Washington Redskins football is back, baby! Sure, it's just preseason, but there's something about seeing the burgundy and gold that gets the blood pumping, especially after a long NFL lockout threatened the state of the game itself. Fans of football should feel extra satisfaction when the Redskins take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:30 p.m. Friday on CSN and NBC.
Of course, it's also preseason, so it may be tough for the game to hold your attention. There usually comes a point in every preseason game where the joy of football being back wears off and you're just left with a game between a bunch of fringe players. It's easy to tune out then. To help you, we've put together a guide to some things to watch that can hold your attention throughout the game. Preseason dictates you working harder to find storylines to follow. Here are those storylines, position by position
Quarterback: Mike Wise argued that this is the first must-see preseason game in years because of the unstable quarterback situation. That's a bit much -- there's never been quarterback stability in D.C., so there's always been a reason to watch them in preseason. It's also a bit much because it doesn't look like John Beck will play due to injury, leaving us just as much in the dark about his ability than anything. That means you should see a lot of Rex Grossman with the first team, and while we've seen Grossman play, it's still worth watching if he is still decent enough to compete. Kellen Clemens will get his shot in the second half, and if he plays well, maybe this becomes a three-man quarterback race.
Running back: Ryan Torain is hurt, so you'll probably see a lot of Tim Hightower. Can he fix his fumble problems? If so, he seems like a prototypical decent Shanahan back. Later on, it'll be interesting to see which rookie running back impresses more. Fourth-round pick Roy Helu was the early favorite, but he's struggled in picking up blitzes, which will give sixth-round pick Evan Royster a chance to pass him.
Wide receiver/tight end: I doubt we'll see much of Santana Moss, so this is about everyone else. Jabar Gaffney has been really good in camp and he's probably taken the No. 2 spot from Anthony Armstrong, so Armstrong will need to have a good preseason to get his job back. Down the line, rookie Leonard Hankerson has the physical tools, but has struggled with drops. Even further down the line, watch to see if rookies Niles Paul (who has impressed) and Aldrick Robinson can push incumbents Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin and newcomer Donte' Stallworth.
At tight end, Fred Davis will play most of the time with Chris Cooley out. Beyond him, it'll be interesting to see if Mike Sellers, who has been moved from fullback to tight end, can be comfortable in his new position.
Offensive line: We know that Trent Williams, Jammal Brown and Chris Chester will be starting, but beyond that, it's really up in the air. Will Montgomery and Kory Lichtensteiger in particular will be worth watching, since both are either new starters or potentially playing a new position.
Defensive line: It's still not clear if Barry Cofield will play, but if he does, he and fellow newcomer Stephen Bowen are obviously the guys to watch. Beyond them, though, keep an eye on Jarvis Jenkins. The second-round nose tackle has been the star of training camp, and if he can translate his camp production to the games themselves, he could be the long-term answer to the most important position in a 3-4 defense.
Linebacker: First-round pick Ryan Kerrigan will start, but probably won't get a ton of playing time. Still, he's the obvious one to watch. In particular, people should look to see how he fares in pass coverage, something he didn't do much at Purdue. The other big battle to watch is inside, where incumbent Rocky McIntosh and youngster Perry Riley will battle to start alongside London Fletcher.
Cornerback: There's probably not a lot to learn about DeAngelo Hall or newcomer Josh Wilson, so the battle is further down the line. The Redskins really like Kevin Barnes to step in and fill the nickel cornerback role, and he'll get plenty of chances to show his stuff in this one. He's been very good at training camp, but games are another matter.
Safety: There probably isn't much to learn here, with LaRon Landry out and O.J. Atogwe potentially joining him. Kareem Moore and Reed Doughty will probably get most of the playing time, and we know most of what we need to know about them. Keep an eye on DeJon Gomes further down the line. The rookie has been pretty good in camp, according to some.
Special Teams: Graham Gano and Shayne Graham will fight for the kicking job, though you never know how many chances each will get in games. Kickoff and punt returns, though, will be worth watching. It'll be interesting to see how the new rules affect Brandon Banks' return ability. If it's significantly hampered, there's less reason for him to be on the roster. The Redskins may as well put Niles Paul back there instead.
For much more on the Redskins vs. Steelers game, visit Hogs Haven. For more from the Steelers' perspective, visit Behind the Steel Curtain and SB Nation Pittsburgh.