This is the usual custom for the second and third weeks of the preseason, and the regular season, even though the starters will not play the entire game.
Coach Jay Gruden said he still hasn’t decided how much the starters will play against the Packers at FedEx Field. But he plans to use them for more than the six-play sampling (offense) and the three plays (defense) of the preseason opener.
“You know, it’ll be a feeling out there on Saturday, really,” Gruden said. “I intend on them playing a little bit more than normal, probably, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Here’s a look at some of the top areas that stood out in today’s practice:
1. Step forward on offense? — Top returning wide receiver Jamison Crowder received a full workload yet again, and the plan is for him to make his preseason debut after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. It means Kirk Cousins and the offense will take another step toward returning to full strength.
Without their full collection of weapons, the Redskins haven’t gotten a clear look at where things stand offensively. But with Crowder starting opposite Terrelle Pryor on Saturday, things should improve. Those two will start, and then in three-receiver formations, Ryan Grant will take over on the outside, and Crowder will move to the slot. There’s still no Jordan Reed, but there’s a chance Josh Doctson could play as well. (They’ll test his hamstring out during pregame warm-ups to make a final determination).
Crowder has looked good in practice, winning matchups against Josh Norman when lined up outside and against Kendall Fuller or linebackers or safeties when lined up in the slot. He has used crisp route-running to shake the likes of Norman and Fuller, and speed to win against linebackers and safeties. When Reed returns, the offense will run through him, but until then, Crowder is option No. 1, so it’ll be interesting to see how Cousins and Crowder look from a timing perspective despite limited practice time.
2. Game plan at ILB — We took a look at the inside linebacker competition this morning, and for a second straight day, it was Mason Foster at the “Mike” and Zach Brown at the “Moe.” Will Compton will serve as Foster’s backup.
Gruden said after practice that those two will indeed start against Green Bay. Foster looks comfortable as the signal caller, and because of his physicality, he has the ability to shed blockers and get to the ball carrier. In previous weeks, we’ve seen times where Brown has come off the bench to take over alongside Will Compton in nickel packages. But in the last two practices, Brown and Foster have remained on the field together whether in base or nickel. Compton got on the field for one first-team play today, but spent the rest of the day leading the second unit.
3. More D-line shuffling — Jim Tomsula’s experimentation in the trenches continues. While the starters at linebacker (Ryan Kerrigan, Foster, Brown, Preston Smith), cornerback (Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland) and safety (D.J. Swearinger, Will Blackmon, standing in for Deshazor Everett, who missed practice to attend to a personal matter) all remained the same, the defensive linemen changed every series.
In a rare occurrence, Terrell McClain got the start at left defensive end after spending the bulk of the preseason as a backup. Meanwhile, Ziggy Hood at nose tackle (instead of Phil Taylor, who has been the regular), and Jonathan Allen played right end, as he has many times.
Later, in the nickel package, we saw McClain and Anthony Lanier as the two linemen. Lanier has been a regular here. A.J. Francis and Stacy McGee got snaps in the nickel with the first-team defense, as did Joey Mbu and Hood. Later still, Matt Ioannidis and Allen were paired together. Tomsula has said the starters don’t matter, because everyone is going to play, and he appears to be sticking to his word. It’s always hard to truly gauge defensive linemen in practice because of the lack of live tackling. But we’ll see how these paring work on Saturday.
The player with the most to prove would seem to be McClain, who has yet to really show why the Redskins signed him this offseason.
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