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Jay Gruden fairly certain starters will not play Thursday vs. Tampa Bay

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2014

After a less-than-enthralling performance by his first-team offense in a preseason loss to Baltimore on Saturday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he feels "pretty confident" that the majority of starters will not play in the final preseason game Thursday at Tampa Bay.

Except for a few rare cases in which players need to get extra work, the starting units typically do not play in the final preseason game, yielding one last opportunity to backups and bubble players who are trying to earn a spot on the team.

Yet the Redskins' top offense did not score a touchdown in 11 drives during the first three preseason games – one ended with a knee before halftime on Saturday – and three of those drives ended with a turnover. In 23 plays against the Ravens, the first-string offense gained just 65 yards; in the three games total, it gained 263 yards – 29 on penalties – in 59 plays.

"[I'm] open to the possibility, depending on how many bodies we have here," Gruden said, referring to the roster cut to 75 players on Tuesday afternoon. "But I think the big thing is we want to come out of this preseason feeling good about ourselves going into Houston, and feeling good about yourself doesn't always mean you're leading the league in defense. Feeling good means you're prepared yourselves and you're healthy, and we're fairly healthy right now – and that's the big thing I want to get out of this group."

Quarterback Robert Griffin III, in particular, completed just five of his eight attempts for 20 yards on Saturday and had a dreadful 27.1 quarterback rating. He has often struggled to connect with his receivers and has been the victim of inconsistent blocking during the preseason.

"I mean, I think as an offense we put together a bad game," Griffin said. "And they go as I go, so I have to play better. But I thought we did a good job in the first two preseason games and we'll move forward, whether it's this week or to Week 1, [and be] ready to play offense at a high level."

If any of the starters play Thursday, Gruden said, it certainly wouldn't be anyone on defense. That unit has been remarkably consistent through the first three games, though it was only truly challenged for one half – six series – in the first half on Saturday.

"We're not going to wear out the guys that are playing, so that's one consideration," Gruden said. "The other one is, let's see how we're progressing in practice and making sure I feel good about resting the guys that I'm going to rest so that they're ready to play in the regular season."

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