The Redskins open their preseason schedule Thursday night in Cleveland (8:00 p.m., CSN/NBC). Here's what Breaking Burgundy's Ben Standig is looking for out of those who take the field for the burgundy and gold.
* It's borderline insane to state the performance in the preseason opener means much of anything for a veteran NFL starting quarterback. Well, I must be a bit crazy then because I do believe Thursday's game does have sincere meaning for Robert Griffin III. Look, he's looked good at times in camp. He's always thrown a very nice deep ball and that continued in Richmond including perfect strikes to Pierre Garcon and Niles Paul in Tuesday's afternoon practice. However, the issues remain. Going back to last season to mini-camp to training camp, RGIII still holds and holds the ball in the pocket. This occurs even during modified practices without a real pass rush and knowing he won't be hit by defenders with bad intentions. This changes Thursday. Whether he plays a series or a quarter, showing progress would go a long toward truly everyone feeling good about this offseason. If not, the questions will continue, loudly. That goes double if Kirk Cousins does his thing when he replaces Griffin. For those of us that really want to see a QB competition or believe Cousins' provides the most hope in the pocket, this is certainly the most interesting timeline.
[RUSSELL - PRESEASON OPENER NO MERE TUNEUP FOR GRIFFIN]
* Niles Paul, this is your night, bro. When the converted wide receiver began camp working with the first team, many in Richmond sensed this was a temporary scenario. Once Jordan Reed works his way back into game shape, he moves up and Paul drops to the second unit. Instead, the Redskins' first depth chart shows Paul ahead of Reed, who won't play Thursday with a hamstring injury. Nobody doubts Reed's ability to play, to catch passes at a very level. Just about everyone wonders about his ability to stay on the field. Listing Paul with the first team isn't just about Reed being hurt, but about the concern and likely the frustration that this walking wounded scenario just won't quit. With Logan Paulsen (toe) possibly needing surgery, the tight position is suddenly a worry. Paul put on more weight to deal with blockers. He caught 39 passes last season. Now we get to see if the fifth-year veteran truly has the full package in year two of his run at tight end.
[RELATED - NILES PAUL COMING INTO HIS OWN
* This just in: Brandon Scherff will open at right guard even though the Redskins used the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on him at right tackle. For some reason I'm not that worked up about the value aspect, though, yes, taking guards in the top 5 is no way to go through life or build a team. That said, if his talent and aggression helps solidify the line and build the on-field tone GM Scot McCloughan desires while giving RGIII the protection needed to succeed, value be damned. We also get a look at Morgan Moses, who's had a solid camp to date. Him turning into a legitimate starting right tackle as a third round selection makes for a great value. On some level, my bigger concern is what's behind the second unit. There isn't a single reserve who we can say with 100% confidence can step in without issue if needed for Week 1, though for Arie Kouandjio that's simply because we haven't seen the rookie guard on the field.
* We get to see the special teams coverage guys do their thing. In practice, it's literally running through the motions. Now, here come the hits. This is how rookies Kyshoen Jarrett and Martrell Spaight might make the team. This could make the difference at tight end if the must find a replacement for Paulsen or in the secondary depending on the number of walking wounded come Week 1. This is where Adam Hayward excels. Let's see what happens and who shines. Eventually the Redskins must deal with the Devin Hester's of the world.
* Staying with the special teams, even Jay Gruden made it clear he's been concerned with kicker Kai Forbath's performance. Banging whatever opportunities he has through the uprights should alleviate such worries while anything else likely intensifies thoughts of Plan B.
* Staying with the theme of opportunity, plenty exist for the various defensive backs considering the injuries to Bashaud Breeland, Jeron Johnson and David Amerson. Corner Justin Rogers and Jarrett are among those who could start solidifying their roster spot Thursday.[WHO'S IN AND WHO'S OUT FOR REDSKINS PRESEASON OPENER]
* The rise of Jamison Crowder this offseason overshadowed fellow wide receiver Ryan Grant. Don't sleep on the impressive route runner. Great chance for Grant this evening, I'm still not discounting the idea that he pushes Andre Roberts for the third WR job.
* The Matt Jones truck company gets to put the pedal to the metal. The physical runner's game is about punishing would-be defenders, but also catching passes. Let's see if he can do that and stay healthy while doing so. The stay-healthy part also applies to Chris Thompson, who seems to have taken the lead over Jones for the third-down job and Silas Redd Jr. for the third and possibly final running back job.
* Back to the tight ends. In uniform, Je'Ron Hamm looks the part of an NFL tight end. Actually, so does Chase Dixon a bit while undrafted rookie Devin Mahina made some noise with his play earlier this offseason. Bet on at least one of these three showing enough to have some believe they can handle the third TE slot if needed. Otherwise, the Redskins will be seeking free agents by this weekend. No, not Chris Cooley.
* Clinton Portis is the sideline reporter? Oh, ok. Finger crossed Southeast Jerome makes an appearance.