Tonight, August 21st, the Washington Redskins face off against the Baltimore Ravens in a pre-season game, and while the final score doesn’t matter all that much, there are several things that Redskins fans should be looking for as the season draws nearer.

Running Backs

The top thing Washington Redskins fans should be looking to tonight is the performance by the running backs.  It was perplexing last week when there was no sign of Larry Johnson and no sign of “Formerly Fast” Willie Parker (a nickname I’ll continue to use until we see otherwise).  Larry Johnson is listed as the starter for tonight and Willie Parker moved up the depth chart and should see some playing time.

Fans who enjoyed the performances of Keiland Williams and/or Ryan Torain from a week ago should not lose heart, as they’ll likely have two more games to show what they can do.  They arguably are better off not going into the game against the Ravens defense, which could easily stifle young running backs, a potentially disheartening occurrence for fans / Williams / Torain alike.  Larry Johnson and Willie Parker have both met stout Ravens defenses alike (Parker having seen them twice a year while in the Ravens’ AFC North while with Pittsburgh), and they should have plenty of confidence that later-game carries will be easier than their first few attempts.

The Cornerbacks

DeAngelo Hall has easily solidified his spot as a starter in the Redskins’ defense with his proven propensity for stifling opposing receivers and gathering interceptions.

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The rest of the squad is less defined.  Carlos Rogers is showing signs of serious improvement, but there’s considerable talk that he’s going to move to covering a slot receiver when the defense adds the nickelback.

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Can Philip Buchanon, a former Pro Bowl corner, take over full-time as a starter?

The young guys have more to be concerned about.  Kevin Barnes and Justin Tryon are both trying to establish themselves, and while it would be hard for either of them to supplant Rogers and/or Buchanon, there are a limited number of spots on the roster, and they’ll be watching their backs with Byron Westbrook and Ramzee Robinson looking to stay on the team.

The Offensive Front

I’d be very surprised if the Redskins’ quarterbacks don’t end up with grass stains on their jerseys.  How will rookie Trent Williams react to the Ravens pass rush?  Jammal Brown was out last year, so this is a big chance for him to show whether he is back to form.

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What about the much maligned “Danger” Will Robinson?  Artis Hicks?  Those two are probably safe in their roster spots (though not as safe as Derrick Dockery, who seems to improve every year), but how about Chad Rinehart?  He’s a third round draft pick from a couple years ago, and word is that he’s working with the third team!

The Redskins also brought in competition at Long Snapper this week, and as the Redskins are VERY likely to be punting and kicking field goals tonight, we’ll be sure to get some opportunities for Nick Sundberg and James Dearth to show what they can do… although it’s not necessarily a “sexy” battle that most fans will care about.

I’m still not sure why we got rid of Ethan Albright, The Red Snapper, whose talents were rewarded not long ago with a trip to the Pro Bowl!  In an uncapped year, I can’t imagine his asking price would’ve broken the bank.

The Defensive Box

London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, Andre Carter and Philip Daniels are all set as huge parts of this 3-4 defense, but how will Carter adjust to returning to outside linebacker after not liking the position out in San Francisco?

How will Rocky McIntosh perform?  Is Albert Haynesworth in better shape this year or did he find other means to lose weight without improving his cardio?  How will “Formerly Fat” Albert adjust his skills (and attitude) to fit into the new regime’s scheme?

What about Kedric Golston, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Adam Carriker, Jeremy Jarmon, H.B. Blades, Robert Henson and the rest of the guys who could be the future of this defense?  And Vonnie Holliday has a dozen years of experience, nine of which included at least 5 sacks by the defensive lineman, is likely to make an impact.

How about Perry Riley?  The rookie was everywhere last week, but he looked a bit unrefined and in need of some “coaching up”.

The Wide Receivers

We’ve yet to see enough from Mike Furrey, Roydell Williams, Bobby Wade and Anthony Armstrong to determine which of those guys will join Santana Moss, Joey Galloway and Devin Thomas in the receiver core.  Will any of them clearly emerge tonight?

Will Malcolm Kelly lose his roster spot due to the inability to get on the field?  If more than one of those veterans show something serious tonight, there’s a good possibility of it.  The Redskins can’t take more than 6 wide receivers (and still field a competitive 53 man roster, according to Mike Shanahan), so Kelly might find his way out of town, especially with what Brandon Banks showed last week.

The Lesser Concerns

Rex Grossman looked good last week against the Bills, but will the backup-to-be have much success against the stout Ravens secondary?

How will the offensive gameplan continue to evolve into a two Tight End threat as Chris Cooley continues to show Pro Bowl skill and Fred Davis proves he’d be a starter on any of about 25+ teams in the NFL?

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Can Devin Thomas continue to show flashes of why he was worth the second round pick, but can he do enough to supplant Joey Galloway?  What will Galloway show tonight to warrant his spot as a starter?

Rex Grossman’s definitely the backup to Donovan McNabb.  Who’s going to emerge as the third QB?  This team’s not likely to keep three QB on the 53 man roster, but John Beck and Rich Bartel are both fighting for that practice squad spot.  The other would have to scramble to end up on someone else’s practice squad.  If McNabb gets hurt and Grossman steps up, the practice squad guy could very easily be standing next to Shanahan on gameday.

Will we see another awesome punt return from Brandon Banks?

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