- Clinton Portis and the Redskins open the preseason tonight against Buffalo. (Photo: Associated Press)
It’s Friday! Tonight we will finally get a sneak peak of what can be expected from the Washington Redskins this season. Or, we’ll get to see how much work they still have left to do in the final week of training camp and throughout the rest of training camp.
The Redskins’ starters are expected to play 15 to 18 snaps tonight, and from there, the playing time will vary. Mike Shanahan said depending on experience, some players will get more, some will get less.
The Redskins are obviously hoping for a positive result -- an indication that they’re on the right track and that things are starting to click. Will things go as planned?
Santana Moss said, “you shouldn't go out there and blow your head off if you don't have a few good series,” but fans don’t want to see a bunch of miscues and breakdowns. Neither do the coaches.
Who will be under the most scrutiny tonight? Here’s a look at some of the top players to watch in Preseason Game 1.
Donovan McNabb -- Everyone wants to see how good a grasp of the Shanahans’ offense McNabb has, and how he does in his new surroundings. McNabb says he feels “really comfortable” in the new system. All of the players say that they already have strong chemistry with their new QB. But that’s in practice, where the defense doesn’t quite bring the heat as intensely.
Clinton Portis -- Declared the starter coming out of OTA’s and firmly entrenched as That Guy all of training camp, Portis will get a chance to show that Mike Shanahan made the right decision, and that he still has plenty left in the tank. Obviously, Portis’ workload will be limited, and he likely will split first-team carries with Larry Johnson, as they have in practice. But a few nice runs and displays of speed will be cause for some optimism.
Stephon Heyer -- After starting all of last season while splitting time between right and left tackle, Heyer was basically told he wasn’t starter material for this coaching staff when Washington drafted Trent Williams to play right tackle and acquired Artis Hicks, who spent all of OTAs at right tackle. Then, the Redskins traded for Jammal Brown. But the two-time Pro Bowl selection is sidelined with a hip injury that is being classified as normal soreness related to the labrum surgery that cost him his season last year. Heyer gets to show that he is indeed capable of getting the job done if Brown’s “soreness” ends up being something worse. If Heyer looks terrible, you have to wonder if Washington tries to add another right tackle to the mix.
Trent Williams -- Coaches and teammates have praised the rookie, who has been charged with protecting McNabb’s blind side. Going against Brian Orakpo every day in practice, Williams has displayed great agility and speed and an ability to quickly adjust. Will that translate tonight?
Devin Thomas -- Ranked third on the depth chart at the receiver spot opposite Santana Moss, Thomas has had an uneven training camp, making some great grabs one day, then dropping five passes another. Will he ever turn the corner and become a consistent threat? Another way Thomas can help himself is with some nice returns on kickoffs. Mike Shanahan has been pretty vague when talking about Thomas. Could this third-year player be on the bubble?
Albert Haynesworth -- Although Haynesworth worked with the first team in the final practice of the week on Wednesday, he isn’t expected to start, as Maake Kemoeatu was expected to return. That doesn’t mean Haynesworth won’t get some action at nose tackle with the first team. And even if he lines up exclusively with the second team, all eyes will be on him to see if he does the thing coaches ask: no spinning, no freelancing, play with more power, and be a team player. We’ll also see if he’s in better shape than last year when he had to keep taking plays off.
Andre Carter/Lorenzo Alexander -- Carter will start at the left outside linebacker spot, and Alexander, who is battling him for that job, will likely rotate in and out as Jim Haslett tries to evaluate both converted linebackers. Coaches speak highly of the progress both Carter (defensive end last year) and Alexander (defensive tackle/end) have made in their transitions. Alexander spent Week 1 of training camp with the first team, and Carter has started in practices this week. Who will have the better showing?
Maake Kemoeatu -- After missing all of last season while recovering from Achilles surgery, Kemoeatu has looked very good in training camp. Kemoeatu is perfect for what Haslett wants from his nose tackle, strong as an ox, quick and a team player. The eighth-year veteran said he’s trying to show coaches that he -- not Haynesworth -- should continue to start at nose tackle.
Carlos Rogers -- Jim Haslett declared himself “a big Carlos Rogers fan,” praising him and calling him a “special type of guy.” Rogers wanted a long-term deal from the Redskins, but instead had to settle for the one-year restricted free agent tender. This is the year for him to show that he is worth more, and capable of hanging onto balls when they come his way.
LaRon Landry -- No one has ever doubted Landry as a hard hitter. But smart and disciplined and good at playing in coverage? Those are the knocks against him. Landry has switched to strong safety, which he believes better suits him. He is expecting this to be his breakout campaign. But it doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you display poor judgment and keep delivering late hits. Tonight we’ll see if Landry has learned anything.
SPECIAL TEAMS -- Thomas will return kicks, but Brandon Banks, Bobby Wade, Terrence Austin and Byron Westbrook likely will receive some chances as well as Washington looks for it’s return man on kicks and punts. Long snapper Nick Sundberg has been inconsistent in camp, causing Graham Gano to miss some field goals with low and high snaps. Gano says Sundberg is getting a bad rap, and Shanahan has said he likes Sundberg, who spent last year on Baltimore’s practice squad. A poor performance tonight won’t bode well for him, though.