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Posted at 09:04 AM ET, 08/25/2011

Redskins at Ravens: Keys to the game

The Redskins have passed their first two tests of the preseason with flying colors, and after a strong performance from John Beck, the stakes are higher than ever at quarterback.

Tonight’s game against the Ravens will tell the story as to whether this team is really as good as they appear to be.

Baltimore is a strong team on both sides of the ball, with many game changers in plenty of positions. This is the true dress rehearsal for both teams. The preparation for this game is like that of a regular-season game, so expect to see things from both the Redskins and the Ravens that we haven't seen yet.

Here's what I will be watching for:

OFFENSE
Can Beck have a successful game against a defense that will come into the game with a scheme? Will Rex Grossman be able to make his case to be the top passer?

 Make no mistake about it: If both quarterbacks have solid games, then no matter which one gets the starting nod, both will have solidified a strong position on this roster.

I need to see if the offensive line can hold up again. It did a solid job against Pittsburgh, even though James Harrison was out. Against Indianapolis, they did well but were pushed around at times by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Tonight's game may be a tougher challenge then the previous ones because of personnel and a specific game plan, with Terrell Suggs and the rest of this blitz-happy Ravens defense.

Can running back Tim Hightower be consistent? The Ravens are close enough to see and hear the noise this team has been making, specifically the ground game with emerging stars like Hightower and Roy Helu.  I'm eager to see if this backfield will accept the challenge of a Ray Lewis staredown and still continue to get downhill and crank out yardage.

Will this be the game Helu moves into the second back, even over Ryan Torain? This is the game to make that statement. The Ravens will not give up yards easily, so any success will be counted as legit in my book.

Will Leonard Hankerson have a better outing? He has started out of the blocks slow, with drops in consecutive games. His active roster spot hangs in the balance, so he needs to make some plays tonight. Terrence Austin is another one of those guys who should make the team if he can just add on to what he did in the last game.

This may be Malcolm Kelly’s last game as a Redskin if he doesn't play or have a good game.

DEFENSE
London Fletcher is back up tonight. He wouldn't miss a game against one of the league’s greatest linebackers of all time. I expect Fletcher to come out and show why he belongs in that conversation, but to do so, he will need to have the rest of the guys on point. This Ravens team has a very special running back in Ray Rice, and he will challenge this run front much more than they have been challenged all preseason. I think it's safe to say this game will set the tone for this defensive unit.

Can Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo improve from their last two games? I want to see if they are learning from the way teams are trying to scheme them, from blocking to creating mismatches with motions for pass plays.

This Ravens team will come out and try to bully the Redskins. Does this Redskins team have what it takes to climb back to the top as one of the premiere defenses in the league?

SPECIAL TEAMS
This is an important week for Brandon Banks. If he’s out again and Austin or anyone else can step up in the return game, Banks’s injury will turn into a what-to-do situation.

Leave your comments here and chat with me on Twitter @LaVarArrington.

By  |  09:04 AM ET, 08/25/2011

 
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