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What We Learned During Steelers Week

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Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda provides five things that we learned about the Washington Redskins prior to their Week 1 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1. Josh Doctson and Matt Jones are making progress, but they're listed as questionable.The Redskins head into their Week 1 tilt with the Steelers with a near clean bill of health, as not a single one of the team's 53 active players have been ruled out of the game.

Doctson (Achilles) and Jones (shoulder) are among five players listed as questionable, though.

Doctson returned to practice this week after a stint on the Physically Unable to Perform list that lasted the duration of training camp and the preseason. He was limited in the team's first three practices of the week before fully participating in Saturday's practice, a good signal of how he is coming along.

"I'm out here, it's a positive, it's a plus," Doctson said on Monday. "I'm not out here wasting a day. Today was getting back into it, getting a nice sweat. I didn't get tired at all out there, so that goes as a tribute to what the guys did with me in terms of rehab conditioning and doing what I could do."

A determination on his status likely won't be made until sometime pregame Monday. If he is active, though, he will be used.

"He's done a great job this week," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. "[We've] been very encouraged by what we've seen from him. Like we've mentioned already, we have a lot of confidence in those receivers that have been here and have been productive. I think it's going to be one of those situations that we monitor each and every week, and the more that he shows he's capable of handling, then I think the more opportunities he'll get."

As for Jones, he was a full participant in the week's practices after wearing the non-contact yellow practice jersey last Monday.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is confident Jones – who will get some relief from Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley -- will be able to hold up against the Steelers' defense.

"He's a tough guy man and the reason why you like him, you like his toughness and I think he can play through a little soreness which a lot of running backs do in the National Football League," Gruden said. "It's just a way of life. When you sign up to play running back in the National Football League, you're going to be a little sore, and he will be throughout the season and he's tough enough to deal with it."

2. Shawn Lauvao earned the starting left guard spot.
It was a battle that went right down to the wire, but Lauvao landed at the top of the team's depth chart this week at left guard. It was a rewarding moment for a player that had multiple surgical procedures over the last year following a 2015 season that ended prematurely.

"It's real humbling," Lauvao said. "I think it just shows you the faith we have in the guys in this room. We have a good room. [Offensive line coach] Bill [Callahan] has done a good job preparing us, and we have good leadership with Trent [Williams] and Kory [Lichtensteiger]."

Lauvao opened up training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list before easing his way back into form while down in Richmond. But it became clear that a healthy Lauvao needed to be in the starting lineup.

"We weren't sure how Shawn was going to recover from his feet issues and he's come back in a big way," Gruden said. "He was our starter (last year) before Spencer [Long] became the starter when Shawn got hurt and Shawn has proven he's back in tip top shape and done an excellent job. I feel great about both of those guys, I really do. I wouldn't bat an eye whoever w in there – Spencer or Shawn – but we run out on the first play of the game against Pittsburgh, it'll be Shawn this week."

3. Su'a Cravens role may begin to expand.

While he's on the team's unofficial depth chart as the No. 2 Mike linebacker, Cravens – listed as safety on the roster – could begin to move around the defense.

It is an important role that could allow Cravens, a self-described "ball-hawk," to be around the action more frequently.

With the 53rd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected linebacker Su'a Cravens out of USC. Take a look at his collegiate career in photos.

Gruden said during one of his press conferences that Cravens has worked some with the scout team at safety as he begins to "branch off in different areas."

"Even though they are doing a card, we can put people in different situations and see how they move around in space and do some things," Gruden said of the scout team. "We can still translate our calls to what the scout team is doing."

The first test for Cravens at the NFL level will come against a Steelers offense that's known to create confusion.

"They do a lot of no-huddle," Gruden said. "The biggest concern I probably have is how tired are we going to get on Monday night, because if they're doing no-huddle and he's dropping back to pass and they're having to chase him around all day, we'll see what kind of shape we're in. I think we're in good shape and I think we'll be up to the task, but we'll have to see."

4. Josh Norman won't be alone in stopping Antonio Brown.
Even if the Steelers decide to move Brown from one side of the field to the other, the Redskins won't always make Norman travel with him.

"We'll change it up," Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "We will do some of that, but I think with what Pittsburgh does, they do such a great job… It's easier to do that when a guy is in one spot all the time. When you say, 'OK, in this formation, he's going to be here. In this formation he's going to be here.' Kind of the theme with elite No. 1 wideouts with every team now, they do such a good job of moving him around so you can't get a bead on him. But we will do some of that. We'll deploy a certain, different number of players on him, but they counter-balance that just by moving him around."

While Norman has yet to face off with Brown in a regular season game, he respects what his fellow All-Pro brings to the table.

What he's able to do week in and week out is "freakish."

"When you look at a wide receiver in the NFL, you don't have to stop anywhere other than Antonio Brown," Norman said. "It starts and it ends with him. That's going to be a tall task to take on and I respect that 110 percent. I'm looking forward to what he will bring because that matchup is obviously going to be a physical one and it's going to be a fun one. I'm enjoying looking forward to it. Like I said, nothing but respect for that guy."

5. The Redskins will use their loaded tight end group to create mismatches.
With Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Niles Paul in fold this season, Washington has three tight ends capable of being pass-catching threats and as quality blockers in the passing game.

This is a strength the Redskins did not have last season due to injury, as they often had to use Tom Compton and Ty Nsekhe as extra blockers.

And when either – or both – were in the game at the position, they were run-heavy. That won't always be the case this year.

"We're going to have some two-tight end sets, we're going to have some one-tight end sets, three-receiver sets, we're going to have some maybe four-receiver sets, so we have some different variety in what we do," Gruden said. "And those tight ends are very versatile, they can line up at wideout in the slot, they can line up in the backfield at fullback, so it's fun to work with those guys. They're all very smart, they're very athletic and they're all very dangerous." 

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