The Washington Redskins have had positive showings in preseason games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, and after two weeks, they lead the NFL in total yards.

Redskins players have emerged from both games with no more than a sense of guarded optimism because it is, after all, just the preseason.

Tonight’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, however, is the measuring stick game, the Redskins say. In Baltimore, Washington’s offense will face an opponent that consistently ranks among the league leaders in defense. And for the first time this preseason, coaches have game-planned specifically for the Ravens.

Thursday also is the night in which both teams’ starters will see their most extensive action, likely playing into the third quarter. This, the Redskins say, is the game by which they will judge their progress in Coach Mike Shanahan’s second season.

“It’ll be a good test for us,” says receiver Jabar Gaffney, who in two games has recorded six catches for 57 yards. “They’ll play a lot, and we’ll probably play a lot. They’re one of the best defenses in the league year in and year out and one of the best teams in the league, period. So there’s a lot of good work we could get done against them.”

Said fellow receiver Santana Moss: “This defense has been one of the best, year in and year out. Since I’ve been in college [from 1997 to 2000], I’ve been hearing about the Ravens defense. But we just have to go do what we do. You can’t go into a game worrying about what the other team does. You just have to worry about doing your job, and everything else should take care of itself.”

The Redskins’ offense has found a way to march up and down the field, averaging 24.5 first downs a game, and they have turned over the ball only once. Scoring in the red zone has been the main problem. Washington has scored just 32 points in two games combined. Mike Shanahan has said some of the red-zone struggles are partially related to the team not game planning for opponents. But that won’t be the case this week. Now the Redskins get to see how much of a difference that will make.

If Washington is able to produce in that area, as well as off of the others, then they will be confident that significant progress can be made this season.

Baltimore “is one of the best teams in the league,” Gaffney said. “If we can go out and do that against them, move the ball, score points, then we’ll be feeling pretty good.”