The third preseason game is typically the dress rehearsal for the season. Most teams emphasize the top of the depth chart and play them as much as three quarters. Next week's final preseason game will be focused on the bottom of the depth chart as teams cut down to 53 players.
Washington's offense has a rocky row to how this week. The Jets have the best defense in the league, particularly against the run. They also have a strong ground game and the carry themselves like winners. Tonight's game (7 pm EST) will be the hardest-fought of Washington's preseason.
Gross Rexman will start due to McNabb's sprained ankle. Rexman's performance won't affect the depth chart at the position, but it could nail down just how much we should fear giving Rexman a start this season. The Jets have a very good secondary even without Revis, and they can get after the QB with a vengeance. Behind a still-developing offensive line, Rexman will have every opportunity to turn a bad play into a worse play, his career M.O.
Willie Parker will start. This is his last, best chance to make the team. I don't think the odds are good. He has always struggled in pass protection, something Shanahan simply won't abide.
Larry Johnson may get more carries. Despite a strong camp, Johnson could accomplish nothing in his start versus the Ravens last week. He is less likely to get cut than Parker, but Washington's running game hasn't shown anything yet. It's been assumed that it will be fine, but a new scheme and new blockers against the Jets will likely struggle.
Galloway will again start opposite Moss. But to what end? Galloway hasn't caught a pass this preseason, starting all the while. Anthony Armstrong is making a strong push, but Roydell Williams, Bobby Wade and Devin Thomas are in the mix. Rookies Brandon Banks and Terence Austin are pushing for a roster spot via special teams. Something's got to give: the Jets have very good coverage skills and getting open will be a true test of a receiver's potential.
With Kareem Moore out for a few weeks, this is really a battle for the backup position. But Moore, who has impressed in camp, has a long history of injuries. Reed Doughty and Chris Horton, who also back up SS Laron Landry in this flexible scheme, are fighting for this position. Doughty is more disciplined and scheme-savvy but lacks Horton's athleticism and nose for the ball. I'd like to see Horton re-emerge, but Doughty gets the start.
The assumption all along has been that, despite the dramedy, Haynesworth will start during the regular season. The play of starters Carriker and Golston will be in the spotlight early, but Haynesworth is expected to get reps at this position. How these blocker-eating bookends fare against the Jets massive line will pace the defense.