Itâ€™s game day, and that means another chance for the Washington Redskins to display the progress they have made in the last week as they host the Cleveland Browns at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
In todayâ€™s paper we went over key areas to keep an eye on â€“ Robert Griffin IIIâ€™s command of the offense, the defensive effort versus Johnny Manziel, the debuts of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, kicking battle and ongoing job auditions of young backups rounding out the list.
Here are five more story lines to follow tonight.
1. Pass protection vs. Clevelandâ€™s front: It doesnâ€™t matter how great a job Griffin does reading defenses, making checks at the line and seeing the field. If the guys in front of him canâ€™t keep the quarterback upright, Washingtonâ€™s offense will go nowhere. This game will serve as a good test for the revamped offensive line. You know left tackle Trent Williams can be counted on, but how will the rest of the guys do against this aggressive, physical 3-4 front of the Browns? New left guard Shawn Lauvao has appeared to do a solid job thus far. And Kory Lichtensteiger is settling in at center. Lichtensteiger draws a big assignment as he tries to hold nose tackle Phil Taylor in check. Right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Tyler Polumbus both have struggled with consistency in pass protection. How will they fair versus Cleveland end Ahtyba Rubin and outside linebacker Paul Kruger?
2. Orakpoâ€™s all-pro test: Brian Orakpo tonight will go up against one of the best in the game. Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has made the last seven Pro Bowls while also earning first-team all-pro honors in four of the last five seasons. Orakpo aims to have a dominant season as he auditions for a lucrative, long-term deal. Jim Haslettâ€™s more aggressive approach plus the technical tutoring of Brian Baker should help Orakpo. Tonight will serve as a good opportunity for Orakpo to gauge where he stands in his preparation for the regular season.
3. Kyle Shanahanâ€™s return: Sure, itâ€™s only the preseason, but it wouldnâ€™t be surprising if Kyle Shanahan wanted to hang 50 points on Haslett & Co. Post columnist Jason Reid wrote on Shanahanâ€™s mind-set as he returns to the place he called home the last four seasons. Shanahan says he has moved on, but admits that heâ€™s energized as he embraces this new challenge. The performances of Clevelandâ€™s offense and Washingtonâ€™s defense should serve as good barometers for the upcoming season. Teams do a limited amount of game planning for the second preseason match-up. But because of the great familiarity Shanahan and Haslett have with each other, this could make for a slightly more advanced game-calling situation.
4. Clarkâ€™s impact: The Redskins this offseason signed Ryan Clark to fortify the back end of their defense. He missed last weekâ€™s game with a strained hamstring but is expected to make his debut tonight. Clark, who turns 35 this year, may not have the speed or range of an elite player at his position. But coaches say what he lacks in physical tools, he makes up for in smarts. Secondary coach Raheem Morris also says Clark makes a difference because he sees the field like a coach and puts his teammates in position to succeed. Morris said he doesnâ€™t know how much Clark has left in the tank, but that he aims to use every last drop. Tonight weâ€™ll get a glimpse of what the veteran has to offer.
5. Rotational roles for Robinson and Grant: Now that Garcon and Jackson are back in the mix, Griffin will have his full receiving corps at his disposal. Last week Aldrick Robinson and Ryan Grant used the absence of Garcon and Jackson to their benefit. They, along with Santana Moss, likely will only receive limited opportunities with the first team tonight. But whatever chances they get, they must capitalize. Jay Gruden said both young receivers (Robinson in his third season, Grant his first) have shown they can be trusted to shuttle in here and there and give the starters a breather. If either or both can find a way to shine with the first team tonight, they will further cement their status in the eyes of their coaches.