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NFL Preseason Preview - New England (0-0) at Washington (0-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will open the preseason in the shadow of the nation's capital against the Washington Redskins and their new coach, former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

The teams should be well prepared for each other because the Pats made the trip early for three joint practice sessions during the week, the third straight year that the Patriots are participating in multiple joint practices with another team during training camp.

New England remains a significant contender in the AFC and did its best to better match up with Peyton Manning and Denver by bringing in star cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, although Browner will be suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Revis is still one of the few true lockdown corners in football and a player who will enable the inventive Bill Belichick to take a few more chances on defense, projecting as the kind of player who can match up with any receiver and enabling the other defensive backs to concentrate on stopping lesser options.

Offensively, New England must hope All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy, replace big back LeGarrette Blount and see development from some of its young receivers take the next step.

The Patriots also may have invested in the heir to Brady's throne in Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady still has plenty of shelf life left but turned 37 days ago and current backup Ryan Mallett will likely be moving on after the 2014 season.

For Gruden and Washington, it's all about which Robert Griffin III shows up inside the Beltway in 2014.

If it's the healthy, rookie version of RG3, the Redskins should compete in a poor NFC East even with serious question marks on the offensive line and throughout the defense.

If it's the injury-hampered sophomore Griffin, however, Gruden's first season as a head coach in D.C, could be a lot like Mike Shanahan's last.

Griffin and the Redskins were thrilled to scoop up what the Philadelphia Eagles left at the curb, diva-like wide receiver DeSean Jackson. On paper, Jackson seems like a perfect fit for any offense, a versatile player who lines up all over the field with the deep speed to be a true home-run hitter.

The extra attention Jackson tends to get also figures to open up things for Washington's other elite playmakers, receiver Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed and running back Alfred Morris.

On the defensive side of the ball the 'Skins also pilfered from a division rival, signing versatile defensive lineman Jason Hatcher away from Dallas.

Hatcher underwent arthroscopic knee surgery back on June 19 and is expected to be ready soon, although there is some concern because the veteran is now 32 years old. Washington is hoping the light went off for Hatcher last season with the Cowboys when he recorded a career-high 11 sacks.

The Patriots and Redskins will be meeting for the 21st time in the preseason with New England holding a solid 13-7 advantage in the previous 20 contests.

08/05 15:49:22 ET