The NFL released the schedule for the 2014 preseason on Wednesday, prompting me to formulate a couple of questions for each game.
Week 1: New England @ Washington (Date TBA, NBC 4/CSN)
What will Washington’s plays look like?
At this point we don’t know. Jay Gruden has not defined what his offense will look like. The head coach has said he will give Robert Griffin III and Co. as varied a playbook as they can handle. He has said he’s open to anything that works, including the read-option.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett is back, but he has claimed the defense will embody a more attacking philosophy and frequently unleash Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan off the edge. Plays will be simple at that point. No team wants to show its cards, but the game will still be a look at new concepts for Washington.
Will Ryan Mallett succeed Tom Brady?
In the first preseason game veteran starters will typically play for one quarter or less. Last year against Philadelphia, Brady attempted just eight passes, but he threw a touchdown pass and led another scoring drive. At 36, Brady is not walking away from the game. But it is time for the Patriots to consider his replacement if they’re not sold on the strong-armed Mallett, who should see extensive playing time against the Redskins secondary.
Week 2: Cleveland @ Washington (Monday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m. ESPN Monday Night Football)
What will Gruden commentating on Gruden sound like?
DeSean Jackson landing with the Redskins is another reason for Washington to attract prime time games. This will mark the first time broadcaster Jon Gruden will cover his younger brother, Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden, who coached with Jon in Tampa. Jay has discussed talking football details with Jon while the younger brother was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, so Jon Gruden could provide insight into the Redskins plans. Or he might just share some embarrassing childhood memories on national television.
Was Donte Whitner worth it for Cleveland?
Not long ago fans in Washington were clamoring for the team to spend a considerable chunk of money on an all-star safety, preferably either Jairus Byrd from Buffalo or Whitner from San Francisco (via Buffalo). The Redskins elected to shore up the secondary by re-signing Brandon Meriweather and bringing in Ryan Clark. The Browns picked up Whitner. Although the safety likely won’t play four quarters, he’ll have a chance to test himself against the prize of Washington’s free agency period, wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Week 3: Washington @ Baltimore (Date TBA, NBC4/CSN)
How will the new offensive line perform?
Since the end of the 2013 season, the Redskins have added two new guards in free agency and cut the starting center, Will Montgomery, who has since signed with Denver. Trent Williams has said he’s excited about the beef up front, and guard Kory Lichtensteiger could move over to center. The new-look line will face a tough assignment in Haloti Ngata, one of the game’s premiere interior defenders, and a potent pair of edge rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.
Is Joe Flacco back?
A season after winning the Super Bowl and garnering a new contract, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time in his six-year career. His 19 touchdown passes were the lowest since his rookie year, and he completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the third year in a row. The third preseason game is usually the longest showcase for starters before the regular season. How Flacco performs will certainly not define his season, but the game will put the quarterback under the microscope.
Week 4: Washington @ Tampa Bay (Thursday, Aug. 28, NBC4/CSN)
Who will make the cut?
This game is the last chance for players on the fringes of each roster to make the final cut. A special teams tackle, a first-down catch or yards after contact could be the difference between making the team or not. Santana Moss and Ryan Clark are the oldest players on the Redskins, and Clark has talked about focusing on making the team before taking over as the leader of the defense. Whether that’s humble talk or a real concern will be known at the end of the preseason.
How will Adam Hayward react?
Hayward was a special teams captain for Tampa Bay before signing with the Redskins in free agency. In the preseason finale, he should get plenty of reps at linebacker in addition to his duties on the coverage units. This begs the bigger question of who will fill in for London Fletcher next to Perry Riley Jr. The team has added Hayward, Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan in the offseason, and all three are capable of starting or assuming a special teams role.-REDSKINS-
ABOUT THE REDSKINS: Headquartered at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, and owned by Daniel Snyder, the historic Washington Redskins Football Club has won five World Championship titles including the 1937 and 1942 National Football League Championship games, as well as Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. Founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves in Massachusetts, the team changed its name to the Redskins in 1933 and relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1937. Since then, the team has become one of the most recognizable professional sports franchises in history, featuring multiple Hall of Fame coaches, 19 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (with seven others who also were Redskins) and becoming the first team in the NFL with an official marching band and fight song, "Hail to the Redskins." The Redskins have been owned by Dan Snydersince 1999, and beginning in 1997, began playing their home games at FedExField in Landover, Md.