RG3

Today we hear from RedskinsGab.com Editor Rajan Nanavati as we get set for Monday’s game in D.C. vs the Redskins, and getting some info about the Skins and the upcoming season.

1. RGIII took part in team drills, how close is he to returning, and what’s the QB rotation for now with him out?

In the Washington DC area earlier this week, you couldn’t go a single day without hearing about the “soap opera”/”war of words through the media” regarding Robert Griffin III’s angst to take meaningful reps in both camps and in preseason games, and the coaching staff’s strict adherence to their rehab and “reintegration” plan for Griffin.

Griffin finally took reps in 11-on-11 drills this week, and has been solid, though not spectacular. He makes some great throws, and he misses on others. But most of that has virtually nothing to do with his knee; it’s still about shaking the rust off of not having thrown a whole lot during the offseason, and especially not to his current group of receivers. Right now, he’s shaking off rust and regaining his timing. But, with each rep he takes and each day that passes, the rust continues to diminish and the timing continues to sharpen.

To be clear, it will take a bona fide catastrophe for Griffin to not be starting against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Redskins regular season opener. But i’d be shocked if you saw him take a single rep during a preseason game. The coaching staff has fervently maintained that they’ll do anything in their power to ensure that Griffin is not exposed to any risk whatsoever prior to the regular season.

As far as the quarterback rotation against Pittsburgh, I expect it to mirror that of the Redskins preseason game against Tennessee last week: Kirk Cousins will work with the first team offense, and lead them for maybe a drive or two, or three at the most if the offense does virtually nothing in the first two drives. After that, we’ll see Rex Grossman for at least a quarter, and then Pat White. White had a very good game against Tennessee, so i’m sure the Redskins coaching staff would like to see how he follows up that performance, but the odds are very slim that White will be on the team’s opening day roster.

2. Coach Mike Shanahan rested nine regulars in the preseason opener, will he be as cautious in game two, or will those players take the field?

After losing key players like Adam Carriker and Keenan Robinson to season-ending injuries even before the month of August, as well as the team’s 4th round draft pick, Phillip Thomas (someone whom they were greatly hoping would contribute right away), the Redskins coaching staff is going to do everything they can to prevent any more unnecessary hits to the top of the team’s depth chart.

Outside of Robert Griffin III, there are a bunch of players who are coming off offseason surgeries and rehab. Some of those guys — Pierre Garcon Fred Davis, Josh Morgan, among others — might get in some reps just to get their “game time” mindset conditioned, but i’d be surprised if most of those guys see anymore than 15 or 20 plays, tops.

Mike Shanahan isn’t one of those old school, “kill them in August to prepare for the regular season”-type head coaches, when it comes to training camps. That approach is mostly with the intention of keeping his team healthy as they head into the regular season. Look at the littany of players who have already been lost to season-ending injuries around the league. Granted, many of those injuries took place in training camp, but the less chances the coaches can take in exposing their guys to injury, the less they’ll be inclined to put their starters out on the field any more than deemed worthwhile.

The preseason is when coaches want to see what fringe players can and will do when the lights are on, they’re playing in an NFL stadium, and there’s an actual opposing team on the field. The Redskins are likely going to rely on some of these “fringe” guys at some point during the 2013, so this game is as good as any to see what they’ll be able to contribute to the team.

3. Brian Orakpo played for the first time in the preseason opener since tearing his pec, how did he look and is he 100 percent?

Brian Orakpo picked up against Tennesee where he left off against St. Louis early in the 2012 season: as a player who is just on the cusp of the upper echelon of NFL pass rushers. He registered a tackle for a loss and a hit on quarterback Jake Locker in the Redskins last preseason game against Tennessee, and did a solid job of generating pressure on the Titans offense. On the flipside, on Chris Johnson’s 58 yard touchdown run, Orakpo got upfield too quickly and didn’t do a good job of containing Johnson in the backfield, a huge reason why Johnson was able to get loose in the backfield and completely juke rookie Bacarri Rambo en route to the end zone.

Otherwise, Orakpo has looked fantastic in camps, and by all accounts is 100% recovered from the torn pectoral injury that he suffered last season. He’s been battling left tackle Trent Williams all month, in a matchup that’s a football version of “Clash of the Titans.” Williams is as good a left tackle as any in the league, so Orakpo is practicing against the best.

That being said, the Steelers offense, and those watching the game as a whole, may not see Orakpo on Monday. He suffered a thigh bruise last Thursday, as a result of taking a knee to his thigh on a routine play. He’s officially listed as day-to-day, but as mentioned before, my gut says the coaching staff keeps him out of the game and lets him rest that injury an extra day.

4. The secondary had three rookie starters vs the Titans in the preseason opener, how will the secondary look vs the Steelers?

I’d expect another healthy serving of youth in the Redskins secondary against the Steelers on Monday. Cornerback David Amerson, the team’s second round pick out of North Carolina State, and Rambo will both likely be starting again. Amerson had an excellent preseason debut against Tennessee, where he blanketed receivers and made a few plays on passes. Rambo’s debut wasn’t quite as “successful,” as alluded to in the long touchdown run by Chris Johnson, but he’s been really been one of the stars of the Redskins training camp. As of today, he’s firmly on track to be the team’s starting free safety when the regular season opens, opposite of Brandon Merriwether.

5. Last season the Skins were ranked 22nd in D, yet Barry Cofield said they will be a top 5 D in 2013 – will it happen?

In a word: no. That isn’t any real “jab” at Cofield or the Redskins defense as a whole. But, this defense wasn’t really designed to be the Steel Curtain or the Doomsday defense. Jim Haslett was brought here to install a high-pressure, high-risk and high-reward style defense. They’re going to blitz, and they’re going to try and force bad decisions and turnovers from the other teams. But like in anything, when you take risks, sometimes there’s a price to pay. At one point last season, the Redskins were on pace to have the worst passing defense in the history of the NFL. Yes, the worst passing defense EVER.

With better depth and athletes in the secondary, I don’t expect that to happen again. But the defense is still going to give up their share of big plays, especially through the air. These defensive backs will gamble; sometimes they’ll win, and sometimes they’ll lose. As long as there’s enough of the former to balance the latter, the Redskins coaching staff will be ok with that.

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