Redskins vs. Ravens: Previewing Washington's Preseason Week 3 Matchup
For a second consecutive year, the Washington Redskins will meet up with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 of the preseason. And, unfortunately, many of the same question marks they entered last year's matchup with remain.
Just mention the names Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III, and you're bound to hear varying opinions on their qualifications to hold their positions.
Following Washington's 21-17 victory over the Detroit Lions, the duo was again a hot-button issue. Griffin was routinely hit behind a struggling offensive line, exiting the game in the second quarter with a concussion.
Gruden had fans and pundits alike confounded as to why Griffin was in the game in the first place to get hurt.
In what amounts to a dress rehearsal for the regular season, what will Week 3 have in store for Griffin, Gruden and the rest of the Redskins?
Let's find out. Here is the preview for Washington's matchup with the Ravens.
Location: M&T Bank Stadium; Baltimore, MD
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV: NBC (CSN)
Latest Injury News
This week's bout is the closest we'll get to a preview of the regular season. Rightfully cautious with players nursing injuries the first two weeks of the preseason, Washington is acting accordingly to this reality.
According to ESPN's John Keim, both Jordan Reed and DeAngelo Hall could return this week against Baltimore.
Even with these players returning to the lineup, the team still isn't whole. Frank Kearse and Akeem Davis will join the likes of Bashaud Breeland and DeSean Jackson on the sideline.
In the case of RG3 and his recovery from the concussion he suffered in Week 2, Gruden stated he'll have to be cleared by a neurologist on Thursday in order to play, per Keim.
Moving to the Ravens' side of things, the status of cornerback Lardarius Webb concerns the team. Webb's missing a preseason isn't a new phenomenon, as his last preseason outing was in 2013.
But in speaking to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed concern over the hamstring injury keeping Webb out of the lineup.
"I'd be fooling if I told you that I didn't think it was a concern," Pees said.
Looking at the state of Baltimore's offensive line, there's cause for concern on the offensive side of the ball as well.
The Ravens already didn't suit up six offensive linemen against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, and they promptly lost Eugene Monroe, James Hurst and De'Ondre Wesley to injury.
With both teams licking their wounds, it wouldn't be shocking to see the starters log fewer snaps in this one.
Update: As reported by ESPN, linebacker Junior Galette suffered a torn Achilles in practice.
Washington Front Seven vs. Baltimore Offensive Line
This harks back to the Ravens' injury situation along the offensive line. While they're losing able bodies up front, Washington is merely adding talent to what's been a stout front seven this preseason.
The team has tallied nine sacks while surrendering just 91 rushing yards in two games. With the Washington Post's Mike Jones reporting Ryan Kerrigan will make his preseason debut, another dominant performance could be in store this week.
Redskins Offensive Line vs. Ravens Front Seven
Speaking of offensive lines, after last week's fiasco, how could the matchup between the Skins offensive line and Ravens front seven not be a matchup to watch?
For a quarter-plus, Washington's starting unit was manhandled at the point of attack. Aside from the abuse Griffin took, it's worth noting the running game didn't get going until the reserves entered the game.
Knowing Baltimore surrendered 238 yards rushing in Week 2, redemption is something both teams will seek in this matchup.
WR Jamison Crowder vs. Baltimore Secondary
All offseason, receiver Jamison Crowder was the talk of the town—not just as a returner, which was the main reason the team drafted him, but as a receiver.
Raving about his electrifying speed and crisp routes, Mike Jones of the Washington Post went as far as to dub him the most impressive of Washington's rookies.
In the preseason, though, all the talk surrounding Crowder has been with the team's training staff. A hamstring injury has kept him out of the lineup and all but put out the fire under incumbent slot receiver and return man Andre Roberts' seat.
According to CSN's Tarik El-Bashir, though, Crowder is hopeful he'll make his preseason debut against Baltimore.
It may be too late, but with Jackson out yet again, Crowder will have the stage to showcase why he should usurp Roberts on the depth chart.
Washington X-Factor: QB Robert Griffin III
How could it not be Griffin?
With the starters expected to see a good amount of action in this one, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy won't be coming to the rescue of Washington's offense as they have the first two preseason games.
The onus will be on Griffin—no thanks to Pierre Garcon—to lead the Redskins first-team offense into the end zone for the first time.
There's no doubt the offensive line struggled against Detroit. But with the youth the team has up front, this is something Griffin will have to deal with at various points once the real games begin.
On plays like the one he was concussed on, Griffin has to trust his protection and not panic.
With that play serving as a lesson of what not to do, it'll be interesting to see where Griffin's pocket presence is at with the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil bearing down on him this time around.
Baltimore X-Factor: QB Joe Flacco
No surprise here, another quarterback.
Baltimore's offense was headlined by its running game in 2014, but it won't be in this contest.
Injuries to the offensive line—and backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro—aside, the odds of the Ravens finding traction in the running game were already slim. Through two games, Washington has surrendered just 2.8 yards per carry.
This will put the onus on Joe Flacco to move the ball through the air. With the question marks the Skins have in the secondary, this might have been option No. 1 for head coach John Harbaugh and company to begin with.
Injuries have ravaged Washington's secondary. It hasn't shown up in the stats department because of the quality of quarterbacks the team has played. But should Flacco be provided time to throw, this is an area of vulnerability he could exploit.
What the Experts Are Saying
Washington Times' Thom Loverro: Redskins Need to Say Goodbye to RG3
The relationship between RG3 and the Redskins has been on a downward slope ever since the team's fateful playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in 2012.
In the opinion of the Washington Times' Thom Loverro, it's a relationship that needs to come to an end:
It’s best for everybody.
The situation has become far too toxic. There is too much damage that can’t be repaired. Nobody has any credibility left.
On the heels of a preseason game, Loverro's comments may seem out of place. But it's not as if Griffin's struggles or the organizational drama surrounding him is anything new. Washington and its fans have had two years of losing and internal discord between its coaching staff and quarterback.
Excuses have pardoned both parties in the past. At this moment in time, though, if their relationship doesn't net results this season, both have to go their separate ways.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks: Redskins Defensive Line Is Much Improved
His first offseason in command, general manager Scot McCloughan added Ricky Jean Francois, Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Galette to an already strong position group.
This unit hasn't been whole yet because of injury, but judging from what we've seen this preseason, depth won't be an issue for Washington in 2015 up front.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Redskins 20
The Redskins' first two preseason games have followed a similar script. The team starts the game in sloppy fashion, with turnovers, penalties and other negative plays standing as the hallmarks.
What follows is a double-digit rally engineered by the backup quarterbacks and a strong running game. And the team wins.
How you finish is important, but knowing it was the starting lineup that put the team in a whole to begin with, Washington will find itself in trouble against the Ravens.
It just so happens starters log the most action of the preseason in Week 3. Edge for the Ravens.
Furthermore, the last touchdown Washington's first-team offense scored in preseason play was in 2013! Edge for the Ravens.
A strong defense will keep the Redskins within striking distance, but in a first this preseason, the team won't be able to overcome the shortcomings of its starters.