Don’t blink. Don’t tune in late. The Washington Redskins will play starters in their preseason opener at the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, but who knows how long?
Last year, coach Jay Gruden barely played quarterback Kirk Cousins and many starters. Cousins skipped the second and fourth preseason games entirely and really lasted one good series in August. Not surprisingly, Washington looked ill-prepared when losing its first two regular-season games, to Pittsburgh and Dallas respectively.
Gruden wouldn’t commit on Tuesday over how long starters will play. It’s a feel kind of thing. Surely, a quick three-and-out would have Cousins and Co. returning for another series. Conversely, an opening 12-play scoring drive might be enough for the night. Meanwhile, the defense might also go a couple series unless the first drive is a long Ravens score.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Gruden said. “I told everybody yesterday just get ready to play the game and then I’ll decide on the substitution pattern.”
The Redskins will be without receivers Josh Doctson (hamstring) and Jamison Crowder (hamstring) plus tight end Jordan Reed (toe) to greatly curtail Cousins’ options. Not that Gruden will reveal his offense, but this smells like a night of dump-off passes.
Maybe Gruden will simply work on the running game for once. Let Robert Kelley show why he’s starting once more and maybe give former starter Matt Jones a chance to remain on the roster.
But, Gruden should play the starters more this preseason and not worry about injuries. They’re already happening on the practice field. Return to the traditional one quarter for the opener, one half for the second week and three quarters for the third game. Even playing starters one quarter in the fourth preseason game isn’t a bad idea.
After all, this team needs work to be ready for Philadelphia on Sept. 10.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.