Redskins coach Jay Gruden leaves things loose until he is forced to make decisions. Well, it’s about that time as Washington plays the Falcons tonight (7:30, NBC-4). The second-to-last preseason game is a bit of a dress rehearsal, and starters will play the first half or more while several positions remain uncertain. Tonight’s questions are the same ones that have lingered since training camp began. The team’s overall depth has greatly improved, but will left tackle Trent Williams’ ongoing holdout create a domino effect that damages the offense? Here are five positions to watch.


It’s Case Keenum. Come on, we’ve all known since OTAs that Keenum would be the starter come September, while rookie Dwayne Haskins probably would take over near midseason. And Colt McCoy? He never recovered well enough from offseason surgeries to have a chance. But if Haskins lights up the scoreboard and Keenum stinks against Atlanta, would Gruden face pressure to start the rookie with a hot hand and scrap the plan to have Keenum be an interim starter? Perhaps, but for now, count on Keenum to be under center for the opener Sept. 8 at Philadelphia.

Left tackle

This game could be the tie-breaker between Geron Christian and Donald Penn. It’s Christian’s job to lose, and a bad outing against the Falcons probably makes Penn the Week 1 starter. Christian has greatly improved after a disappointing rookie season. His speed and agility are better, but there are plays when defenders just whiz by him, and the Redskins can’t afford to lose quarterbacks to blindside hits. Penn, 36, offers veteran stability, but is slower than Christian and less able to deliver downfield blocks. Youth gets first call, but not a lengthy leash. Oh, Trent Williams, come home soon!

Left guard

Ereck Flowers has found a home at guard after repeatedly looking lost at left tackle. The free agent signee was a 2015 first-round bust with the Giants as a left tackle. The Redskins signed Flowers as a left guard, but needed to try him at tackle when Trent Williams didn’t report. It went badly. Flowers looks much better at guard, where his lack of lateral speed isn’t such a big deal. He’s even looking good when pulling for downfield blocks. But rookie Wes Martin was impressive in his early stint with the Redskins’ first-teamers and is the left guard of the future. Is the future now?

Outside linebacker

The Redskins will certainly rotate veteran Ryan Anderson and rookie Montez Sweat at one of the outside linebacker spots, but who plays first might be decided tonight. The Redskins know Sweat can be awesome. His speed and size are shockingly good, but the first-round draft pick needs some reps. That lets Anderson, a 2017 second-rounder, continue his redemption tour after two lackluster seasons. Anderson is a better run stopper and Sweat is a potentially elite pass rusher, so down and distance may dictate who’s in. But nobody likes to see a first-rounder sitting on the bench.


Injuries have kept the unit from working together. Slot receiver Trey Quinn remains out with a sprained thumb, giving Steven Sims a puncher’s chance to make the team as a reserve if he outplays Darvin Kidsy. Sims screams across the field while Kidsy makes tough catches. Maybe the Redskins will keep both and cut Josh Doctson if Cam Sims plays well against Atlanta. Rookie Terry McLaurin makes his preseason debut tonight after an injury; Paul Richardson Jr. is a question mark. Kelvin Harmon’s solid preseason gives him a chance to start over McLaurin and Richardson. The unit’s deep, but needs a breakout star.

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