The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 28, 2013

Preseason finalés feature WVU stars

By Caleb Wygal
For The Register-Herald

— Over the past three weeks, NFL football has returned somewhat sporadically. To this point, matchups have begun on Thursday evenings and scattered over the next three days of that weekend. For the last week of the NFL Preseason, the story is much different. All 32 NFL teams will play on Thursday evening to end the exhibition schedule.

Before we get to what to watch for, you won't see Geno Smith play for the Jets. It looks like he will be the starting quarterback for the team going into Week 1 with Mark Sanchez day-to-day with a shoulder injury. You also won't see much of Tavon Austin. The Rams have purposely not used him much on offense thus far as they don't want to show what they have in store for him quite yet. Here are three things to watch on Thursday night:

Pat White

Arguably the greatest player to ever don the Gold and Blue will play all four quarters for the Washington Redskins against Najee Goode, Keith Tandy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7:30 p.m. The Redskins first- and second-string quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, will both sit out with injuries. White’s competition for the third-string quarterback, Rex Grossman, will not play. The coaches want to rest the 11-year veteran for the finalé.

While that doesn't bode well for White’s future with the team, the ‘Skins are giving him the opportunity to showcase what he can do for four quarters. His strong play during the first three weeks, mainly with backups, gives other teams a glimpse of what White could do for them. Another strong game could lead someone to offer a trade for White before final roster cuts on Saturday. That would benefit the Redskins. Should he get released, he’ll be able to pick any offers that come his way and select the best situation.

“The more football he’s around, the more he works at it, the better he’ll get,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s as hard on himself as anyone I’ve been around. … It’s just a matter of time that he can be as good as he wants.”

Bruce Irvin

Irvin has played seven snaps this entire preseason, all last week. He sat out the first two games with a nagging groin injury. He is going to split time between defensive end and outside linebacker this season in an effort to get him on the field more and take advantage of his speed. The problem is, with a four-game suspension looming at the beginning of the season, he hasn’t had much live game experience at linebacker.

When he first found out the team wanted him to play a different position, he took it in stride.

“When we broke up into position meetings,” Irvin told Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times, “they told me to go to linebacker. It is what it is. I think I’m going to be pretty successful at it, if you ask me.”

For the last game against the Raiders at 10 p.m., the team knows it needs to get him as much experience as possible before his month-long layoff. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that Irvin should play a significant amount of time on Thursday.

Those fighting for jobs

The first round of roster cuts saw Jeff Braun and J.D. Woods get cut from the Dolphins and Steelers, respectively, leaving 21 former Mountaineers on NFL rosters. Teams usually rest their starters for most, or all, of the final preseason game, giving players at the end of the roster a chance to prove they belong. A few more could get cut by Saturday. Some fighting for a spot on a team include Kent Richardson (Browns), Terence Garvin and Joe Madsen (Steelers).

— Caleb was born and raised in central West Virginia near Summersville. He authored two novels before creating WVUPros and ProsReport.com. His works have been used on ESPN.com and SportsIllustrated.com.