The final preseason game is always a tough balancing act for coaches. It's important to get starters playing time, but how much is too much? Do you try to get them better prepared for the regular season? Or do you try to evaluate younger players making a bid for a roster spot?
"I don't know what the balance is, we just try to do the best that we can," Gibbs said this week. "We always go into these games with the standpoint of 'How long will we play these guys?' We want the team to move forward, but we are also concerned with getting everybody a look. How do we balance all of that? I'm not sure."
The Redskins close out the preseason Friday night with a 7 p.m. game against the Atlanta Falcons at FedExField. Washington is 2-2 so far this preseason; Atlanta is 2-1.
Gibbs has maintained that in preseason he would play starters based on "feel" and not based on how long the opposing team keeps starters in the game.
"I don't predetermine what I'm going to do," he explained. "It's pretty much decided on the field. Sometimes if you play poorly for four or five plays, we'll leave you in there a little longer to try and get something going. Sometimes it goes real smooth and you are ready to get them out. But I like for the players to think that they are going to play the whole game."
The Redskins are coming off of a 28-3 loss to the St. Louis Rams, a game in which the Redskins were out-gained in total yardage by 435 to 205 and in first downs by 27 to 10.
Gibbs hasn't hid his disappointment with that loss and has said he expects a better performance in Friday night's preseason finale against the Falcons.
"We took a step back on offense and defense," he said. "For all of us, we have to realize that if we don't play tough, hard-nosed football, there's a chance this kind of loss could happen for us again. We need guys to play hard and play well every game."
Friday night's game is also the last opportunity for coaches to get a look at some of the young players vying for roster spots. All NFL clubs must pare down their rosters to 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept.5. Thereafter, teams may sign a practice squad of eight players on Sept. 6 after 12 p.m. ET.
When coaches evaluate the players after tonight's game, Gibbs said they will be evaluating the sum of each player's performance, from off-season mini-camps through preseason.
"I don't think any one game ever changes your mind, but certainly it's another page in there," Gibbs said. "It's an important page because you're evaluating guys that we're going to have to make some decisions on."