RG3, Johnny Manziel set to clash on MNF

RG3, Johnny Manziel set to clash on MNF
August 18, 2014, 8:45 am
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Who: Browns (0-1) at Redskins (1-0)

What: Preseason game No. 2

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Monday, 8 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Pre and postgame: Redskins Kickoff 7 p.m. and Redskins Postgame Live at 11 p.m.

After playing only one drive in the preseason opener 12 days ago, the Redskins’ starters are expected to play as much a full quarter Monday night when the Browns visit Landover, Md.

More importantly, though, Washington's Robert Griffin III-led offense will have its full complement of weapons as starting wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon make their preseason debuts. Jackson missed the opener with a sprained ankle and Garçon sat out with a sore hamstring.

The star wide outs have been healthy for more than a week now and will not have any limitations against Cleveland.

Sure, it’s just a preseason game. But Coach Jay Gruden said it’s critical for Jackson and Garçon to get accustomed to operating in his system at game speed and while also getting in sync with Griffin.

“We’re excited to see them run and compete,” Gruden said. “Get them in a game situation and see how they do, just get the rust off of them. It’s important for them to try to get some type of continuity with the quarterback and the offense in general, just the speed of breaking the huddle on game day and how many plays in a row can you go without getting tired. …So we’ll see what kind of stamina they have. They look like they’re doing well out here at practice, but game-day speed is a little bit different.” 

The game will also give Gruden his first extended look at Griffin in a game situation. Against New England, the third-year signal caller went 2 of 4 passing for nine yards on an 11-play opening drive that culminated in a Kai Forbath field goal. Griffin could see twice as many plays against the Browns, giving Gruden a more accurate assessment of his quarterback’s progress as a passer, comfort level in the offense and his grasp of the nuances of the position.

RELATED: [5 Redskins in the spotlight vs. the Browns tonight]

“He’s calling plays faster in the huddle,” Gruden said of Griffin. “He’s got a better command of the game, the snap count. …Playing quarterback is a lot more than just throwing a football. It’s getting us into the right run. It’s handling the formation. It’s handling the clock in two-minute. All of these things he’s starting to understand—the total big picture of the game—and I’m excited about his progress already.”

Gruden will know exactly how excited he should be following this game. 

“Hopefully we’ll get a lot of good looks from Cleveland,” Gruden said, “and Robert will get some challenging plays.”

Griffin and the Redskins’ offense will be the big story as it always is. But it’s not all we’ll be watching. Here are five more storylines the team at CSNWashington.com will be monitoring:

1—Kyle Shanahan will be making his first trip to Landover since being fired along with his father, Mike, after last year’s disastrous 3-13 season. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Redskins’ players and fans greet the Browns’ new offensive coordinator. But we can also guarantee you this: Shanahan won’t be worried about the sentimental stuff. He and Head Coach Mike Pettine have a huge question to answer in the coming hours—Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer? The quarterbacks are in a virtual dead heat in the battle to become the Browns’ No. 1. Hoyer is expected to start the game, but both will see equal time with the starters. A decision could come as soon as Tuesday.

2—After holding the Tom Brady-less Patriots’ offense to six points, the Redskins’ defense figures to get some additional reps vs. the Browns. And there are plenty of questions. How comfortable does Keenan Robinson look directing the unit? He’s London Fletcher’s heir apparent, after all, and in a few weeks he'll be doing it for real. How about second-year safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas? Rambo’s had some good days and some bad days in camp. Thomas, meantime, will be making his preseason debut after missing two weeks with a strained hamstring. And how about that pass rush? Brian Orakpo, with some help from Ryan Kerrigan, sacked Ryan Mallett on the second drive in the opener. Can they get to Manziel/Hoyer? And, finally, both Gruden and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett praised the Redskins’ tackling vs. New England. Can it become a trend?

3—One of the tightest battles in camp has been at kicker. Kai Forbath struggled against the Patriots, missing a field and shanking a kickoff out of bounds. Rookie Zach Hocker was much better in his pro debut, connecting on both of his field goal attempts. But Hocker did not have a great day Friday in practice, missing attempts from 39 and 45. The winner will be determined in large part by what happens in games. But practice performance won't be totally discounted. Both players could really use a strong effort against the Browns.

4—While several Redskins are expected to return to the lineup from injury (Jackson, Garçon, Ryan Clark, Thomas), several more will be sidelined. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee), running back Chris Thompson (ankle) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (high ankle) are expected to sit out. Safety Brandon Meriweather (toe) could also be scratched as a precaution.

5—Some odds and ends: Jon Gruden, an analyst for ESPN, will call a game featuring his younger brother as a head coach for the first time. “He’s going to be positive if he can, but if I do something that’s out-of-line ignorant, I’m sure he’ll call me on it,” Jay Gruden joked. …Shanahan isn’t the only former Redskins’ employee making his return to FedEx Field. So are Browns’ wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel, offensive quality control Richard Hightower and third string quarterback Rex Grossman. …Redskins starting left guard Shawn Lauvao spent the previous seasons in Cleveland. …Washington is 8-3 all time in the preseason vs. Cleveland.