The Washington Redskins practiced for the 13th time Wednesday and will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason opener Friday.
It should make for an interesting performance. Under normal circumstances, by this point, the Redskins and their opponents would have gone through two weeks of training camp and at least 14 offseason practices as well. But there were no OTAs because of the NFL lockout. Players still haven’t completely mastered the offensive and defensive schemes, and they still are acclimating to new teammates’ tendencies.
“It’s weird that we’re playing,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett acknowledged. “It doesn’t seem like there should be a game in this short time. But I’m looking forward to seeing the guys and how they interact with each other.”
Redskins coaches are looking for good execution, but they know that miscues could be more common the first time out.
“You understand that mistakes are going to happen,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “You understand that’s part of the process. And you’re trying to get ready for the first game [on Sept. 11]. In the past, your first exhibition game, you felt like you could play after your OTAs were over. You felt like you could play right away. Now here, it’s a little bit different. You’re going right up to the last minute.”
Shanahan and his coaches have yet to determine exactly how many minutes will be awarded to any player. But Shanahan said the first-string defense, which features five new starters, could play more series than the starting offense.
“You take a look at the defense and we have a number of new starters in there and they’ve got to get used to our defense, get comfortable with our scheme,” Shanahan said. “You might play some of those starters, who haven’t been with our system at least for a year, a little bit longer than you normally would. But the key is to get them ready for the first regular season game.”
Shanahan never has his players engage in all-out tackling at training camp for fear of injuries. Haslett said he’s curious to see how that impacts play on Friday.
“It’ll be interesting,” he chuckled. “The whole National Football League hasn’t had much training camp, so the tackling will be interesting. We do it individually [with tackling dummies], but we’ll still be looking for form tackling and wrapping up. We’ll see how it goes.”
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the decreased practice time won’t change his outlook, but he might give players a little more slack if execution isn’t quite up to par.
“I have high expectations. I think everyone on our team does,” Shanahan said. “But I do understand that some of these guys are a little bit more rusty than you would expect and that comes when they don’t have the reps. Everyone’s reps are at least cut in half, missing those 14 OTA days and we understand that, but it will be a new experience for all of us and hopefully it goes well.”