Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
The Washington Football Team is wrapping up the preseason with a home matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in a "Battle of the Beltway." Here are three keys to the matchup, presented by Van Metre.
1. "The starters will play what we think they need to play."
Ron Rivera didn't waste any time Thursday afternoon when asked how much Washington's starting offense and defense will play on Saturday. It could be a little; it could be a lot. Only the head coach knows for certain, and he isn't up for sharing those details.
"The starters will play what we think they need to play," Rivera said at the start of the press conference.
Fans didn't see much of the starting units against the Bengals and Patriots. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played a total of 37 snaps this month, while Chase Young has just 27. That's certainly a small sample size, although Fitzpatrick's 29-yard shot to Dyami Brown and Young's play against Cam Newton were enough to justify the excitement around the team.
The time the starters get on Saturday, no matter how much or how little, will be the most accurate look at what they could do in the regular season. Unlike the previous preseason games, Washington has spent the week formulating a game plan for the Ravens. Scott Turner and Jack Del Rio will have a script designed specifically to exploit Baltimore's weaknesses.
So, even if the starters only play one series, it'll be exciting to see their capabilities when they have a concrete idea of how to attack their opponents.
2. One last shot to make the roster.
It's been said to the point of exhaustion, but Aug. 31 is going to be full of tough decisions as teams are required to cut their rosters down to 53 players by 4 p.m. The talent on Washington's roster is going to make things more difficult than last year, Rivera said, because everyone has the ability to help the team.
Still, there are some players on the bubble, and Saturday's game is their last chance to earn a spot.
Regardless of how much time the starters get, the game will mostly be about making final decisions on some of the most crowded position groups this year. Washington has a wealth of talent at wide receiver outside of Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, and the team still needs to see who will fill the rest of the tight end spots behind Logan Thomas. On defense, there are plenty of impressive players in the secondary.
Rivera wants to get a long look at players fighting for those final roster spots. He wants to see if they "get it" and whether they can handle the added pressure. How they react to the situation will go a long way towards what will happen Tuesday morning.
"We're looking for guys that are going to take advantage of these opportunities, make plays, make things happen and handle the situations and opportunities," Rivera said.
3. Performance over victory.
The Ravens have won 19 preseason games; the streak is tied for the most consecutive wins in NFL history. It's impressive, but don't count Rivera as one of the people who thinks it's important.
"Somebody want to use my catchphrase, please?" Rivera asked reporters after practice. "That's interesting."
Rivera would have liked to win every preseason game on the schedule. It would be an added bonus if Washington rolled into the regular season with a 3-0 record. But that's not what Rivera's focus has been for the past month. Instead, he's been more preoccupied with his players' performance. He wants to see proper execution and how well the rookies are grasping the system.
Rivera will likely be happy if Washington manages to get a win Saturday night, but it won't be because it broke a streak of consecutive preseason victories. Instead, that satisfaction will stem from how the players performed and how hard they competed in the game.