Commanders at Ravens: 5 things to watch for in preseason Week 3

·3 min read

The Washington Commanders look to end the preseason on a positive note with Saturday’s finale against the Baltimore Ravens in “Charm City.”

While the Ravens enter Saturday’s game winners of 22 consecutive preseason games, the Commanders are 0-2 this summer. Washington would love to see a scoring drive from its first-team offense and then head to the bench healthy. The Commanders have battled several nagging injuries throughout training camp.

Which starters will play for Washington? Head coach Ron Rivera told the media earlier this week his starters would play on a “very limited” basis.

Here are five things fans should watch in the Commanders’ preseason finale against the Ravens.

Will Antonio Gibson return kicks?

Washington Commanders running back Antonio Gibson (24). (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rivera basically said Antonio Gibson was Washington’s No. 1 kick returner. So, if Rivera has decided Gibson is his top kick returner, does he need to see him in action against Baltimore? While Rivera said his starters would play on a limited basis, is there really a need to risk Gibson being injured on a meaningless kick return? Don’t be surprised if Gibson returns Washington’s first kick and sits for the remainder of the day.

Which offensive linemen will play?

Washington Commanders guard Chris Paul (75). (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

Will the Commanders keep nine or 10 offensive linemen? With so many injuries throughout the summer and multiple veterans among the top seven, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Washington keep an extra offensive lineman. Left tackle Charles Leno and guards Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer all missed last week. While none really need to play, don’t be surprised if they play a series.

Beyond that, rookie guard Chris Paul is a player to watch. He doesn’t have a guaranteed roster spot but has had an impressive training camp.

Sam Howell

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) runs against Kansas City Chiefs. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While preseason games can feel a bit sloppy in the second half, it’s always fun to watch young quarterbacks receive extended playing time. For Washington, that means more of rookie Sam Howell. Howell has shown flashes of why many once considered him a potential top-10 pick. Carson Wentz won’t play long, and Taylor Heinicke doesn’t really need extended reps. This is Howell’s game, and that should be fun for Washington fans.

1st-team defense

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson catches a touchdown pass as Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller (29). (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The theme for Washington’s first-team defense is its inability to get off the field on third downs. The Chiefs were 6/6 at one point last week before quarterback Patrick Mahomes departed. Yes, it’s only the preseason, and you shouldn’t be concerned about what you see in the preseason. However, this is the same issue that plagued Washington’s defense last season. Would Rivera want to see his defense get some extended work? While you want to avoid injury, perhaps a strong series or two would be what the defense needs heading into the regular season.

The battle for the final wide receiver spot

Washington Commanders wide receiver Alex Erickson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There aren’t a lot of battles up for grabs as Washington heads to cutdown day. Sure, some battles exist at linebacker and the offensive and defensive lines, but the biggest battle remains who will be Washington’s No. 6 wide receiver and presumed punt returner? Second-year WR Dax Milne and veteran Alex Erickson are the top candidates. Both have been outstanding this summer. Each player has impressed as a receiver, and Erickson is known primarily for his work on special teams.

Washington could keep seven wide receivers, but that seems unlikely. Rivera should let Erickson and Milne alternate punt and kick returns for Saturday’s game as he looks to make a final decision ahead of next week’s cuts.

 

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire