Here are five questions for which I’ll be looking for answers in the Redskins’ preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night:
1. Will Rex Grossman distinguish himself in the quarterback competition? He expects to play at least into the second quarter with John Beck nursing a groin strain, so he should be able to establish a rhythm and get comfortable. He can pull ahead of Beck by finding open receivers, making accurate throws and eliminating turnovers.
2. Will free agents Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen improve the defensive line? The nose tackle and right end, respectively, were brought in to help control the line of scrimmage and keep opposing blockers off the linebackers. Inside linebacker London Fletcher recently said he’s not contending with linemen as much, but we’ll see if that carries over to the game. If Cofield and Bowen aren’t getting pushed back, that’s an upgrade.
3. Is the shuffled offensive line any better than before? The Redskins are selling this unit by lauding players’ continuity and experience. But returning four of five starters from last year’s dismal unit might not be a good thing. They must handle stunts and anchor in pass protection and win one-on-one matchups in the running game.
4. Does running back Tim Hightower possess the traits needed to succeed in Mike Shanahan’s zone running scheme? He has displayed an ability to get around the edge in practice, but the patience and vision required for this offense must be evaluated in game situations. Hightower also has fumbled the ball too often in practice. That can’t continue.
5. Will Graham Gano or Shayne Graham take the early lead in the kicking competition? Gano, the incumbent, has been more accurate in practice, but game performance will decide this position battle. Coaches believe that Gano’s chronic inaccuracy last season can be overcome by mental toughness. This is his chance to prove it.
…What questions do you want answered Friday night? Let me know by leaving a comment, sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hitting me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.