- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2016

ATLANTA — Several Washington Redskins players used the word “vanilla” when describing what to expect in the first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Redskins aren’t going to tip their hand in Week 1, or at any point of the preseason for that matter. What these games do allow is for the coaching staff to get a true evaluation of the depth on the roster, something that can be difficult to do in training camp practices, even when the pads come on.

Here are the logistics for Thursday’s game and three things to watch.

Note: Expected starters for both teams and injury reports for the opposing team will not be included in preseason games.

Logistics

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Preseason records: Redskins 0-0, Falcons 0-0

Television: CSN (Chick Hernandez, play-by-play; Joe Theisman, color; Clinton Portis, sidelines)

Radio: ESPN 980 (Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Cooley, Doc Walker)

Weather: Dome

Lines: Falcons -3, over/under 37 per Bovada

Injury report:

Redskins: Out — TE Jordan Reed (thumb), WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring), WR Reggie Diggs (knee), WR Josh Doctson (Achilles, on physically unable to perform list), TE Derek Carrier (knee, on PUP); Questionable — LT Trent Williams (knee), OLB Preston Smith (shoulder).

Stats:

All-time record: The Redskins are 14-9-1 against the Falcons.

Last regular-season meeting: Oct. 11, 2015: 25-19 overtime loss at Georgia Dome.

Three things to watch:

** The running back position is perhaps the most difficult to evaluate in training camp because of the lack of contact in practices. Matt Jones is entrenched as the lead running back and Chris Thompson the third-down back, but who fills out the depth chart at the position? Keith Marshall, Robert Kelley and Mack Brown are all competing for that third spot and they should each get their fair share of opportunities on Thursday once Jones comes out of the game.

Jones’ playing time is expected to be limited, but it’ll be his first chance to showcase himself as the lead back following the departure of Alfred Morris. In the offseason, Jones committed to improving his ball security skills and incorporating a more downhill running style. He has shown progress in both areas during practice and now he’ll get to prove it against an actual opponent.

** Since Shawn Lauvao has returned from the physically unable to perform list, he’s rotated first-team reps with Spencer Long. The biggest question is how effective he can be after having a total of five surgeries on his feet and legs last season? The Redskins liked the way Lauvao was playing before he sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3 and Long performed well in his absence. During individual pass-rushing drills and team drills, Lauvao has not appeared to be limited and Gruden confirmed he’ll play on Thursday. His first game action in almost a year should serve as a better indicator of his progress.

** The Redskins secondary features a mix of fresh faces and familiar ones in different positions. Josh Norman’s performance in practice, particularly the one-on-one drills, has been overblown and scrutinized on social media. Even Ric Flair got in the mix, calling out Norman in his Royal Rumble-worthy promo when he stopped by Falcons practice. “That’s right, Josh Norman: The best. Nobody catches up to Julio Jones,” Flair said. Norman and Jones’ playing time should be short, but entertaining, as the All-Pro cornerback makes his Redskins debut.

David Bruton will also make his first impression at strong safety since signing with the Redskins. He’s been taking reps alongside DeAngelo Hall, who made a full-time transition to free safety in the offseason. The biggest challenge for a cornerback when moving to safety is how well they can communicate with the rest of the defense. Hall began the switch last season and coaches and teammates have been impressed with how he’s handled his new responsibilities.

At the nickel cornerback position, rookie Kendall Fuller and Dashaun Phillips have been alternating reps in practice as they battle for the starting job and will be worth keeping an eye on Thursday.

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