The Washington Redskins motored through the preseason a year ago, winning every game and boosting expectations. Then came a big 3-13 crash. The lesson, as is taught all the time: the preseason is meaningful for winning roster spots and individual play, but records don’t mean a whole lot.
That doesn’t mean the Redskins' 2014 preseason schedule isn’t intriguing. Here’s a look at their four-game schedule (exact dates and times for all the games should be announced next week):
Week 1 (Aug. 7-10)
Home vs. New England.
It’s the first game for coach Jay Gruden and the new-look Redskins. It’s also quarterback Robert Griffin III's first chance to show how far he’s come since the season ended. The Redskins get a chance to face a well-coached team, which is always good. And a top quarterback in Tom Brady, though it’s hard to imagine him playing more than a series or two. Despite the talk about the Redskins' new defensive wrinkles, it's really hard to believe they will show a whole lot until the season begins. But perhaps we'll start to get a taste of how the Jason Hatcher-Ryan Kerrigan-Brian Orakpo pass-rush will work. Just for kicks, how about a Griffin to DeSean Jackson deep ball on the opening play?
Week 2 (Aug. 18)
Home vs. Cleveland
Yes, this will be interesting for a game between teams that rarely play one another. The Browns have three coaches who were with Washington last season: offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, receivers coach Mike McDaniel and offensive quality control coach Richard Hightower, all of whom joined first-year coach Mike Pettine’s staff. Shanahan is a highly competitive person who no doubt would love to stick it to the Redskins, though he’ll have to balance not showing a whole lot. So in the end his desire really won’t matter. But it will provide a little summer intrigue. One thing to remember: most of the players in Washington liked Shanahan's offense. Also, Redskins guard Shawn Lauvao will face his old team. And there is nothing more exciting than a guard playing his former squad.
The Browns should have a solid defense, so it will be another good test for the offense. And yet another storyline: It’s a nationally televised game on ESPN, so Jon Gruden -- Jay's brother, of course -- will be calling the game.
Week 3 (Aug. 21-24)
Nothing like a preseason game on the road where you really don’t have to travel far. But it’s another well-coached team and a second straight game against a 3-4 front (New England is more multi-dimensional, but uses both). Traditionally, the starters play longer in this game. But it’s still not as if teams are showing a whole lot and game plan as they would during the season. But this is a third straight game against a potentially strong defense, and that should help the Redskins' offense prepare well for the season.
Week 4 (Aug. 28)
At Tampa Bay
Gruden gets to face a team he broke into the NFL with as an offensive assistant; he was quite the Arena League star in central Florida, too. It’s also a second game against a team with a new coach, as Lovie Smith replaces Greg Schiano. The key in this game for the starters: exit healthy. That is, if they even play, which they did not do under former coach Mike Shanahan. Therefore, this one will be one last chance for a couple fringe players to win a job. It has happened often that a player with a big final game wins a spot.