Five Footnotes From FedEx: Steelers
By: Jake Russell @_JakeRussell
Category: Washington Redskins News
The weather at FedEx Field was amazing and couldn’t have been better. As night fell, cool breezes could be felt in the lower level as a result of the new openings at both ends of the upper decks with the removal of approximately 10,000 seats. While the weather was fantastic, the crowd was average with just over 68, 000 in attendance and a varying energy level that was often low. To be fair, the same could be said about most, if not all, Redskins preseason games in the past.
2. What to take away from the game:
The Redskins offense surprised many with how crisp and efficient they were. The Redskins put up an amazing 452 total yards compared to the Steelers’ 186. As the game progressed, the difference between the rookies and veterans was apparent but the young bucks still held their own. Quarterback Rex Grossman played very well and managed the offense fantastically. Kellen Clemens put up a solid second half performance as well. With Ryan Torain out, the running game excelled with the three-headed monster of Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu. The team went into the game with an "us against the world" attitude and it showed. The offense executed the Shanahan playbook well and the defense was superb and caused pressure when it needed to. Considering it’s only preseason, it would be a mistake to read too much into this but the performance as a whole is encouraging. Because of the lockout and lack of OTA’s, it was expected that this game would have a lot of injuries and be littered with mistakes and turnovers. After the game head trainer Larry Hess told Coach Mike Shanahan that there were no injuries to report, which is a great sign. The Redskins did make mistakes but no turnovers were caused because of them.
3. Those who impressed:
Rex Grossman – Grossman came out and performed as he had in the final three games of the 2010 season, minus the turnovers. He was very crisp and led the offense up and down the field effectively and with authority. He showed the same confidence he had when he told Kelli Johnson earlier in the week that he thinks the Redskins will win the NFC East. In the end, he was 19/26 for 207 yards and one touchdown.
Tim Hightower - Hightower is a smaller version of Steven Jackson. He has the same hair, same number, and same grit. He has good speed and is not afraid to put his head down and run over defenders. He’s a straight-line runner that runs to the sides when he needs to. He put a boost into the first drive of the game, which would have resulted in points were it not for a bad missed field goal. He finished the game with 44 yards on 10 carries.
Graham Gano – The third-year kicker had no competition to push him last summer. It seems as though the signing of 11-year veteran Shayne Graham has helped light a fire under the inconsistent youngster. Gano connected on all three of his field goal attempts, with his longest coming at 45 yards. He was very good on kickoffs but that was obviously aided by the new rule forcing kickoffs to be placed five yards further down the field. Gano was 1 for 1 on extra point attempts as well.
Brandon Banks – Banks knows his spot on the team isn’t secure. The new kickoff rules don’t help his case but he didn’t let them affect him. He was aggressive on his returns because he knows he has to be. Following the Steelers’ only score of the game, he fielded the following kickoff seven yards deep in the endzone and took it 58 yards. He also returned a punt for 19 yards.
Donte’ Stallworth – Like Banks, Stallworth knows his roster spot isn’t safe despite his solid resume. Stallworth put out extra effort to make the coaches not forget he was there, and averaged 15.3 yards per catch. He sprawled out and put his body on the line for his first catch and made a nice catch in mid-air despite some traffic around him. It was uncertain how much of a factor he would be in the game considering the number of receivers but he made a good case for himself last night.
4. Those who didn’t:
Shayne Graham – While competition helped Gano, it had the opposite effect on Graham, who was brought in just after training camp began. The Redskins lost out on six points with his two misses, one from 29 yards and the other from 49 yards. Graham, the third most accurate kicker in NFL history, was 12 for 12 in New England last year but missed both attempts last night.
Aldrick Robinson – It may have been nerves. It may have been his inexperience. Whatever it was, it didn’t do any favors for the speedy rookie out of SMU. He fumbled his two punt return opportunities, which look twice as bad on film considering how well Banks performed in the same role. It’s still early but sadly those two errors could have sealed his fate for when the Turk comes to visit.
Leonard Hankerson – The third round pick out of Miami had been receiving some criticism as of late for his body language and general demeanor in camp after starting out well. His flaws against the Steelers were more mental than physical. He seemed uncertain of his placement on the field and early in the fourth quarter, he dropped an easy catch that was right in his hands.
5. Where do we go from here?
Next Friday the Redskins take on the Indianapolis Colts on the road. They are the second of three AFC playoff teams the Redskins have to be tested against. The fourth preseason game comes at home against a playoff-worthy Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that barely missed the playoffs with a commendable 10-6 record. This preseason provides a very strong test for a youthful Redskins squad. The performance of the starters and role players in these games, not the scores, will be a good precursor as to what fans will see in the regular season.
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