Preview: Bengals at Redskins

Quarterbacks, running backs, defensive linement top list of what to watch for tonight.

Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins
Friday, August 19, 2005 8:00 PM EDT
FedEx Field

. . . The obvious: Patrick Ramsey. I'd like to see Ramsey be more settled in the pocket; he throws very tense and the results are one overthrow after another. Until Ramsey can relax in the pocket, he'll struggle. But I'd also like to see some instincts for the position; he too often locks in on one side of the field, making him easier to defend. Ramsey needs a good night to quell any talk of a controversy. There's no doubt in Joe Gibbs' mind who his starter is; but you have to wonder if any doubts would creep in if Ramsey continues to look mediocre, at best, while backup Mark Brunell continues to show what Gibbs wants: a guy who can lead the team downfield and doesn't tense up. If only Ramsey had Brunell's leadership skills...

. . . The running game. Washington hasn't focused on it much this summer, but Gibbs was disappointed in what he saw in this area last week. The blocking hasn't been terrific as few holes open up. It also doesn't help that Clinton Portis (who might not play because of an elbow injury) carried only one time last week. Ladell Betts has looked very good in camp; it's a shame he didn't look this good two years ago because then Washington would not have had to overpay for Portis.

Also, rookie running back Jonathan Combs, who fumbled as he was about to go into the end zone, will have a slightly different look this week. But you'll have to pay attention to notice: he'll be wearing two elbow sleeves designed to soak up sweat. His arms get so sweaty during games that he, and others, think that led to the fumble.

And what running backs will make the roster? Rock Cartwright is a coach's favorite, but Nehemiah Broughton has more potential, largely because of his size. Is there room for both? Depends on what they keep elsewhere. And if both can help on special teams, then both will make it. Broughton looked good last week. Cartwright runs and plays hard all the time.

. . . Rookie Corner Carlos Rogers. He's expected to play tonight -- if Gregg Williams says so; it's up to him you know as he reminded everyone a few days ago. (Nobody likes being charge more than Williams, which is why few believe he'd really remain happy as a coordinator. It's very obvious). If Rogers plays, he'll receive a good opening test against a potentially explosive pass offense. Rogers hasn't looked lost in practice. And the Redskins need him to play immediately, especially with Walt Harris hurt -- not to mention a master of the five-yard cushion.

. . . Lemar Marshall. It's hard to tell how he's doing based on practices. I'm still not sold on his move to the middle -- though I trust Dale Lindsey's opinion much more than mine. But some of it certainly stems on playing a new position, which brings the usual adjustments. One of those adjustments seems to be taking proper angles. It's cost him a couple tackles. In most cases, a player who excels at a position does so because of instincts, giving them a split second head start on a play. Can Marshall develop that?

. . . The backup defensive linemen. It's getting repetitive, but I really love watching this group work and play. There's not a superstar, but a bunch of smart, tough players. So anyone who makes it must fall into that category. Players such as Ryan Boschetti, Nic Clemons and Aki Jones have flashed -- Boschetti has done more than that; this kid plays strong at the point of attack and is a keeper. Clemons has worked often against Jon Jansen in one-on-one drills, which should help him. Charles Howard has had his moments, too. A decent prospect, or at least one who could contribute, will be cut from this unit.

. . . The backup linebacker's job. I want to see more of rookie Robert McCune. I can't imagine the Redskins would entrust him as the No. 2 middle 'backer ahead of Clifton Smith simply because of his inexperience. Also, Smith is finally healthy. In the past couple camps he's had shoulder and then tricep problems. So he never felt at full strength. He does now and let's see what a difference that makes.

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