Kirk Cousins will play more than a series, Clemson vs. Clemson, and Redskins run defense facing LeSean McCoy are among the stories under Friday night's lights.
The Washington Redskins will face the Buffalo Bills in their third preseason game Friday at 7:30 p.m. Third preseason games are typically considered the true dress rehearsal for the regular season. It will likely be the last time you see most of Washington's starters until Week 1.
Here are five key things to watch for:
* Kirk Cousins gets reps
Cousins was a surprise healthy scratch last week against the New York Jets. However, Friday night will present his first test this preseason against an opponent that will scheme against him. Defenses across the league now have a year worth of film on Cousins; can he counter what they will send his way? I think we could get a glimpse of that. Although Cousins did have a four-touchdown game against the Bills last December, I do believe head coach Rex Ryan will challenge him and send some different looks his way.
* Clemson on Clemson
Bills receiver Sammy Watkins
will surely line up against cornerback Josh Norman
at times Friday night. But the bigger story line will come when he lines up against his former college teammate, Bashaud Breeland
. Watkins tends to move around to each receiver spot, including the slot. Thus, I think there will be a good share of Clemson-on-Clemson battles.
Watkins will be the most explosive receiver the Redskins have faced for an extended period this preseason. It should provide them with a good challenge as they prepare to face the league's most explosive wideout in their season opener: Antonio Brown. The Bills like to show off Tyrod Taylor's arm talent, so there could be several deep shots to Watkins. It'll be interesting to see how Washington's starting defensive backs fare in their first true test of the preseason.
Glenn is a big, athletic offensive tackle for the Bills and one of the NFL's more underrated players at his position. He will be the best tackle Smith has faced to this point in the preseason. It will be a good test for the second-year linebacker, who has looked very explosive the past two weeks. If Smith is able to emerge as a big-time player for the Redskins, it could have a trickle-down effect that improves their entire defense.
* Redskins Rookie RBs:
Head coach Jay Gruden hasn't commented on who will start at running back Friday night. However, with Matt Jones
certainly out and Chris Thompson
unlikely to play, the team's rookie rushers will get a lot of reps.
* Redskins run defense vs. RB LeSean McCoy:
McCoy appears to be in great shape this preseason and will provide a huge crucible for Washington's run defense. Washington seemingly disregarded the fact it ranked 26th in run defense last year by not really addressing the interior line. While there are legit reasons for that decision, but it's a potential issue.
If there's a weakness to one-gapping on defense, it's that it leaves holes open up the middle. While the Redskins' linebacking play should improve this season, their decision to not sign a stout nose tackle this offseason may or may not hurt them. McCoy will look to exploit that problem area.
You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.
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