The Baltimore Ravens (2-0) will host the Washington Redskins (2-0) on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 7:30 in a Week 3 preseason game. As with all of the Week 3 preseason games, this is essentially a dress rehearsal for the starters before they really don’t play at all in Week 4.
Washington finished 2013 with a 3-13 record after winning the NFC East in 2012. Nothing seemed right in Washington last season. But with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan now no longer with the Redskins and Jay Gruden taking over as head coach, things are looking u. Their pass defense was lousy in 2013, finishing the season ranked 20th (allowing 243.5 YPG). Will Gruden allow defensive coordinator Jim Haslett be more aggressive on defense? Shanahan seemed to stifle Haslett and the defense last season instead of allowing the defense to be stifling. Through two preseason games it already seems like the defense is getting more pressure on opposing QBs, but that’s not really the best sample size. Can they keep getting to opposing QBs?
The biggest question in Redskins fans’ minds (besides wondering how long they’ll have to put up with Dan Snyder as their owner) is can RGIII stay healthy? Robert Griffin III has fired back at his doubters on Twitter (which is understandable and kind of awesome), but the question is a legitimate one. He’s been hurt throughout his first two seasons in the NFL and he continues to take unnecessary hits even though he has promised he would play smarter. He’s athletically gifted and his first instinct is to just take off when he sees space in front of him. There is no doubt RGIII could be one of the better QBs in the NFL; he has the talent. He just needs to take better care of himself on the field and a first step towards that end would be learning how to slide. Redskins fans will also be looking to see if the offensive line shows improvement because that could also go a long way towards protecting RGIII.
The Ravens went 8-8 in 2013 and missed the playoffs for the first time since John Harbaugh took over the head coaching duties in 2008. On offense they ranked 18th in passing (224.4 YPG) and 30th in rushing (83.0 YPG). On defense they ranked 12th against the pass (230.1 YPG) and 11th against the run (105.4 YPG). They have a new offensive coordinator (Gary Kubiak was hired this offseason), and after two preseason games the Ravens have averaged an NFL-best 194 rushing yards per game. Those numbers are inflated a bit because backup QB Tyrod Taylor has played more than Joe Flacco so far and he has 65 rushing yards in two games. But if anything close to that production continues in the regular season, the Ravens have a chance to be successful. Ray Rice finished with only 660 rushing yards last season, the lowest of this career. In very limited time this preseason he has averaged more than seven yards per carry. If the Ravens can continue to run the ball effectively, that will open up the passing game and allow Flacco to be more productive in 2014. Ravens fans will keep an eye on how the offense looks with Rice starting at RB and playing substantial time since it will probably be the last time he sees the field until Week 3 of the regular season.
This game won’t count and certainly will not be 100 percent indicative of how either team’s season will go, but having their starters play well for a full two or three quarters will certainly bode well for the start of the regular season.