We're getting close.
Tomorrow night's preseason game between the Redskins and Buffalo Bills may not be all that meaningful big picture-wise, but there are certain things I hope to see. The order of importance in which I've listed them is subjective, of course, but perhaps one or two will resonate...
12) I want to see some long, lingering looks at the renovated digs. It took 13 long years, but it seems Jack Kent Cooke Stadium may finally be "finished." The old Lite-Brite scoreboard was cute. Thing is, if it ain't holding pom-poms, there is no cute in football.
11) It won't take long for the cameras to focus on the Redskins' owners box. And that's cool. Not seeing this alone makes this affair Tivo-worthy:
10) I'm curious to see what new name(s) will jump into the discussion. Who will do something—good or bad—to catapult their name(s) to the top of the message boards? For the first time in eight long months we will get to see a Redskin do something on the field worth discussing. Here's hoping it's more along the lines of a McNabb-to-Thomas-TD-bomb than a Trent-Williams-getting-burned-and-McNabb-crushed variety.
9) I'd like to see the first string, on both sides of the ball, hold their own. I'd love to see a 17-0 halftime lead, don't get me wrong. But I'll settle for a unspectacular 3-3 and looking like a real NFL team waking up from hibernation. Like you'd expect of a competitive team in the first preseason game. Just don't give me 17-0 down and looking like someone forgot to set the alarm.
That would be bad.
8) I'd like to see signs of cohesion on the offensive line. Zone blocking is less about mano-a-mano matchups than it is synergy; about knowing what the guy next to you is going to do and having him do it. First preseason game or not, watching one too many offensive lineman standing with hands on hips after a blown-up play and staring at a teammate with that unmistakable, "Dude you were supposed to have him" pose ...
That would also be bad.
7) I know this Redskins' offense will be dangerous in the passing game with Pro Bowler Chris Cooley and possible ascending star Fred Davis at tight end. Plus they'll likely feature a dangerous Clinton Portis out of the backfield. But still, I would really like to see a Redskins wide receiver make a play.
Doesn't have to be a touchdown, although that'd be sweet. One streaking, in-stride catch over the middle for 30. A key 3rd-and-long conversion with the receiver coming back for the ball and taking it away from the defender. A deep sideline catch while tumbling out of bounds with toes dragging. Just show us something so we can start over-analyzing something else.
6) I'd like to see some surge in the run game. Don't need long bursts to put a smile on my face. I just want to end the night (or at least the first half when I know the names) with the sense there was movement up front. That Redskins running backs didn't spend the evening dodging wrong-colored jerseys in their own backfield. Give me 2, 3, or 4 yards a pop (oh, with maybe a couple longer bursts mixed in just for grins), and I'll be happy.
5) It's a brand new defense. I'd like to see the other team look more confused about what it's doing than the Redskins. No major breakdowns that spring opposing offensive players streaking free for six. No angry huddles on the sidelines with Jim Haslett's veins popping out of his forehead.
Oh, and at least one turnover. Please.
4) I say it every year, I'll say it again. I'd like to see some TEAM SPEED. Particularly so given this 2010 Redskins iteration is an "older" team. Too many Redskins teams of recent vintage have looked ponderous late in games and seasons; it would do the heart good to see a couple of blue jerseys chasing some white ones tomorrow evening and losing ground. Why this high on the list? Because speed kills, even in the NFL. Particularly if you don't have it.
3) It's a new Redskins team; new coaches, new systems, new quarterback, new everything. I'll be watching for early signs of organization and professionalism. I don't expect perfection, but I do expect promise. Do they come out fired up and ready to play? Do they get units on and off the field timely? Is clock management sound?
This is one of those "you know it when you see it" deals.
I really, really want to see it.
2) I want to be able to say with clear conscience that Donovan McNabb looked "in charge." I'd like to see a coolly-directed audible or two ... that work. I'd like to see a couple of first-down conversions on smart, accurate, step-up-in-the-pocket NFL throws. I'd like to see at least one play where he has time to set up, scan the field, maybe slide a little to buy an extra half-second and hit an open receiver.
I want that one crystallizing oment I can smile, nod, look at my buds and say, "Yup. There it is."
1) No injuries.
It may be just a meaningless preseason game, but after eight months of incessant yappery I cannot tell a lie—it's pretty damn exciting to be on the eve of Redskins football again.