Washington defeated the Tennessee Titans during the first week of the preseason after a rushing touchdown from third string quarterback Pat White and a two-point conversation put the Redskins ahead late in the fourth quarter. The boys in Burgundy didn't exactly set the world on fire with their performance and certainly have a number of key questions to answer before opening the season on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team will welcome the opportunity to get on the field and put the questions surrounding Robert Griffin III and head coach Mike Shanahan's relationship to bed. The team has been rocked with allegations of a rift between the star quarterback and his head coach, stemming from Shanahan's plan for RG3 in his recovery from ACL surgery. Both sides have downplayed the strife between them and it shouldn't be an issue moving forward. While getting underneath the lights won't erase doubts about their relationship, it should provide temporary relief from the wedge that the Washington media seems determined to drive between them.
Here are some key areas to focus on during the Redskins campaign against the Steelers:
Injuries. Washington managed to emerge from their victory over the Titans relatively unscathed. The team lost rookie safety Philip Thomas, who looked to challenge Brandon Merriweather as the starter at strong-safety, for the season with a Lisfranc injury. We should see ramped up activity from Washington's starting units this evening but don't expect to see them lingering much past the first quarter. The mud being flown at Mike Shanahan regarding his treatment of Griffin has clouded the head coach's reputation for protecting his veterans and allowing them to get as much rest as possible in preparing for the season.
The debut of rookie running backs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison. It's been said a million times and we'll say it again, we aren't in any position to doubt Shanahan when selecting a running back in the NFL Draft. Shanahan has proven time and time again that he's got a keen eye for backs and he's gone on record that he wasn't happy with the production behind starter Alfred Morris last season. Enter Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison, selected in the 5th and 7th round respectively, who will make their debut tonight against the Steelers. Thompson has world class speed and could be the lightning to Morris' thunder. However, the knock on him has been his inability to remain healthy and faces an uphill battle after tearing his ACL during his senior season at Florida State. Jamison doesn't have ideal size but isn't afraid to mix it up and churn for those extra yards. Both are staring up at Roy Helu Jr., who has been excellent in camp, and a Shanahan favorite in Evan Royster.
Pat White. The Redskins were thrilled with former West Virginia quarterback Pat White in his debut with the team last week. Washington fans have been begging for somebody to come along and kick veteran Rex Grossman, who had a typical Grossman-type game against the Titans, off of the Redskins roster. The hype for White has been massive ever since signing with the team, with hopes that he would be able to mimic the zone-read option play that Griffin has mastered for the 'Skins. There are still questions about White's ability to play quarterback that loom large but his production against the vaunted Steelers defense could go a long-way to sorting out the quarterback logjam in Washington.
How will the run defense answer the bell after last week's thrashing? Titans running back duo Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene ran circles around the Redskins' run defense last Thursday to the tune of 7 carries for 92 yards. That includes a 58-yard scamper by Johnson, making the back seven look completely silly. With eleven days to work out the kinks, defensive Jim Haslett will surely have a plan to shore up the holes, and will look to stop the Steelers rushing game. It was a learning experience for rookie safety Bacarri Rambo, who had this to say about the missed assignment:
"The first time I go to make a tackle in the NFL, I came up against one of the greatest backs in the league and I should have tried to put a better shot on him instead of just throwing my body into him," Rambo said. "He cut back, and it was a good move. He made a good play."
The team won't make the same mistake twice and will be ready for whatever the Steelers throw at them.
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