The Washington Redskins tonight will kick off the preseason as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:30 p.m. This Redskins team very much remains a work in progress, and there are plenty of storylines to follow. Here’s a look at five key areas to watch tonight:
Rex Grossman gets the first crack at the starting job, partially by default, because John Beck was nursing a groin injury all week. Obviously, he has had limited work since he wasn’t able to practice until last Thursday. But Grossman has a good feel for the system. Coaches will be looking for good tempo, crisp execution and smart decision making. Also keep an eye on Kellen Clemens. He’s still picking up the offense, but if Grossman and Beck struggle this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him start at some point.
2. Ryan Kerrigan
The Redskins’ first-round draft pick returned to action Monday after missing all of last week with a bruised right knee. He worked exclusively with the first team, but still is learning on the fly and likely will be used in a limited number of packages. Coaches describe him as intelligent and poised. Tonight will indicate how far along he is in his transition from end to linebacker.
3. Offensive line
Trent Williams has matured, his teammates say, Jammal Brown is healthier, Will Montgomery has slid over to center, Kory Lichtensteiger says he feels more comfortable, and Chris Chester should help upgrade the interior. Shanahan says the offensive line is much better than last year. No better front to test themselves out against than the Steelers’.
4. Defensive front
The Redskins spent to bring in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, who should help seriously upgrade that 3-4 front. Inside linebacker London Fletcher said he can tell the difference already. Now we get to see how far along the two linemen, and rookie Jarvis Jenkins, who will likely rotate in early and often, are in learning the system.
5. Kicking game
Graham Gano has gotten the best of Shayne Graham in practice this week, but Mike Shanahan said both will get their opportunities tonight. He expected that they would flip a coin and then alternate kicks after the first. Gano had one of the lowest accuracy clips last season. Graham is the third-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history. Should make for an interesting position battle.