Five questions Redskins beat writer Rich Campbell has heading into Washington’s Monday night preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers:
1. Will the first-string defense stop the run? The Redskins left their 22-21 victory over Tennessee disappointed they weren’t more physical and stout against the run. They never tackle to the ground during training camp, so that adjustment must be made during preseason games. Limiting big plays by maintaining gap integrity and wrapping up would repair confidence.
2. How will the rookie defensive backs build on their debuts? Second-round cornerback David Amerson defended the pass well last game. He anticipated several quarterback targets, and he was physical. Sixth-round free safety Bacarri Rambo was frozen by Titans running back Chris Johnson on a 58-yard touchdown run and didn’t take a wide enough angle to stop Shonn Green’s rushing touchdown.
3. What will rookies Jordan Reed (right foot) and Chris Thompson (left knee) do in their debuts? Reed, a third-round tight end out of Florida, has impressed with his agility, speed and pass-catching ability. He has blocked better than expected because of his quickly improving technique and his willingness to be physical. Thompson’s speed and elusiveness should be more evident against live tacklers than in training camp.
4. Will the second-string offensive line demonstrate any improvement? Poor technique and missed blocks plauged the entire unit last game. Consistency is a major issue. Left tackle Tom Compton continues to work on strength and agility in his pass sets. Left guard Josh LeRibeus whiffed on a defender who hit quarterback Rex Grossman last game. The Redskins need those two to provide quality depth.
5. Which defensive reserves will stand out? Injuries and suspensions on defense have created opportunities at the bottom of the depth chart, particularly at inside linebacker and strong safety. Linebacker Nick Barnett is still working back from a knee injury, but coaches like his experience and quickness. With strong safety Brandon Meriweather (right knee) expected to sit out, DeJon Gomes and Jordan Pugh must demonstrate mastery of their responsibilities in pass coverage.