By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 4, 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Sept. 3 -- Searching for answers about their roster, the Washington Redskins looked past a 24-17 loss Thursday night to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their final preseason game and focused on the bigger picture.
The Redskins must cut 22 players by Saturday's deadline to set the opening 53-man roster, so losing another meaningless preseason game in front of an announced crowd of 39,942 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium wasn't their concern.
The Redskins must make difficult decisions about the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job between Colt Brennan and rookie Chase Daniel and the place-kicking competition between holdover Shaun Suisham and newcomer Dave Rayner. And who's the 53rd man?
The Redskins (1-3) made it through the game with no major injures -- their top priority -- and now prepare to put the finishing touches on the roster with the regular season beginning in a little more than a week.
"Well, some guys made it difficult, and some guys made it . . . it's not going to ever be easy," Coach Jim Zorn said. "I don't want to say it's going to be easy. There was a couple that might have struggled out there that we'll see on video. We'll see why there was a struggle. I thought some of the performances were good individually, but I also look at the team performance."
In the highest-profile position battle, Brennan had his best game of the preseason. The second-year quarterback completed 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter after aggravating a hamstring injury while being sacked.
"I've had a tight hammy for a couple of weeks," Brennan said. "On the beginning of the play, I went to scramble out, and my hammy locked up on the play. When I got sacked, my knee got caught underneath, so it was one of those things where it wasn't a serious injury, but it was like two injuries at once.
"My leg was like throbbing for a couple of plays, so it felt good to get off it. It's nothing serious, it's just kind of unfortunate. I think I've gotten a great experience this year. I've done some good things, and I've made some mistakes. Overall, I thought I showed I've grown. Hopefully, they can look at my two years here and look at my practices and feel confident about me progressing."
Daniel went 8 for 16 for 85 yards. After returning to the game in relief of Brennan, Daniel threw a four-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to rookie wide receiver Marko Mitchell, who is expected to make the opening roster.
Suisham connected on a 48-yard field goal with 4 minutes 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter. That cut Jacksonville's lead to 21-3.
As planned, the first-team offense only played the opening series. The Redskins' offensive starters failed to produce points in their brief appearance, but there were encouraging developments for the unit.
Quarterback Jason Campbell was sharp in the brief stint. "He was excellent," Zorn said. "He made big plays."
Campbell opened the game with a sharp 11-yard pass along the right sideline to Malcolm Kelly, who made another nifty catch in traffic for the first down. Beginning his second season, Kelly has made an impressive recovery from offseason microfracture knee surgery and appeared to have strengthened his case to be the starting flanker opposite split end Santana Moss when the Redskins open the season Sept. 13 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.
On third and 13 at Jacksonville's 39-yard line, Campbell threw his best deep ball of the preseason. He threw a long pass down the middle of the field that sailed over defenders, and the ball hit Antwaan Randle El in the hands but he failed to come up with the catch. Daniel replaced Campbell on the Redskins' second possession.
Campbell finished 4 of 6 for 33 yards. He ended the preseason with consecutive effective performances after his 1-of-7 outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers renewed concerns among some fans and media members about his ability to lead the team.
"He made a great throw to Antwaan Randle El that we couldn't connect on," Zorn said. "We saw what we wanted to see tonight."
Said Campbell: "Felt comfortable, felt good. That's the way you want to end the preseason. Now, you just want to keep it going. Keep that good feeling going."
In the first half, Daniel attempted three passes and had a five-yard completion. Daniel often was under pressure playing behind the Redskins' second-string line and was replaced by Brennan with 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"I felt real comfortable," Daniel said. "I made quick decisions and we were able to move the ball downfield, but the penalties hurt us."
Daniel's first series ended poorly, in part, because of a breakdown in pass protection. On third and 11 at Washington's 19-yard line, Daniel was sacked and fumbled after defensive end Quentin Groves beat Mike Williams off the edge and made a big play. The Jaguars (1-3) recovered the ball, and quarterback David Garrard threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker.
Anthony Alridge said he has been clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and he displayed impressive acceleration in his only other preseason game last week against the New England Patriots. The Redskins would prefer to have a speedy, change-of-pace back on the roster to complement top back Clinton Portis and backup Ladell Betts, who will be the team's primary third-down back this season.
But Alridge experienced fumbling problems early in camp before injuring his toe, and made a costly error with the ball early against the Jaguars.
With Alridge competing for one of the team's final roster spots, the Redskins put him on kickoff returns in an effort to further evaluate whether he could help them. Alridge provided more for the coaching staff to consider -- but not something necessarily positive for him.
After Jaguars place kicker Josh Scobee capped the game's first drive, which covered 70 yards in 12 plays, with a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead for Jacksonville, Scobee kicked to Alridge, who caught the ball three yards deep in the end zone. Alridge took off and began to cross the field from right to left, when he encountered Tyron Brackenridge, who separated him from the ball on a tackle at the 10-yard line. Tiquan Underwood scooped up the ball for a three-yard touchdown return.
"I was definitely disappointed about that," Alridge said. "Being that they had scored three points, I wanted to go on down there and score. I wanted to put the ball in the end zone. I just made the mistake of putting the ball on the ground. No excuses. You can't put the ball on the ground in that situation."
Conversely, one of Alridge's main competitors for a roster spot, rookie linebacker Darrel Young, seemed to help himself early on against the Jaguars. On the game's opening kickoff, Young beat everyone on the coverage team down the field and wrapped up Rashad Jennings at the 23-yard line.
"The kid can run," special teams coach Danny Smith said. "We'll have to see where the [roster] count is, but he improved as we went along. We'll have to see how it all fits, but the kid improved throughout the preseason and he can run. And that's two good qualities we look for on special teams."