dress rehearsal game, the contest in which the majority of starters play for an extended period of time, both teams will have a litmus test to learn where each position group stacks up with less than three weeks before the opener.

"I do have a game plan! I just haven’t figured it out yet,” Gruden said. “I’ll decide that -- everybody is preparing to play, and they don’t know how long they are going to play, but I have a meeting tomorrow with our staff, and our training staff, and we’ll go from there."

This still likely means the Redskins will see how Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar work together on opposite sides of the field, as well as how Fabian Moreau handles the slot position, for multiple drives. Last week Troy Apke and Prince Charles Iworah had interceptions, and it’s not unreasonable to think that between Norman, who has made a commitment to finishing more plays this year, and Dunbar, who looked strong in training camp this year, the two could show out on Friday as they get their last licks in before the regular season.

Cornerback Adonis Alexander will also have his first chance to play in a preseason game since the Redskins chose him in the supplemental draft. He returned to practice this week after sustaining a hamstring injury and Gruden is looking forward to the kind of impact he can make with two games left.

"Yeah, that’s the guy I’m really excited to see,” Gruden said. “He’s been down with a hamstring, he practiced today for the first time, got an interception so I’m excited to see him. So it’s a big-big game for him, a big two games for Adonis, so he will get plenty of reps if he’s able."

(Jake Kring-Schreifels)

Keep an eye on some undrafted players looking to stay consistent.

The heart of preseason football remains in the guys trying to make the roster – more specifically, the undrafted free agents. Through two games, the big winners have been cornerback Danny Johnson and wide receiver Cam Sims.

"I know I still got a lot to prove, and I feel like it's not the end of the day,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I just got to continue to keep working, you know, I still got a chance to where I could be going home, so I know everyday there's something I get up and try to push past, and just knowing that I got to go out here and just try and make plays. But most of all for me, it's about going out there and having fun, you know, whatever happens, happens, and I just leave it in God's hands."

Sims leads the Redskins with 134 receiving yards this preseason (no other player has reached 100), and his best catch of the summer didn’t count, as his touchdown was called back due to a penalty. He is a question mark to play as he only practiced Wednesday, but his impact has already been felt.

“It's been a good competition,” Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams said Tuesday. “I think what has happened is the free agent kid from Alabama [Sims] threw a hand grenade in this thing. I think Sims has had a tremendous camp.”

After his performance last week, more eyes will be on linebacker Jerod Fernandez. He had two of the Redskins’ four sacks last week against New York and tied for the team lead with six tackles. The NC State product, who was a four-year starter for the Wolfpack, has a chance to garner even more attention this week.

(Perry Mattern)

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