Washington Redskins Face Chicago Bears in Preseason Week 2: What to Watch for

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 17, 2012

Aug. 9, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA;  Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) runs with the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  Redskins beat the Bills 7-6.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, we're all going to be watching a certain quarterback very closely, but in addition to the performance delivered by Rex Grossman, what else should we be keeping an eye on when the Washington Redskins travel to Chicago for a Saturday night preseason barnburner? Also, why am I suddenly being excessively sarcastic? Must be a Friday.

Anyway, here's what I'm going to be focusing on this weekend.


Another test for the offensive line

A patchwork unit did a bang-up job against a very good Buffalo defensive front last Thursday, which is encouraging when considering how vulnerable Robert Griffin III looked early in training camp. Trent Williams and Maurice Hurt should be good to go Saturday, but Jammal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger are both still out, meaning we'll see Tyler Polumbus start again at right tackle for Brown.

The veteran wasn't bad in the opener, but that was with a sample size that consisted of six dropbacks. And things don't get much easier going from Buffalo to Chicago.

The 'Skins will miss Lichtensteiger the most, but Polumbus will be counted on to help keep RG3 upright. If he can do that again, then we might have a right tackle controversy on our hands.


Alfred Morris vs. Evan Royster

I don't know if this is necessarily a competition, but in my mind it's already alive and running. I'm beginning to feel that the powerful and resilient Morris could challenge for real reps this season, and with Tim Hightower and Roy Helu hurt he'll get a chance to once again outperform Royster against quality Bears defenders Saturday night.

The backfield shuffle is always unpredictable in D.C. Consider that last year at this time, Helu and Royster were in the exact same position as Morris, and look how much of an impact they made as rookies. 

Morris was good against the Bills, but to keep climbing the ladder he'll have to break free once or twice. The sixth-round pick had 15 carries in Buffalo, but none went beyond six yards.


Brandon Banks and Niles Paul try to keep their heads above water

Last week was not good for either player, but Banks and Paul have a chance to redeem themselves against the Bears. Banks is a half-decent return man who knows he'll only stick if he can make the team as the last wideout, while Paul is a receiver convert trying to prove that he can block well enough to serve as a backup tight end.

Banks was targeted nine times in the opener, yet he only had two catches for seven yards. Paul dropped three passes, settling for a single 11-yard reception. 

What's strange is that neither player had been struggling to catch passes in practice. Paul looked skittish, which is concerning when you consider that blocking was supposed to be his problem. Banks just couldn't get any separation.

In their defense, Rex Grossman threw them the majority of their passes. Let's chalk it up to that and the fact that they may have been rusty out of the gate. But they won't get a mulligan again this weekend.


Richard Crawford continues his push to be the fourth cornerback

The rookie seventh-round pick is making one hell of a case for a big role this year. Crawford averaged 14 yards on his three punt returns in the opener, and he also had an interception to lock up the game on defense.

The fact that he's a good return man will help, as will the fact that he's a versatile defensive back who can play all three corner positions. DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Cedric Griffin are locked in as the top three corners, but Crawford has a chance to climb above Kevin Barnes and become a key backup in his rookie season.

Four in-flux players I'll be keeping a close eye on during the game: Chris Baker, Tanard Jackson, Rex Grossman and Bryan Kehl.

Check back Sunday for a complete wrap on what went down from a Redskin perspective.