Coming into Thursday night’s nationally televised showdown against the Beltway rival Baltimore Ravens, Redskins fans were left in the dark as to who the starting quarterback was going to be. Shortly before the game, it was announced that nine-year veteran Rex Grossman would get the start, but in an odd twist, Mike Shanahan would give him two offensive series, and then do the same for John Beck. This allowed Shanahan to evaluate both quarterbacks leading the first-string offense, and against the Ravens stingy first-string defense. In the end, the quarterback lead-up and suspense was good, but surprisingly, the game was even better.
1. What to take away from the game:
To say the least, the Redskins and Ravens put up a very entertaining preseason game with a final score of 34-31 in Baltimore’s favor. Beck and Grossman had their good and bad moments against Baltimore but no clear-cut starter can be determined simply from Thursday night's game. Grossman finished 8 of 15 for 112 yards, and one touchdown; while Beck ended his night completing 6 out of 10 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception. At this point, Beck still seems to be the favorite.
2. Those who impressed:
Tim Hightower – The fourth-year rusher proved once again why he deserves to be the go-to running back for the burgundy and gold. In every preseason game so far, he has made his presence known and he did it again against the Ravens with an amazing 37-yard cutback touchdown run late in the first quarter. He finished the game with nine carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. Through three games, Hightower has 25 carries for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an outstanding 6.8 yards per carry average. He has been the premier standout player of the preseason for the Redskins, and looks to be a fantastic fit in Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme.
Terrence Austin – While Austin used the first two games to mainly exhibit his returning abilities, he stepped up against the Ravens to show off his receiving skills. The second-year receiver out of UCLA caught five passes for 71 yards (both team-highs) and a third quarter touchdown. He continues to impress each week with Brandon Banks out due to a knee injury. While he’s not the home run threat that Banks is at returner, he is showing he is more solid all around with good return ability, along with sure hands as a receiver.
Santana Moss – When it came to retaining their own free agents this offseason, re-signing Santana Moss was the best decision the Redskins could have made. Thursday night against the Ravens, he provided Beck and Grossman with his usual solid production and caught three passes for 51 yards and one touchdown. Against the Ravens’ young secondary, Moss was open frequently due to his veteran savvy, and great route running. In three games he has now compiled 11 catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Those who didn’t:
Fred Davis – With Chris Cooley missing the first three games of the preseason, Davis has had ample opportunity to prove his worth at the tight end position. Thursday night, he didn’t take advantage of that. Davis, who came to training camp in better shape than in years past by losing about 15 pounds and replacing that with more speed, was thrown to four times against Baltimore but only caught one of those passes. In three games he only has three receptions for 41 yards and no touchdowns. With Cooley missing significant action, times like these are when Davis needs to step up to show his potential to be a really productive tight end in this system.
Reggie Jones – The third-year safety was cited for two special teams penalties. The first came in the second quarter on an unsportsmanlike conduct when he didn’t make an immediate attempt to return to the field of play when he was ran out of bounds by two Ravens defenders. The second came in the third quarter when he was called for a holding penalty on a Niles Paul kickoff return. Jones was also targeted frequently by Ravens quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor in the second half. For a player on the roster bubble, it’s imperative to excel, or at the very least, be mistake-free on special teams in order to earn that valuable roster spot.
4. The Ugly:
Unfortunately, overshadowing the QB battle in this game, and almost all else, was the loss of rookie defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. The second round pick announced via his Twitter account that he had suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter last night. While it hasn't been made official yet, it appears as if he will be out for the year. Given his productiveness during training camp and in the preseason, his loss will be a set back for a re-vamped defensive line that is looking to improve on a horrible 2010 campaign.
5. Where do we go from here?
The Redskins wrap up the preseason with a home contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a young up-and-coming team that overachieved to a 10-6 record last season to the surprise of many. Much like the Redskins' first three opponents, the young Bucs will provide a stiff test for the new-look Redskins. Yes, the Redskins have played teams that sat out stars like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, but the they have also have been without key players like Chris Cooley, LaRon Landry, Oshiomogho Atogwe, London Fletcher, for most, if not all, of the preseason. This fourth and final preseason game is the last shot most of the young players have to make an impression on coaches to stick on this roster. It is also the final shot for Beck and Grossman to prove to Shanahan who should be the opening day starter against the New York Giants on September 11th.