The Redskins’ starters might actually play a few series, and newly signed running back Adrian Peterson will make his Washington debut when the Denver Broncos come to FedEx Field on Friday (7:30, NBCSW). The third preseason game is typically a dress rehearsal for the season opener, but several prominent players, such as running back Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed, will be held out for health reasons. Still, watching the defense try to counter quick-throwing quarterback Case Keenum should be interesting. Here are five players to watch.
Adrian Peterson, running back
The Redskins created a buzz by signing the free agent Monday and plan to use him heavily against the Broncos. The question: Which Peterson are they getting? The 2012 league MVP who is one long run from joining the list of the NFL’s top 10 career rushers, or the one who is on his third team in a year after averaging 3.4 yards last season with Arizona and New Orleans? It wouldn’t take much for Peterson, 33, to start over Rob Kelley, who has been lackluster this preseason. If nothing else, the team has noticed the future Hall of Famer’s intense practice habits.
Daron Payne, defensive tackle
The rookie first-rounder delivered a mixed effort last week against the New York Jets. He managed a sack by bull-rushing past a guard. But Payne was caught off balance several times with poor footwork as he desperately looked for the ball, and his reaction time occasionally was on a one-second delay. That hesitation should disappear with experience — he needs to at least double the 10 snaps he had against the Jets. His chemistry with DT Jonathan Allen, his former Alabama teammate, is undeniable. Pity the left guards and tackles facing this pair.
Josh Doctson, wide receiver
The 2016 first-rounder enters a prove-it season. Repeating last year’s 35 receptions would be a bust for someone the Redskins once hoped would roam the back of the end zone. Instead, they are developing other options, and Doctson has only an 11-yard catch this preseason. Coach Jay Gruden isn’t too worried about his starters’ production in August, but Doctson needs to show he can help carry the offense when needed and stay healthy after some nicks in camp. For now, he likely is only the second option — even in the red zone — behind Paul Richardson.
Martrell Spaight, middle linebacker
He just wants to rough people up, and is doing it so well that Mason Foster better improve or he could lose his starting job. Spaight is the Redskins’ most underrated defensive player. He has great speed to the ball and is a huge-impact hitter, reminiscent of Wilber Marshall three decades ago. Spaight’s 75 tackles in his third season showed that he’s ready for more. He can call defensive signals, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to play him over Foster. Watch Spaight quickly come to the line on run defense, which the Redskins will emphasize more this season.
Ryan Anderson, outside linebacker
Last year’s second-rounder was invisible as a rookie. Despite coaches saying he’s doing more this summer, he’s still invisible. He not only can’t surpass starters Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan, he is at risk of being overtaken by Pete Robertson as the top backup. The club hopes Anderson can be Plan B in 2019 if Smith doesn’t re-sign, but Anderson needs to show something now. That includes being more physical at the line after being shoved out of too many plays, and displaying more urgency to the ball, which should come from knowing the scheme better.
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