Considering the mountain of hype surrounding Saturday night's Redskins game against the Ravens, it would be easy to forget this game will be played in August, making it just another meaningless preseason game. Sure, it's the third preseason game, when starters typically play their most, but still, it's preseason.
Redskins fans, and perhaps players and coaches, need to walk back the rhetoric. The hysteria of course starts with quarterback Robert Griffin III. The world saw an inept RG3 get beat up last week by the Detroit Lions, and considering how Griffin has looked in the years since his dazzling rookie campaign, there is little reason to expect much improvement against Baltimore.
Yet look around the Internet, and some fans are suggesting this is the most important game of Griffin's career. That sentiment, besides being asinine, is also a clear example of the crazed recency bias of our times. Preseason Game 3 will somehow be more important than Week 1 against the Dolphins? No chance.
Washington coach Jay Gruden has a good perspective on the game.
"Hopefully we have some positive energy coming out of this game. That's what we all want," Gruden said. "We want some good things to happen, but if it doesn't happen, we wouldn't be the first team in America to be stifled by the Baltimore Ravens. We're not going to lose sleep."
While this game will best show how the Redskins stack up going into the regular season, it's also not the RG3 referendum some people expect.
That's the thing everyone needs to remember: Barring injury, Griffin will start Week 1 against Miami. It would take a truly awful effort - a signature moment like a Mark Sanchez "buttfumble" - to unseat Griffin from the starting QB spot before Week 1. And odds are that will not happen.
In fact, Griffin gave good insight going into the game. His goal for the trip to Baltimore, "We want to go score points."
Would it be great for the Skins, Griffin and Gruden if the game goes well against the Ravens? Yes, if nothing else just to slow down the negative momentum around Ashburn that is already at peak regular season form. But in two weeks, when real games start and the best players are on the field for 60 minutes, the third preseason game will be forgotten.
There is also a lot to watch beyond RG3 in the Ravens game. Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan are expected to play. Both players are arguably the best on the offense and defense, respectively, and how they look returning from injury could arguably mean more to the Redskins than Griffin's passing percentage. The right side of the offensive line - rookie Brandon Scherff and 2nd year man Morgan Moses - also need a strong performance after being abused against Detroit. Baltimore will certainly provide a stern test.
And the strength of this team, as it's been recreated by GM Scot McCloughan? Arguably the defensive line, which was believed to be the catalyst to an improved defense. With Junior Galette out for the year, let's see if Trent Murphy is ready for the starting job. Some around Redskins Park think Murphy is already playing a bit banged up, which could open the door for rookie Preston Smith.
Considering it's a preseason game, monitoring the injury return from stars like Williams and Kerrigan and the emergence of young players like Muprhy, Smith, Scherff and Moses are all much more realistic and rewarding activities than stressing over the quarterback situation. Whatever we see from Griffin Saturday night - barring injury - will be just a preview of Week 1.
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