When a team's first-stringers get as little run as Washington's had in the first two preseason games, you'd think they'd get the most time in a third and final dress rehearsal ahead of Week 1.
This was not the case for Ron Rivera's bunch on Saturday against the Ravens. Washington rested all of its starters in the preseason finale, while Baltimore gave theirs a chance to play. For Rivera, preventing injury was a major reason to hold his guys back.
“Not to get anybody hurt," Rivera said after Saturday's game. "It was something we decided on a few days ago. We didn’t want to get anybody hurt. We had a big camp, it’s been successful, and a lot of guys worked. A lot of people we feel really comfortable and confident in who they are for us. We just felt exposing is not the thing to do, so we didn’t expose them.”
The decision to keep starters off the playing field in the preseason could be seen as a questionable move by Rivera, especially considering how the first-team offense never made it into the end zone when they were in these games. However, a quick glance to the other sideline shows just how quickly a season can change before it even begins.
Dobbins was expected to become the featured running back next to Lamar Jackson in a run-heavy scheme, and now John Harbaugh will have to look to Gus Edwards and the rest of the running back room to pick up the slack.
With a relatively healthy roster and the preseason wrapped up, Rivera and his team will shift their focus to finalizing the 53-man roster and their Week 1 matchup against the Chargers. The 2021 season has one more game than usual, so keeping the starters healthy and the backups prepared will be key all year long.
I think some things came through [vs. Ravens] that made things even more clear for us," Rivera said. We had some pretty good battles going on. We had some guys we had to take a real good look at, so they got a lot of extended play. This was really more about the evaluation of them than it was about anything else.”