Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Bengals Preseason Week 3 showdown at FedExField.
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STAY IN RHYTHM
The Redskins' first-team offensive unit got off to a slow start against both the Baltimore and Green Bay before finally scoring a touchdown on a long drive against the Packers last Saturday.
Getting the ball just before the two-minute warning, quarterback Trent Williams marched the offense 78 yards down the field on 10 plays, capped by a four-yard touchdown reception from wide receiver Jamison Crowder on a 4th-and-goal play just before halftime.
"I do think we got in a rhythm in that two-minute, which helps," Cousins said. "Plays were working and sometimes that can feed the next play. We've been pretty good when we get in a no-huddle and just have an up tempo to our offense, that's been good for us. We didn't get behind the chains. We were – I think for the most part – in second-and-medium or third-and-medium. We didn't put ourselves in a lot of tough situations of third-and-12 or third-and-15.
"I think it was good to have that drive, but we've all acknowledged that so far this preseason we haven't been good enough for what we want to do this regular season. We're excited for the chance on Sunday to start trying to put our best foot forward and put a better product on the field."
Cousins and Co. played the entire first half against the Packers and it could be the same case this Sunday against the Bengals, as is normally the case for the third preseason game.
One way in which Washington could get into a better flow is through the hands of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. In the first two preseason games, Pryor has caught one pass for 11 yards on three targets.
This week the pair stayed out at practice 30 minutes after it was completed to work on their timing.
"As soon as we got done with practice, I came over to Kirk and I was like 'Hey, let's get this route,' and he was like 'Man, you read my mind. I was about to grab you,'" Pryor said. "We started hitting it and then we started clicking and making it work and we started hitting them every time."
TIME TO STEP UP, ROOKIE
With Spencer Long currently sidelined after undergoing a minor procedure on his knee this week, the Redskins will ask rookie sixth-round pick Chase Roullier to take over the reins at center.
It is certainly a step up for Roullier, as he's transitioned from a late-round pick at a small school to starting in the NFL in the matter of a few months.
But he's ready for the challenge.
"It worked pretty well," Roullier said of his work with the first-team offensive unit. "Just continuing to learn the offense the best I can so that I am able to be more comfortable with my calls that I'm making out there. It's definitely something I need to continue to work on. I've had some errors in the last couple of games and it's something I've been focusing on practice."
Roullier also benefits from having a veteran offensive line around him along with Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins, who said Roullier is "very intelligent."
He'll be tasked with guiding an offensive line against one of the league's more aggressive defenses.
"He can pass protect, I think that's a strength of his, his ability to hold up in pass protection," Cousins said. "There's going to be growing pains. That's understandable, but it's exciting to see potential when it's there, and it's certainly there with Chase. He's a good teammate, a class act, so I'm excited to work with him.
"We're going to throw him in the fire against the Bengals and see what he can do. I'm going to do all I can do to help him, making protection calls and trying to be decisive so he doesn't have to think too much. But I'm excited to get him out there and see what he's got."
SEE WHAT YOU HAVE IN THE RETURNING PLAYERS
The Redskins could be at near full-strength on Sunday, as tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Junior Galette returned to practice this week while wide receiver Josh Doctson increased his activity.
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Junior Galette's 2017 Redskins Photo Shoot.
For Galette, it could mark his first game in a Redskins uniform since first signing with the Redskins in 2015. The 2015 and 2016 campaigns resulted in season-long Injured Reserve stints due to torn Achilles while he was sidelined against the Ravens and Packers with a hamstring injury.
Gruden said on Thursday that he'll be a "game-time decision" against the Bengals.
"It's been two years, so now it's getting to the point where it's like a movie that's supposed to be released and keeps getting postponed," Galette said with a smile. "And you're like, 'Man.' Then we've got Jay Gruden here talking about, 'You're just a tease.' You know, he's kidding around, but at the same time you're like, 'I want to go out there and prove that I am everything they expect me to be.'"
As for Reed, he was activated off the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list after spending all of training camp on the sideline with a toe injury.
He was a full participant in practices this week. His presence on the field alone significantly alters the landscape of the offense, particularly one that is looking to end the preseason on a high note.
"Jordan has unique movement skills, and then because he's often lined up in a way where he's being covered by safeties and linebackers and nickel corners, he creates matchup issues," said Cousins. "If you want to put your best corner on Jordan Reed, that's one option, but then now you're opening a door for whoever else is out there – a Josh Doctson, a Terrelle Pryor, a Vernon Davis, so on and so forth."
SHOW 'EM WHAT YOU CAN DO, MASE
For the second week in a row, the Redskins will have Mason Foster guiding the defensive unit as the Mike linebacker with Zach Brown serving as the Moe linebacker.
Last week, the pair started together and totaled a combined five tackles.
"I think he is just a physical cat in there," said Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "From a mental standpoint, he is starting to adjust to it. Over the course of training camp and then OTAs trying to learn it a little bit more in depth, but overall he has been doing a great job with communication, a great job stuffing the runs and hitting the holes that we are supposed to hit."
Manusky added that perhaps the biggest asset of having Foster and Brown together is their ability to cover the entire field.
That's why I like both of them right now," Manusky said. "Mason and Zach inside, they are doing a good job from a coverage perspective. The communication has been well across the board and just making the calls. So right now just getting in that smooth progression with some players, just figuring them out and who is going to be our starter at the end of the preseason."