By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 17, 2008
EAST RUTHERFORD N.J., Aug. 16 -- The buzz began during pregame warmups at Giants Stadium and intensified as the moment drew closer for Brett Favre and the New York Jets. The quarterback, one of the game's all-time greats, soon would make his preseason debut against the Washington Redskins after arriving in a trade from the Green Bay Packers, and the Redskins had their own reasons to be excited.
Washington welcomed back cornerback Carlos Rogers and linebacker Rocky McIntosh -- each coming off reconstructive knee surgery -- providing a lift for a defense that was the foundation of the team's run to a playoff berth last season. Rogers and McIntosh got in a little work and left early, and rookie quarterback Colt Brennan rallied the Redskins late for a 13-10 victory in front of an announced crowd of 76,132.
Trailing 10-6, Washington took over on its 20-yard line with 2 minutes 4 seconds remaining in the game. Brennan had entered in the third quarter in Washington's first two preseason games but came in to start the fourth quarter Saturday. That's because Coach Jim Zorn wanted to evaluate the rookie in a late-game situation with the team either in a hurry-up mode because it trailed or trying to manage the clock with a lead.
On the drive's first play, Brennan completed a 37-yard pass to wide receiver Billy McMullen. Marcus Mason rushed for 14 yards on the next play, and then Brennan was sacked. The Redskins went to a no-huddle offense, and Brennan teamed with tight end Jason Goode on a 33-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 1:09 to play. Jets defensive back James Ihedigbo gambled for the interception, and Goode got behind him. Place kicker Shaun Suisham's point-after kick gave the Redskins a three-point cushion.
Quarterback Brett Ratliff responded, leading the Jets from their 24-yard line to Washington's 5. On third and five with five seconds left in regulation, kicker Mike Nugent's 23-yard field goal attempt caromed off the left upright, and Washington improved to 3-0 in the preseason.
Rogers and McIntosh joined Washington's first-team defense for a portion of the Jets' two first-quarter possessions with Favre at quarterback. Favre got off to a good start with his new team, completing 5 of 6 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, and he converted two big plays against Rogers and McIntosh en route to the Jets' only touchdown.
"Nervous, excited," said Favre, who received a standing ovation when his name was announced. There were "some feelings I have not felt in a while, but I was excited."
Said Rogers: "It was the same old Brett Favre. Just a different jersey."
With the Redskins thin on the offensive line because reserve tackles Stephon Heyer (knee) and Todd Wade (ankle) are out, the unit took another hit when starting right guard Randy Thomas left the game early after straining his right knee.
"It's a little strain," Thomas said. "I'm just being a veteran. It's preseason, the first quarter, you're just being smart about it. If it's the regular season, I'm still in there."
Running back Ladell Betts, who started because Clinton Portis was given the night off, also has a mild sprain of his right knee, a team spokesman said. Betts said his leg got caught underneath him when he was tackled and he feared it was a serious injury.
"It scared me for a second, but I'm not feeling any pain now," Betts said.
After sharp performances in the first two games, quarterback Jason Campbell had his first sub-par outing of the preseason. Campbell, who overthrew several receivers, completed 4 of 10 passes for 28 yards. Rock Cartwright led the Redskins with 90 yards on six rushes. Rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas -- Washington's top draft pick -- had an unsportsmanlike penalty on kickoff coverage in his debut.
"We had a couple of shots," Campbell said. "We were trying to go at it and hit it. The Jets were doing little things defensively to try to take away a couple of things."
The Redskins executed much better in victories over the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills. "We had our chances," Zorn said. "Several of the plays have to be executed much better than we executed them to actually finish the drive. I think that was the big issue for us."
Rogers tore his right anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a 52-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Oct. 28. He had surgery about a week later after the swelling in his knee subsided and then began the long recovery process.
McIntosh tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in a 22-10 victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 16. He also had surgery shortly after the swelling subsided in his knee.
"It was good to come out here to be a part of it," McIntosh said. "This is the same field I got hurt, but you don't want to look back on that. I got a couple of tackles, and I heard my name on the intercom. That always feels good."
The Redskins last week determined Rogers and McIntosh, whom they were bringing along slowly, were ready for game action, albeit only a little, Zorn said.
In their offseason rehab, McIntosh, who had a history of right knee problems while at the University of Miami, was considered to be further along than Rogers, but both players had fared well while working with the first-team defense in 11-on-11 drills recently during camp.
Despite sitting out the last two games in 2007 because of his damaged knee, McIntosh finished second on the team in tackles with 105, including 70 unassisted. He lined up in his familiar spot at weak-side linebacker with Washington's defensive starters, joining middle linebacker London Fletcher and strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, forming a unit defensive coordinator Greg Blache said he believes could be the NFC East's strongest.
McIntosh appeared to move well during New York's first drive, which ended in a punt. He was credited with one tackle on the drive, stopping running back Thomas Jones after a four-yard gain.
McIntosh had a rough moment, however, as Favre threw his first touchdown pass as a Jet. On second down at the Washington 4-yard line, tight end Dustin Keller ran past McIntosh, who appeared to hesitate before he slipped in coverage, opening an easy path for Keller and Favre to connect.
"It was a simple play," Favre said. "We had Keller and [tight end Bubba] Franks on two quick outs. Keller had better leverage at the 5, Franks had a little trouble getting off the line. It was pretty simple."
Rogers actually became reacquainted with pregame activities in the Redskins' previous game. He participated in drills Aug. 9 before a 17-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field but was then held out.
This time he was on the field after the game started. Four plays into the Jets' opening possession of the game, Rogers replaced McIntosh when the Redskins went into their nickel package. Rogers, who has appeared sharp at times in practice against top wide receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El, was tested early in his short appearance against the Jets (1-1).
Favre also burned Rogers on the Jets' first-quarter touchdown drive. On third and three from the Washington 39-yard line, Rogers was in press-man coverage opposite wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Cotchery made a good move to get free off the line and cut across the field, beating Rogers for a 19-yard gain. Rookie safety Kareem Moore provided Rogers with help, delivering a big hit to bring down Cotchery.
"It feels good to get my feet wet," Rogers said. "By the time I got a feel, I was out of the game, but it's good to be out there with the guys."