Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Friday's Redskins-Jets Preseason Week 2 showdown at FedExField.
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STAYING HEALTHY IS PARAMOUNTAs Trent Williams put it best during his press conference on Sunday, the preseason gives the Redskins an opportunity to knock off the rust and get acclimated to game action once again.
Just as important, though, is coming out of the game healthy regardless of how many snaps are taken.
"If we go down the field and throw five touchdown passes but I get hurt, I don't know that we would call that a success," Cousins said. "If I don't throw a single completion but I come out healthy, I don't know that we'd call that a success either. There's a balance. We're trying to be ready for Week 1 but also get in a rhythm and find some completions and convert some first downs and move the football and hopefully score points, just like we would in any other situation. We're going to try to do that until they take us out of the game."
During the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons, Cousins and the first-team skill players appeared on just the offense's opening series.
Jamison Crowder (hamstring), Jordan Reed (knee) and Trent Williams (knee) did not play, though.
Crowder confirmed on Wednesday that he'll play against the Jets while Williams is "gradually coming along." He's recently taken part in just individual drills during practice sessions.
"We're taking it slow with him, too," Gruden said. "He wants to be out there really bad, but we're holding him back a little bit. But I think he'll be very close to being ready."
GET THE GROUND GAME GOING
Rob Kelley and Mack Brown each were able to help the third-team offense move the ball on the ground against the Falcons, but Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall struggled to help Cousins and Colt McCoy.
Jones gained just one yard on two carries, Thompson zero yards and Keith Marshall minus-one-yard on five carries.
But the Redskins are going to stick with it and hope that they can break through against a talented Jets run defense that allowed just 34 rushing yards in the two teams' regular season matchup last fall.
"The Jets are excellent against the run," Gruden said. "If I recall last year, we couldn't run the length of my arm against them. They're very physical. They play some fronts that are very difficult to run against. So it will be a great test for us – our physicality – and see if we can get anything going."
The team will want to start with Jones once again, but keep an eye on a potential increased workload for Kelley.
"He's been impressive since we got him," Gruden said. "He's got great vision. He's built low to the ground and he really runs hard and that showed up against Atlanta and I'd like to see him in an expanded role, see how he does."
PLAY A CLEAN GAME
The Redskins were called for 14 penalties for 123 yards during last Thursday's preseason opener against the Falcons.
Those sorts of errors, even in the preseason, cannot be tolerated.
"I don't want to see a lot of penalties," Gruden said. "So you want us to play a clean football game and you want us to improve on our physicality and obviously eliminate the big plays on defense. So you need to take away the big plays and the penalties, play a pretty good game. But those are the things we've got to improve on."
The Redskins' first penalty of the game came on the opening kickoff when tight end Niles Paul was called for holding.
"How do you work on not getting penalties? That means just people playing the game, stuff we got to clean up, techniques and stuff that we've got to work on," Paul said. "And we will get it fixed."
The hope is also that penalties were simply the byproduct of the first game most guys had played in almost seven months.
"We had a couple self-inflicted wounds where we lined up offsides or we did things that were kind of out of our character," rookie Su'a Cravens said. "But like I said, it's Week 1 of the preseason so we have three more games to get it right."
DON'T ALLOW A REPEAT PERFORMANCE
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
While the Redskins' first-team defense frustrated Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into an 0-for-4 evening in the preseason opener, the second- and third-team defensive units gave up more than 100 passing yards to both Matt Schaub and Sean Renfree.
Former Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, meanwhile, caught three passes for 118 yards.
Washington will likely see a lot of rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who did not play during the Jets' preseason opener, along with Bryce Petty and even Geno Smith.
The Redskins have a strong defensive backfield entering the season behind Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, and Gruden wants to see them perform well.
"We've got an exciting group back there," Gruden said. "[Greg] Toler has really shown up in a big way. He really has. We signed him because of his coverage skills. Indianapolis, Greg Manusky had him as the defensive coordinator there and had a lot of great things to say about him. We're glad we have him. He adds depth to the cornerback room, and great, tight man-to-man coverage skills. At the end of the day, if you can play tight, good man-to-man coverage, it gives your defensive line time to get home against the quarterback, and good things will happen. He's proven to be a very good pickup for us, him and [Dashaun] Phillips, and Phillips is learning. He was practice squad a lot last year. We activated him, did some things on special teams, but now he feels really comfortable playing nickel. He's competing with [Kendall] Fuller, and whichever one steps up and earns that right, we have two very good nickels."