Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Things to Watch: Redskins at Arizona
Tonight’s preseason finale is all about filling the bottom of the roster. However, there are enough storylines to keep you awake past midnight.
1. Albert Haynesworth is one of the few Redskins headliners who will play tonight. While most, if not all, of the starters sit out, he’ll be making up for lost time against players who are fighting for jobs. Haynesworth played 15 snaps at right defensive end last week, and his transition from nose tackle is expected to continue. His focus is on moving laterally at the snap instead of upfield. If he plays extensively while the other starters are watching, it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts after the game.
2. Third-year wide receiver Devin Thomas needs a strong performance to solidify his roster spot. He has battled inconsistent performances all preseason, and he didn’t play on offense last week. Thomas does a lot for the Redskins—kickoff return and coverage duties are also part of his responsibilities—so he’s probably too valuable to cut. But Thomas would be smart not to take any chances. If Mike Shanahan’s staff doesn’t believe in him, it might not matter how he stacks up to the rest of the receivers.
3. The bottom end of the Redskins’ running back competition will be settled tonight. Willie Parker, Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams are all expected to play. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said on Tuesday that it will be difficult for the Redskins to keep three running backs who don’t play special teams, and that doesn’t bode well for Parker. Meanwhile, Torain played for coach Mike Shanahan in Denver, so Shanahan knows what he can do. A good night could lock up his spot.
4. Behind Devin Thomas, there figures to be at least one more receiver spot open. Seventh-round pick Terrence Austin and undrafted rookie Brandon Banks are battling for the role of diminutive receiver/returner. Banks has the elite speed (he has a touchdown return), but Austin has been more steady (Banks also has fumbled). Tonight’s game could decide which one makes the team and which ends up on the practice squad.
5. The Redskins’ reserve offensive linemen are fighting for either three or four spots (assuming backup tackle Stephon Heyer already has one locked up). The unit’s depth is suspect to begin with, so coaches must be sure they’re taking the keeping the best players. Watch the interior line, where players such as Will Montgomery, Kory Lichtensteiger and rookie Erik Cook are competing. Rookie tackle Selvish Capers will even play some left guard in the second half.