Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday's Redskins-Browns Preseason Week 1 showdown in Cleveland.
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MAKE IT COUNT
](http://www.papajohns.com/index.html)The first-team offensive unit for the Redskins will likely only play one quarter in Thursday's preseason opener against the Browns in Cleveland. After months of training, conditioning and preparation, the players will finally get a chance to see where they stand going full-go against another team.
For the starting offensive unit, the focus will be on both Robert Griffin III and the rebuilt side of the offensive line. After having some struggles during the preseason last year, can Griffin III come out strong and lead the offense to a productive few drives against the Browns? He's certainly showed the capability of doing just that so far in training camp practices, including one two-minute drill session in which he completed 8-of-8 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
"It's my job to facilitate the ball and get it to them," Griffin III said of the drive. "I thought we did a good job that day moving the ball down the field, keeping our composure."
Griffin III will be playing behind an offensive line that will likely be the same at left tackle (Trent Williams), left guard (Shawn Lauvao) and center (Kory Lichtensteiger) as last season, but rebuilt with youth on the right side.
In the first 2015 unofficial depth chart released on Sunday, the team listed rookie Brandon Scherff at right guard and second-year Virginia product Morgan Moses at right tackle.
The Redskins certainly had their issues in pass protection a year ago, so expectations will be high for Scherff – the No. 5-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft – and Moses to help shore that up.
"We're just going to go out here and give these guys reps, like Coach [Bill] Callahan said, 'Cross-train them,' and then let the exhibition games take care of themselves and we'll make our decisions for [the 2015 season opener against] Miami," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "That's definitely a possibility with Morgan at right tackle and Brandon at right guard."
HOLD IT DOWN
To put it simply, the Redskins have already gone through the gauntlet at the cornerback position through just more than a week of training camp practices.
The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns have met 45 times during the regular season. A look at some of those games.
Injuries – mostly minor in nature – have forced the team's top four cornerbacks to miss practice, leading the team to sign and give key practice reps to some young, brand new players (one of whom, Quinton Dunbar, transitioned to cornerback from wide receiver).
With Chris Culliver, DeAngelo Hall, Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson missing time for a variety of issues, the Redskins have brought in guys like Bryan McCann, DreQuan Hoskey and Deshazor Everett, and have relied much more on guys like Justin Rogers, Tajh Hasson and Trey Wolfe, who were previously on the 90-man roster.
Breeland, who sprained his MCL, likely won't be able to play until Week 2 of the regular season, but the other three top corners – Culliver, Hall and Amerson – will likely be gametime decisions for Thursday's preseason opener.
For the other cornerbacks, that means they could get almost an entire game's worth of valuable experience under their belts.
First year defensive backs coach Perry Fewell said the challenge has been teaching terminologies and the team's language, instructing new players when he can about the philosophies of the defense and making sure they're on the same page with the other veterans. That means meeting individually with each new addition, learning about what schemes they learned in college and if they're familiar with a certain vocabulary.
"I try to figure out their techniques," Fewell said. "Are you a press man? An off-man? How many zones have you played? And then, try to gather all that information to put in our terminology to make it easier for the players."
For a second straight season, the Redskins' defense could get a heavy preseason dose of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Last season, the then-rookie Manziel struggled against the Redskins, completing just 5-of-13 passes for 49 yards. He was also sacked once by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
Manziel would go on to play sparingly for the Browns in the regular season. In five games with two starts, he completed 18-of-35 passes (51.4 percent) with no passing touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran the ball nine times for 29 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
The Browns on Thursday will undoubtedly be running out Josh McCown as their starting quarterback, who will likely play three or four series before turning things over to Manziel, who by all reports has had a strong camp so far in 2015 as he tries to recover from a string of off-the-field issues.
According to NFL.com, Manziel completed 9-of-11 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns during Cleveland's intersquad scrimmage Friday evening. NFL Network's Mike Mayock and Browns head coach Mike Pettine talked about the Texas A&M's improved poise in the pocket, as well.
"I thought (Manziel) played well," Pettine said. "Obviously he was very productive. I thought he was very calm in the pocket. One thing you noticed was that his feet were very settled. He did not have happy feet moving around. He could set his feet and make his reads, trust his arm and I thought he made some throws into tight coverage. He let his receivers make a play."
For the Redskins to rock that Manziel momentum, they'll need constant pressure from guys like Jackson Jeffcoat and Preston Smith, who will likely be the two second-team outside linebackers this week. Defensive linemen Ricky Jean Francois, Kedric Golston (who's had a strong camp) and Chris Baker will also likely be counted on to pack in a punch up front for Washington.
KICKER COMPETITIONLast preseason, incumbent starting kicker Kai Forbath had a competition on his hands with then-rookie Zach Hocker.
After the fourth and final preseason game, the Redskins chose to go with Forbath and his in-game accuracy and experience over the youthful challenger.
This season, the Redskins again brought in a rookie to challenge Forbath in UAB product Ty Long.
Forbath hasn't been as consistent in training camp practices as he would like, but on Monday, he came through by hitting all four of his attempts. Long, who has a little more range, went 3-for-4 on the day.
It'll be interesting to see how head coach Jay Gruden splits the kicking duties during preseason games, starting Thursday vs. Cleveland.
Also, with new extra-point rule changes going into effect – which moves PAT kick attempts back 13 yards or keeps two-point conversion attempts at the 2-yard line – we'll begin to see how Gruden and special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica want to best utilize these options.
REDSKINS ON TV: Don't forget to catch all the action between the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns at 8 p.m. Thursday on NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet!