Who: Redskins (2-0) at Ravens (2-0).
What: Preseason game No. 3.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet and NBC 4.
Pre and postgame: Redskins Kickoff 6:30 p.m. and Redskins Postgame Live at 10:30 p.m.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ offense were the big storyline against the Patriots and the Browns. But on Saturday night, the focus will shift to Washington’s defense, which will face its biggest test of the preseason at M&T Bank Stadium.
No offense to Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, but they’re not exactly Joe Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP.
“This is going to be a big test for us,” rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. “It’s going to let us know how much we’ve progressed.”
The game will also mark the first time this preseason that the Redskins’ defense will have all of its projected starters.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher will make his debut for the Redskins after sitting out the first two exhibition contests while rehabbing from an offseason knee scope. The 32-year-old signed a four-year, $27.5 contract in March after amassing a career-best 11 sacks for the Cowboys last season.
Hatcher is eager to test out his knee. The Redskins are just as eager to see what he can do.
“Anytime you have a big man that can get after the quarterback, it’s a huge bonus for you,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s a huge bonus for [Brian] Orakpo and [Ryan] Kerrigan. It’s a huge bonus for DeAngelo Hall and the safeties and the corners. It just makes your defense better. He plays with great energy. He’s a great leader. He plays hard and he’s a dominant pass rusher inside and that’s an added advantage for the Redskins.”
For Hatcher, Saturday will also be about getting back on the same page with his teammates.
“We worked a lot in OTAs before I had my procedure done,” Hatcher said. “I know those guys as a rusher and they know me as a rusher. [But chemistry] will be one of those things where these three or four weeks we got before the season starts, we’ll just harp on it every day, get the details down, how we want to rush, our rush plan, how we’re going to rush in the games. I think at the end of the day, we’ll be great.”
Applying consistent pressure to Flacco will be critical for the Redskins as the corners and safeties attempt to corral Steve Smith, Torrey Smith and the Ravens’ other downfield threats.
Starters on both sidelines could play into the third quarter.
“It’s going to be a big test,” Hall said. “Those are two guys that have made a lot of plays in this league. They are big-time competitors. We’re going to [embrace] the opportunity to go out there and strap up with them and whomever else they put out there. It’s going to be a good measuring stick for us to take into the season and work on some things we need to work on.”
Hatcher, Hall and the rest of Redskins’ defense will, indeed, be the headliners Saturday. But here are five more storylines the team at CSNWashington.com will be monitoring:
1—Against the Browns, Griffin completed 6 of 8 pass attempts for 112 yards. But the starting offense did not produce a touchdown for the second straight game and Griffin was criticized for one awkward slide and another scramble where he fought for additional yards instead of getting down, exposing himself to a pair of unnecessary blows. After the game he promised fans that he intends to improve his decision-making and sliding technique. Saturday will be his first opportunity to make good on that promise.
2—Griffin was also flagged twice against Cleveland for false starts while making a hard count in the shotgun. Pre-snap movement by quarterbacks will be a point of emphasis for officials in 2014, but Griffin and Gruden both sounded perplexed by the flags. “We’ve just got to make sure we don’t have him do any sudden movements with his hands or try to really move his head and shoulders. But to me that was a little insane.”
3—Rookie offensive linemen Morgan Moses and Spencer Long will move from the left side to the right side for the final two weeks of the preseason. It’s unclear if they’ll get any snaps with the starters in Baltimore, but they're projected as eventual starters at right tackle and a right guard, respectively.
4—The Redskins’ kicking battle remains as tight as ever. Incumbent Kai Forbath is 2 of 3 on field goals and has forced one touchback on five kickoffs. Rookie Zach Hocker is 2 of 2 on field goals and forced on touchback on three kickoffs. Could this be the game in which one takes the lead on the other?
5—As of Friday, second year running back Chris Thompson (sprained ankle) was considered a game time decision. He was hurt in the preseason opener and missed Monday’s game against the Browns. Gruden called Thompson “50-50” to suit up in Baltimore. Cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) is doubtful. Linebacker Darryl Sharpton (high ankle sprain) is also doubtful.