And sure enough, the team’s preseason finale came and went Thursday night, and the quarterback picture remains just as muddled — at least outwardly — as it was back when John Beck and Rex Grossman began trying to one-up each other during the first week of August.
Given the starting nod for the second time this preseason — and with rival Grossman given the night off — Beck played the entire first half but turned in a shaky performance despite a 29-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in front of a FedEx Field crowd of 58,937.
After two sharp performances — one of them in a start, and the second in relief of Grossman — Beck was less than impressive against the Buccaneers, whose defensive starters all received the night off.
Beck entered the game having completed 20 of 27 passes (74.1 percent) for 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception and a quarterback rating of 99.0. Against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, Beck moved Washington’s offense at a crisp pace and kept the defense off-balance while scattering quick passes around to multiple receivers.
But against Tampa Bay, Beck lacked the same sharpness. He completed just 10 of 21 passes for 108 yards, threw an interception in the end zone and ended the night with a quarterback rating of 43.4.
“Obviously, I would’ve liked for it to go a little bit better than it did,” Beck said. “There definitely were some throws out there that I definitely don’t miss on. I was just a little off.”
Beck did face the Buccaneers without starting wide receivers Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, starting tight end Fred Davis as well as starting running back Tim Hightower and fullback Darrel Young. Those players all had the night off, as was rookie backup running back Roy Helu, who had excelled as a change-of-pace back while running with the first-teamers.
Beck had the starting offensive line in front of him, but he missed open receivers several times, made several ill-advised throws and appeared hesitant other times. Not helping matters were the apparent struggles of the interior of the Redskins’ offensive line. On Washington’s first offensive play of the game, defensive tackle John McCargo came up the middle to pressure Beck into overthrowing a wide-open Anthony Armstrong.
On Beck’s final pass attempt of the game — with 1 minute 2 seconds left in the first half — safety Devin Holland knifed up the middle of the line. With the pressure coming, Beck threw the ball off his back foot, going for rookie Niles Paul in the back right corner of the end zone. But Tampa Bay cornerback D.J. Johnson stepped in front of Paul and easily pulled the ball down for an interception.
Scattered in between those two plays were completions of 22 yards to tight end Logan Paulsen, 19 to Paul, 18 to Anthony Armstrong and 16 to Donte Stallworth. But Beck failed to lead his team on any scoring drives of length.