Back in action, John Beck looks for quarterback time with Redskins

August 14, 2011

The Washington Redskins returned to the practice field on Sunday — two days after they opened the preseason with a 16-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers — and back in action was quarterback John Beck.

Sidelined for Friday’s game because of a strained groin, Beck is battling Rex Grossman for the Redskins’ starting quarterback job and has ground to make up following the nine-year veteran’s strong performance against Pittsburgh.

Grossman completed 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown while directing first-half drives of 88, 82 and 55 yards.

“The other night, when Rex went out there and did that, he went out and played how coaches want us to play — at a high level — and [offensive coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan] knows he can play well,” Beck said, acknowledging that his rival set the bar high. “I think that’s what we set out [to do] here every day at practice. Coaches want us to play at a high level, Kyle expects us to execute the offense the way he knows we can.”

Beck on Sunday received the majority of the first-team snaps during 11-on-11 action, and he said he “felt good.”

“For me, it was good to get back in that full 11 on 11, having linemen in my face, defensive hands in front of you,” Beck said. “Seven-on-seven drills [last week] were good for my timing and for not having a lot of strain on it, but it was a controlled environment because there was no rush. Now, having that rush and those guys in front of you, it makes a difference.”

Coach Mike Shanahan said he didn’t notice any limitations in Beck’s play. The hope is that the fifth-year pro can play Friday night when the Redskins face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Beck would like to start, so he can keep pace in the quarterback battle.

“We haven’t made a plan, yet,” Mike Shanahan said. “We’ll watch them and see how they do in practice this week and then make a plan Wednesday. Hopefully there’s no setback.”

In addition to the quarterback competition, Shanahan and his coaches will continue to closely monitor several other story lines this week in practice:

Cooley may miss opener

Shanahan said on Friday that the two-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley would miss at least two weeks of action while trying to heal from offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus. But on Sunday, the coach said that Cooley’s status for the Sept. 11 season opener is in jeopardy.

Cooley, who last week saw a specialist and has had fluid drained from the knee twice, wasn’t on the sidelines at Sunday’s practice like the other ailing players. Shanahan, who usually likes to have those players taking mental reps, said Cooley instead was in the trainers’ room receiving treatment.

“He’s getting some rehab on it, he’s working extremely hard, but other than that, I don’t know,” the coach said. “He can get some mental reps by looking at the film. We’ve got a lot of meeting time. He’ll probably be working in the weight room the majority of the time, but there’s no sense in putting added pressure on that knee.”

Running back competition

With last year’s leading rusher, Ryan Torain, out with a broken hand, Tim Hightower and rookie Evan Royster both averaged 4.4 yards a carry against the Steelers, and Hightower also pleased coaches with his ability in pass protection. Rookie Roy Helu continues to lobby for consideration after averaging 3.5 yards a carry on Friday.

Meanwhile, Torain on Monday will return to the hand specialist who inserted four screws into the top of his left hand on Aug. 4. He hopes to learn when he can return to action. Originally, Torain was told he would be sidelined seven to 10 days. That was 11 days ago.

Safeties are still sidelined

The Redskins have yet to have their starting safety tandem on the field together as strong safety LaRon Landry has spent all of training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while recovering from the Achilles’ tendon strain that cost him seven games last season. Landry last week said he hoped to try to practice this week or next.

Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe — signed as a free agent this offseason — hasn’t practiced since Aug. 6 because of a strained hamstring. Atogwe said he is feeling better, but still can’t fully accelerate. Shanahan said he remains on a day-to-day status, and that the focus is to get both players back by the season opener.

O-line shows progress

Never one to give compliments freely, Shanahan used the word “impressed” to describe the play of his first-team offensive line.

The unit, which features a more mature Trent Williams at left tackle, a new center in Will Montgomery and free agent addition Chris Chester, didn’t give up a sack against Pittsburgh’s starting defense, and enabled the offense to move the ball freely in the preseason debut. Now Shanahan wants to see the unit mesh further and produce a similar result Friday night.

“We’ve got five or six guys working together on every play, and the more we practice, the better we’re going to get,” Shanahan said. “But for the first game, against that type of defense, I was impressed with our guys. That was the leading rushing defense — front seven — in the National Football League. They were all there, and they were there for 20 plays. So you get 20 plays and you’re averaging five yards a play against an excellent defensive front, you feel pretty good. That’s what we’ve got to do: set the bar against those type of teams, run the ball and keep on doing it.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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