Young linemen, skill players fighting for roster spots

ASHBURN -- The scattered storylines don't matter, not when the games don't count. So while Rex Grossman's return to Chicago ... and Jason Campbell playing against his former team ... and Mike Shanahan reuniting with his one-time quarterback in Denver are nice to talk about, they're irrelevant.

The preseason is for evaluating. When the Redskins play at Chicago on Saturday in their second preseason game, there are many reasons to check in other than the human interest angle.

Here are five things to watch Saturday night:

- John Keim

» Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is optimistic that left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Maurice Hurt will play vs. Chicago on Saturday. But Shanahan expressed pessimism about right guard Chris Chester. "He looked better, but to say he could go right now would be premature," Shanahan said. "I have a good feeling about Maurice, and my gut is Trent will be able to go, but I can't say that 100 percent right now."
Shanahan said the starters would play about a half vs. the Bears. But he would not say who would start at running back. Roy Helu won't play because of Achilles tendinitis in his left foot. Tim Hightower practiced Thursday but won't play, leaving Evan Royster as the lone experienced back. Shanahan has said rookie Alfred Morris will play a lot along with Tristan Davis.
» Linebacker Markus White fractured a rib and bruised his kidney and won't play Saturday. There's a chance he will return for the Aug. 25 game vs. Indianapolis. Linebacker London Fletcher did not practice because he wasn't feeling well, Shanahan said.
The Redskins placed nose tackle Chris Neild on injured reserve. Neild suffered a season-ending ACL tear in practice earlier this week. The Redskins signed defensive lineman Marlon Favorite, who has spent time on five practice squads. He has been signed by nine different teams but has never played in a game. The Redskins also placed receiver Darius Hanks, who underwent major shoulder surgery, on injured reserve.

How Robert Griffin III handles a different defense »

Griffin was under pressure only once in his six drop-backs thanks mostly to quicker decisions and routes. He now will face a defense that runs a lot of cover-2, so it will be a chance for him to see another new look. How will he adjust his game? Will he be patient and take short passes over the middle? Or will he take shots down the side? More importantly, if the Bears pressure him, how does he respond? Throwing under duress is a major part of life as an NFL quarterback. Griffin has shown an ability to throw from different arm slots, which helps.

Young offensive linemen » The Redskins' rookies are still adapting to the timing of their combination blocks and the angles they must take in the stretch-zone scheme. And not every defense reacts the same way to this offense. The Redskins' defenders, for example, run laterally. Buffalo's linebackers sat and waited, causing some missteps by the offensive linemen and resulting in few holes for the backs. Too often the backs were forced to make a cut deep in the backfield, leading to no runs of substance.

Running back Alfred Morris »

With Roy Helu sidelined, Morris will get more carries to build on last week's solid but unspectacular performance (54 yards on 15 carries, but the blocking wasn't the best). If Morris has a strong final three games, would the Redskins keep four running backs? That could mean one less receiver or tight end. One solid game in the preseason won't win a roster spot, but a good game vs. starters would strengthen his case.

Kicking duel »

It's not the most exciting competition, but it fizzled last week because the Redskins attempted no field goals. Graham Gano and Neil Rackers have been close throughout training camp, but the games are the main decider. Both had one kickoff in the opener, with Rackers having better hang time. This race is way too close to call.

Backup receiver battle » A handful of players are competing for the final spots. It's tough to say whether the Redskins will keep six or seven as they did in 2011. It's possible that only one player among this group -- Brandon Banks, Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin and Dezmon Briscoe -- will make the roster. Banks needs a good showing vs. the Bears. Robinson's speed and quickness are starting to show, but he needs to display consistent hands. However, he can help his cause if he can help as a punt returner. Briscoe is intriguing because of his size, which he's using to his advantage more and more.