The Redskins capped off their preseason with a last-minute 29-24 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to put them at 3-1. Fans got a glimpse of how the depth of the 2011 Washington Redskins will develop, as many-to-most of the expected starters did not even dress.
1. Beck or Grossman?
Even after last night's underwhelming performance by John Beck, along with Rex Grossman sitting out the game with most of the starters, nobody but the coaches know who will be the opening day starter against the New York Giants. Coach Mike Shanahan has kept his thought process regarding this position close to the vest, and could continue to do so even up to September 11th. While many assumed that since Grossman did not play he would lead the team when the season begins, Shanahan told reporters last night that since Beck missed the first preseason game, he wanted to give him equal playing time to gauge their progress. The staff will rigorously review film on the two and weigh the pros and cons. The fans and media have no idea who is the clear-cut starter and it is quite possible that Shanahan and the rest of the coaches don't know yet, either. Fans will have to be patient to wait for Shanahan's choice, as he will not make this lightly considering he said he is staking his reputation on this decision.
2. What to take away from this game:
This game is considered "meaningless" by many but it's the very best opportunity that coaches have to determine the level of depth the team has. It shows them what kind of shape their roster will be in when starters need to be replaced. This was easily the sloppiest game the Redskins have played this preseason. After staking out a 17-0 first half advantage, Washington watched the Bucs go on a 24-6 run in the second half to take a brief 24-23 lead. The Redskins would not be denied though, as quarterback Kellen Clemens hit wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth for a 41-yard touchdown to put the Redskins on top for good in the final minute.
3. Those who impressed:
Graham Gano - Coming into camp as the incumbent kicker and having to fend off competition seems to be a role that works for Gano. He put up his third three field goal performance and ended the preseason a perfect 10 for 10 on field goal attempts and connecting on all eight extra point attempts. Along with Tim Hightower, Gano has easily had the best preseason out of anyone on the Redskins roster.
Brandon Banks – Trying to show his knee injury can’t stop him, Banks put on another show after missing the last two games. In the second quarter, Banks took a punt 95 yards for a touchdown, proving that when given a lane of any size, he is still faster than anyone else on the field - even when he’s not at full strength. Despite committing a major gaff by flipping the ball before he completely crossed the plane, the touchdown still stood, as did his roster status. It is unlikely that this team would release the biggest playmaking returnman since Brian Mitchell, regardless of his lack of use at wide receiver.
Mike Sellers – The 12th-year veteran out of Walla Walla Community College has had to swallow his pride and try to earn his roster spot the hard way. The starting Redskins fullback for the last seven seasons had been surprisingly demoted to the team’s fourth string tight end this summer, but he has led by example and gone about his business quietly. He had his best game of the preseason, catching two passes for 14 yards and continuously blocking for the running backs with no regard for his body. He could perhaps supplant Logan Paulsen as the third tight end behind Fred Davis.
Markus White – Although he hadn’t been mentioned on this list before, it didn’t mean he hadn’t been noticed. The former Florida State Seminole has had a very solid preseason all around. He has quickly gained the reputation of being in on just about every play. If he's not at the ball, he's usually guaranteed to be somewhere close by. With increased playing time, White made the most of it by registering four tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery that he took 37 yards to the two-yard line. He either secured himself one of the last spots on the roster or, most likely, a place on the practice squad.
Brandyn Thompson – The seventh round pick out of Boise State has flashed solid cover skills during the preseason by displaying the ability to stick close to receivers throughout their routes, whether they are short, intermediate, or deep passes. He gave up a deep pass and the Buccaneers’ two-point conversion that gave them the late 24-23 lead but he still had an overall solid game covering Tampa’s wideouts. He could potentially make the roster as the fifth cornerback or, like White, be named to the practice squad.
4. Those who didn't:
John Beck – After missing the preseason opener, Beck got another chance to start but looked a lot like what people expected of him prior to training camp. He wasn’t very accurate and was limited to short passes. He was also picked off for the second time in the preseason. Both picks were a result of passes he lobbed in the air for the receiver to fight for. He finished the game 10/21 for 104 yards and an interception, which didn’t help his case to be the opening day starter. Then again, it didn’t hurt it either, as his overall stats are similar to Grossman’s.
Evan Royster – The former Nittany Lion didn’t help his cause by fumbling on his first carry of the game. That fumble was recovered by the Buccaneers but nothing came of it thanks to an impressive Redskins defensive stand. Royster had sat out the last two games in order for the staff to evaluate Roy Helu, so this game was a big opportunity to show why he’s Penn State’s all-time leading rusher. He put up a good stat line – 11 carries for 44 yards with one touchdown and two catches for 18 yards – but his overall showing was not that impressive.
Matt Gutierrez – The Idaho State product had arguably the worst showing out of any Redskin Thursday night. He was inaccurate and didn’t make good decisions. At times it looked as if his favorite target was anyone on the sideline. He finished the night completing five of his 12 passes for only 41 yards and a third quarter interception in the endzone. He is expected to be among the players cut this weekend.
5. Where do we go from here?
The Redskins finish off the preseason with a 3-1 record that accurately displays a surprising and overall solid performance. While the record may not necessarily translate into the regular season, the overall play of the starters and role players gives a good glimpse as to what to expect when the wins and losses start to count. Likely returning from injury Week 1 against the New York Giants will be perennial Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley and safety LaRon Landry, who was on pace to be the 2010 NFL Defensive MVP before being injured. The Redskins have a chance to open some eyes that are currently blind towards what is going on in Washington.
The Redskins are also catching the Giants at the right time. Injuries have decimated their roster over the last few weeks, with two more casualties coming last night. With key pieces like Osi Umenyiora and Prince Amukamara out for a considerable amount of time, along with others like Terrell Thomas, Marvin Austin and Clint Sintim out for the season, the Redskins offense has a chance to start this season off with some confidence against a banged up Giants team.