For most NFL teams, the third preseason game is typically regarded as a benchmark. It's the game where coaches and fans want to see the team executing smoothly on offense and playing solid defense. It's a tune-up for the starters, since most will see limited action in the preseason finale.
Joe Gibbs doesn't subscribe to that philosophy--no matter how many preseason games teams play. (The Redskins play five this year.)
"I don't view specific preseason games as more important than others because really what you're trying to do through the whole preseason is get better and better," Gibbs said.
That means fewer penalties, such as linemen jumping offside.
And it means smooth execution on offense, such as the quarterback and center snapping the ball properly.
On Tuesday, Gibbs pointed out both as errors from last Saturday's 23-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers that he hopes players avoid in this weekend's preseason matchup against the Miami Dolphins at Pro Player Stadium.
As Gibbs and the coaching staff draw up a limited game plan for Miami, their primary focus remains Sept. 12, when the Redskins open the regular season at FedExField against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"You're looking to continue to evaluate everybody," Gibbs said, discussing the Miami game. "You'd like the total team to take the step up. We need to play smarter, particularly on offense, and continue to develop as we go.
"When I watched the film from the Carolina game, the players were very physical and very tough, so I'm sure this next game [against the Miami Dolphins] will be a tough, hard-fought game."
Gibbs will also be wary of injuries. The team hosted a very physical practice on Tuesday morning, with most players coming off the field sweating profusely.
Several players were held out of both practices, including Mike Barrow, Clinton Portis, Laveranues Coles and Cornelius Griffin. Chris Samuels, Kenyatta Jones and Darnerien McCants were among players who sat out practice on Tuesday afternoon.
This preseason, the team has suffered one serious injury, with tackle Jon Jansen rupturing his left Achilles in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9. In last Saturday's game against the Panthers, tight end Fred Baxter suffered a sprained right knee and could be out at least two weeks.
"You're always concerned about injuries," Gibbs said. "The good thing is, I don't think there are many serious issues there. Most of them are bumps and bruises. Hopefully they'll bounce back for the weekend."
Gibbs said he is also careful about how much he pushes his players who have nagging injuries.
"I talked to the team the other day about it--certainly we never want somebody to play who's hurt," he said. "That's our first thought. And our second thought is that in this game, you're going to get bumps and bruises. Hopefully you find guys who can play through it."