The Washington Redskins will be preparing this week both for Sunday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, which will serve as the final dress rehearsal ahead of the team’s Sept. 10 opener versus the Eagles, and for the start of the regular season.
As was evident Saturday night, this team still has a lot of work left to do. Here are five areas we’ll be keeping a close eye on this week once the Redskins return to the practice fields Wednesday.
1. Reed’s return: The team’s top offensive weapon will take the field after missing the last four weeks with a strained toe. Reed has been doing some work on the side, so he should be fairly well-conditioned. But we’ll see how quickly the team brings him along, and if he looks good enough this week for Coach Jay Gruden and the trainers to feel comfortable letting him play on Sunday.
2. Offensive rhythm: Reed’s return should help with this, but he’s only one guy, so he will not fix everything. Kirk Cousins should benefit from the tight end’s presence on the field. He looked antsy and hesitant for much of the first half and finally settled in on the sixth possession. However, Cousins does still need to improve his trust, chemistry and timing with his other receivers. Meanwhile, the rushing attack remains a work in progress. The starting linemen still aren’t quite in sync. This will be a point of emphasis in practice this week, no doubt. We’ll see what offensive line coach Bill Callahan has in mind to remedy this.
3. Injury updates: With Reed and Josh Doctson back on the field along with Jamison Crowder, the offense is nearing full strength. Second-year receiver Maurice Harris has only taken the field a couple of times because of what’s believed to be tendinitis in his knee. But he needs to make it back soon, because Brian Quick is providing the same kind of backup versatility and size that coaches liked in Harris. The defense isn’t quite there yet. Pass-rushers Junior Galette and Ryan Anderson are hoping to get back in the mix this week. Galette has nursed a strained hamstring while Anderson missed the last game with a stinger in his neck.
4. Battle at inside linebacker: Week 1 of the preseason featured Will Compton and Mason Foster as the starters. Week 2: Foster and Zach Brown. Now we’ll see which tandem Greg Manusky and Kirk Olivadotti go with as this position battle continues. Third-year pro Martrell Spaight made some nice plays with the second unit. But it’s hard to say if he’ll work his way into the starting competition. He does know how to play both positions. But experience gives Foster and Compton the edge at the “Mike,” and supreme athleticism makes Brown the favorite at the “Moe.” These two positions serve as the tone-setters for the defense, and this week, they need to lead the unit to an improved showing. The Redskins had a solid outing against Baltimore, then did some good things against the Packers, but did have some breakdowns. It would’ve been nice to see them get one three-and-out versus Green Bay’s starters. We’ll see how this unit bounces back against Andy Dalton and the Bengals.
5. Doctson’s comfort level: This is an important game for Doctson. In practice he has looked good. But he only played 18 snaps and was targeted just twice in his preseason debut. It’ll be good for the 2016 first-round pick to receive a substantial workload this week so the Redskins get a better idea of what they have in him. Doctson eventually should compete with Ryan Grant for the third receiver spot. Coaches have faith in Grant because of his consistency as a route-runner. But he had some untimely drops, and he got out of bounds a yard shy of the yard-marker on third down during one stalled drive. Doctson has ground to make up, but we’ll see if he can overtake Grant.