Redskins-Steelers: Offensive storylines to follow

August 19, 2013
Chris Thompson
Rookie running back Chris Thompson Thompson said he is playing tonight and expects to return kicks as well.. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Redskins return to action tonight as they play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game at FedEx Field since last year’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Here’s what to watch when the Redskins have the ball:

1. Rookie running backs: Chris Thompson was held out of last week’s game to let a sore knee heal, and Jawan Jamison dressed, but didn’t play as Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster and Keiland Williams got the carries. This week should be different, however. Thompson said he is playing, and he expects to return kicks as well. It may be hard for him to overtake Helu, who seems to lead the competition for the No. 2 back duties. But Thompson has next-level speed that could serve the Redskins well in the return game and in option packages. He looks to make a good impression this week. Meantime, Jamison has had a relatively quiet training camp, but looks to make the most of any game opportunities he receives.

2. Offensive line depth: The Redskins still have plenty to sort out along their offensive line after you get past the five starters, and need to see improvement from their backups. Last week, second-year pro Josh LeRibeus struggled and, according to offensive line coach Chris Foerster, appeared to regress rather than build on a couple of solid cameo appearances from his rookie season. Meantime, Tom Compton could again play in place of Trent Williams, who still is nursing a wrist injury. The Redskins know what they have in Williams, so every snap they can give Compton will go a long way toward helping expedite his development. Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood continue to compete at right tackle, but Pashos still seems to have the edge. We’ll see how the battle for roster spots progress tonight.

3. Wide receiver competition: Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss have defined roles as the No. 1 receiver and top slot threat, respectively. Josh Morgan seems to have a leg up on the competition for the starting spot opposite Garcon. But he and Leonard Hankerson have alternated at that spot in practices. Hankerson had a touchdown catch last week, but the biggest thing holding him back at this point is consistency. He still has drops on plays that should be routine. He needs to show coaches they can count on him to get the job done every time they go to him. Meantime, Aldrick Robinson has similar struggles as he too enters his third season. He is now running a more diverse collection of pass routes as he works as Garcon’s primary backup. Behind those two, Dez Briscoe, Skye Dawson, Nick Williams and Chip Reeves are fighting to stay relevant. Donte Stallworth also is in the mix, but won’t play because of a lingering hamstring injury. Dawson, Williams and Reeves may not overtake veterans for spots on receiving skills alone. So they will try to make the most of any punt/kick return action they see.

Earlier: Defensive storylines to follow

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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