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Third Preseason Game A Dress Rehearsal In Multiple Ways

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Besides the fact that the Redskins' starters will get a final, extended opportunity on the field this Sunday, this week has been helpful in getting players and coaches back to a game routine.

While the first couple of preseason games can occasionally offer a window into how the regular season will play out for a given team, more often it extrapolates small amounts of data and churns them through a hype machine that creates a narrative mostly forgotten by the first week in September.

The third game however, otherwise known as the final dress rehearsal for the first-team offense and defense, gives a sizeable chunk of playing time to the starters, providing one last chance to find a rhythm before the opener. For the Redskins, this comes on a Sunday, which means that the past several days have functioned like a regular game week.

In other words, in opposition to the previous two games against the Ravens and Packers, Redskins players have game-planned for their upcoming opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, like they would a regular season game, getting back into the habit of a three-day practice schedule and watching film with their position groups. For the first time this preseason, they'll actually have an idea of what to expect when they jog onto the field.

"This week is big," running back Chris Thompson said. "We get to focus on our opponent a lot this week and not so much our offense going against our defense, getting some really good looks out there. We got to see a lot of Cincinnati last year so it helps to be able to go back and look at that film also because these first two games they've had a lot of injuries and their starters haven't put in a lot of time either. It's just been big for us to go watch film and look at some things that they do well and just try to find out best way to execute."

This is a way of saying that all of the panic regarding the slow offensive starts and unproductive run game should be tempered. The Redskins haven't concerned themselves too much with preparing for opponents in which starters barely play and backups make the majority of highlights. Defenses try out blitz schemes and offenses mostly react the best they can.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their preseason Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

"We're going to be fine," wide receiver Terrelle Pryor  Sr. said earlier this week. "Everyone goes through a process where you don't really break down the defense. You look at the Giants for example. Did they look any more spectacular than us? And their offense is going to be good, I don't care what you say. So there's little things that you've got to iron out…Right now we're running plays and we just want to get better. We just want our rhythm a little better, but we're game planning a little right now so we should come out fire on Sunday."

That optimism stems from the fact that the Redskins are hoping to have everyone on offense together on the field for the first time since offseason practices, as tight end Jordan Reed returned from the PUP list earlier this week and Josh Doctson looked sharp in his limited action against Green Bay.

"Obviously you want to win, but you also just want to make sure you're getting guys good, quality reps," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "We'd like to be obviously more efficient and more productive offensively, but we're going out to try and score points and unfortunately the score really doesn't matter."

Aside from getting in sync on the field for an extended amount of time, the week of preparation from a film-watching and installation standpoint remains important. The majority of training camp is spent watching tape of teammates, which only helps so much. With a full week of studying an opposing team, players start exercising their mental muscles again, adjusting to the routines of the week.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their preseason Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

"Just like anything else, you take off from practice, or if you're away from the game for a little while, you come back, you're a little rusty, have to get your feet under you, and just like watching film," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We watch film all the time in training camp, we watch each other, we watch the plays, so it all comes together, it's not much of a difference, it's just that you're getting in that habit, getting in that room where you're accustomed to doing those things."

The same goes for the coaching staff, which has shuffled around a bit with the promotion of Cavanaugh, who has learned how to delegate certain responsibilities to other coaches and given them a good idea of how the regular season will function day to day. It's been helpful for the players, too.

"I think it gave the players a sense of the detail that has to be presented to them, the kind of studying they have to do, the note-taking they have to make, and then they go home at night and this is – we're getting close," Cavanaugh said. "We're getting close to the real thing, so you might as well get used to what the real thing's going to be like. We're still going to give them time off, we're not going to beat them up but there's a routine that they have to get used to, too, as well as the staff."

It's hard to appreciate the impact of establishing a routine over results, but the Redskins are hoping the latter will come because of the former.

"There's still some time to fix things," Cavanaugh said, "and we're excited about playing this weekend and we'll see where it goes."

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