- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 26, 2018

ASHBURN — The Redskins have taken a cautious approach with playing their starters this preseason, but they are far from the only team to do so.

Over the weekend, the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles all rested key pieces — including their starting quarterbacks — to make sure they’re healthy for the regular season. Rams coach Sean McVay has even sat quarterback Jared Goff and the rest of his starting offense for the entire preseason.

The decisions prompt a pressing question: Is there too much of an emphasis put on using the preseason to prepare for the regular season?

“I think you could make an argument either way,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “On talk radio, I could argue one side, or argue the other. It’s just a matter of what I feel is best for this football team and I feel like the most important thing for us right now is getting to Arizona healthy.

“Every time you take a snap in a pro football game there’s certain risks involved. … For me to get Morgan [Moses], Trent [Williams], Brandon [Scherff], Chase [Roullier] and Shawn Lauvao to the regular season is very, very important, and of course the quarterbacks.”

In doing so, the coaches have opened themselves up for criticism.

After the Bears sat most of his starters Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh ripped coach Matt Nagy, saying the Bears passed on a much-needed chance to improve. Haugh also argued the coach deserved scrutiny if the Bears lost their upcoming opener against the Packers. 

Nagy, though, defended himself — passionately stating his case.

“I hear it but don’t believe that,” Nagy said, via the Tribune. “We’re at 2,000 snaps from OTAs to now, (and) for somebody to tell me that 25 or 30 reps is going to make him a better player Week 1, Week 2, Week 3. …That’s not going to happen.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid made the opposite, more-conventional argument, telling reporters the preseason was a time to “sharpen up,” especially for a young quarterback.

The Redskins don’t have a young quarterback in Alex Smith, but fans were still upset he played only 35 snaps in the preseason. It didn’t help matters that Washington looked flat Friday in a 29-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Gruden has also received flack for losing four-straight season openers and critics say the Redskins don’t take training camp and preseason seriously enough to be ready for Week 1.

On Sunday, Gruden said that last season’s heavy amount of injuries “had a little bit” to do with the Redskins resting their starters. He also cited the team’s joint practice sessions with the Jets as a way they received additional, quality work.

Smith threw just 14 passing attempts this preseason — his lowest total since 2012.

Against Denver, backup quarterback Colt McCoy took over with 4:37 left in the second quarter, meaning Smith took only four series in the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. 

But the lack of snaps didn’t seem to matter to Smith after Friday’s loss to Denver.

“I feel like we’ve gotten great work all offseason, all camp,” said Smith, who went just 3-for-8 for 33 yards. “As good as it would feel to sit up here and play amazing and win a game, the goal is to find out about our 53 guys that are going to make the team and obviously be ready to roll come September 9th. That’s the goal and I think keeping that in mind, I do feel like we’re headed down that path.

“The proof will be in the pudding for us. We’ve got to be ready to roll come Sept. 9.”

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