The Washington Redskins went through their final full practice before their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday. Wednesday will feature a walk-through, and then the team flies to Buffalo.
As previously noted in Quick Hits, Tim Hightower, Kory Lichtensteiger, Anthony Armstrong and Darrel Young will not play in this game.
Hightower continues to make progress in his comeback from season-ending ACL surgery, as evidenced by his taking part in one-on-one pass protection drills for the first time in camp. Prior to that, Hightower had been restricted mainly to taking handoffs and catching passes in positional drills.
Mike Shanahan said today that the goal is to have Hightower ready to go by the third preseason game, which is the matchup that will most closely resemble a regular season game because the starters will play into the third quarter.
It’s still too early to tell who will start at running back. Shanahan is on record saying that he views Hightower as a starter. But we still haven’t seen Hightower go through a full practice, let alone game. As I’ve said before, if Hightower were healthy, he likely would be the guy. But with their increased action, second-year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. have a chance to get a headstart on their elder teammate. If Royster or Helu look impressive against the Bills, both in the run game and in pass protection, it definitely could make things interesting.
Thursday will be Royster’s chance to show what he can do with the starters. Game action is where these running backs will be judged. The licks aren’t being laid in practice like they will be when opposing defensive players battling for jobs are in hot pursuit. And, in 11-on-11 drills, defenders pull up as they get near Robert Griffin III. Running backs have had to take on full-speed blitzers in one-on-one drills, but that’s not the same as game pressure.
* Speaking of game pressure, Griffin looked better today as he and his teammates ran through a scrimmage against the scout defense. The rookie quarterback got the ball out more quickly and for the most part displayed good accuracy. His coaches hope to see similar execution in his limited action on Thursday against the Bills.
* In addition to running back, the decision on placekicker will be based heavily how Graham Gano and Neil Rackers perform in preseason games. Today, Gano went 2-for-2 while Rackers went 1-for-2. Through nearly two weeks of practice, Gano is 18-for-21 and Rackers 17-for-21. How will they do under the lights?
* Linebacker Brian Orakpo talked today about ways he wants to elevate his game, and while he hopes to continue to become a more unstoppable pass-rusher, the fourth-year pro said he also is focusing on improving in pass coverage and as a run-stopper. Orakpo said he got together with Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson over the offseason to glean knowledge from him on how to more effectively drop back into pass coverage. Today, Orakpo, who has never intercepted a pass in an NFL game, picked off a Rex Grossman pass. Orakpo actually had to adjust, but snagged a ball that was thrown slightly behind him.
* It will be interesting to see how another young defensive player, defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, does in his first game action in nearly a year. Jenkins has rotated in and out with starters Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker in practices, but it’s hard to say whether or not he’s totally back to the dominant preseason form he displayed before his 2011 season-ending ACL injury. Thursday will be a good test for the former second-round pick.