When the Redskins begin the preseason Thursday night at New England (7:30, NBC), the offense will be big on first impressions. It will be the first time we see the new franchise quarterback, the highly touted rookie running back and the receiver taken in the seventh round who’s a dark horse to win a roster spot. The revamped first unit likely will play just a series or two because coach Jay Gruden wants to keep everyone healthy and evaluate reserves. Stand by for bland schemes, a glimpse of playmakers and a look at a lot of long shots to make the club. Here are five players to watch.
Alex Smith, quarterback
He’ll don a burgundy and gold game jersey for the first time but might play only a few snaps. Even then, he may keep the deep ball under wraps. There’s no sense in letting future opponents study film of Paul Richardson stretching the field. Smith has been sharp in training camp and moves well outside of the pocket. Look for a lot of dump-off passes to backs and a short completion or two to tight end Vernon Davis, a favorite target of Smith’s when they played for the 49ers. Smith doesn’t need the extra work tonight. He already seems to have chemistry with receivers.
Derrius Guice, running back
Finally, it’s time to see what the most-hyped rookie on the team can do. The Redskins think they got a steal in the second-round pick who fell to No. 59 after a whisper campaign against his character. So far, Guice has been adored by fans for providing free movie tickets and popcorn one day and accepting endless autograph requests on others. Even the backs competing with him for snaps like him. Guice has looked solid up the middle in practices, but let’s see what happens against an opposing team. Matching up against Pats backups could help him have a productive debut.
Trey Quinn, receiver/punt returner
The last player picked in the draft has been steady since minicamps. All he does is make plays. Coach Jay Gruden is trying out Quinn at punt returner, which means the club is looking for a way to keep him within a deep receiving corps. Quinn is reminiscent of former Redskins long-shot receiver James Thrash, whose two preseason kickoff returns for touchdowns paved the way to a 12-year pro career. Quinn, who caught a school-record 114 passes at SMU last year, runs excellent routes and has great hands. Can he separate from pro corners?
Rob Kelley, running back
The former starting back is listed atop the depth chart, but he’s on thin ice after regressing in a 2017 season marred by injuries. Gruden likes Kelley, who rushed for 704 yards as an undrafted free agent in 2016, but Guice is coming for his spot. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine are locks to remain, which likely leaves room for just one more back. Kelley dropped 20 pounds this offseason. He’s also been returning and covering punts in practice to improve his chances of making the club. But if he averages under 4 yards per carry in the preseason, consider him gone.
Tim Settle, nose tackle
Teammates and coaches can’t stop talking about the fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech who played high school ball at Stonewall Jackson in nearby Manassas, Va. First-round pick Daron Payne is sidelined with an ankle injury until at least next week, so Settle should get more work with the starters. The Redskins are confident that the 328-pound tackle could play alongside Payne in 4-3 schemes, too. Teammates have lauded Settle’s strength. If you see him dancing after a big move, chances are he learned it from playing Fortnite with Guice.
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