The Washington Redskins’ dress rehearsal for the regular season has come and gone, but it’s probably a good thing another week of preseason football remains. It’s obvious that this Redskins team is better than the product we all saw in 2010. But the team still has questions at some key spots, and could use some more work in other areas.
Here are five observations from Thursday night’s game at Baltimore.
1. The starting quarterback may not matter.
You can look at this in a number of ways. If it’s a glass-half-full take: Both John Beck and Rex Grossman have proven that the way the system is designed, plays will come to them, and they can move the ball. Beck gives you better mobility, Grossman gives you a stronger arm. Both can produce in different ways, and the Redskins’ offense won’t be half bad. Neither has been straight-up spectacular, but neither has been terrible, either. Both have done a good job, for the most part.
If it’s a glass-half-empty take: A guy might win the job for Week 1, but given how unproven Beck is, and how inconsistent Grossman has been in the past, that starting job will be a penciled-in type of thing, and Thursday night’s rotation could be a foretelling for the season: One passer for a few sputtering weeks, the second for a hot week, followed by his own share of struggles, followed by the return of the original starter for a good week or two, only to struggle again and make way for the second guy again.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this week that he was hoping one of the quarterbacks would separate himself from the other, but so far it doesn’t appear that either Beck or Grossman has done this.
2. The defensive picture is still cloudy.
Thursday night’s game showed the potential that this revamped Redskins defense is loaded with. But it’s still hard to get a full grasp of what this unit is capable of because the entire first-team unit has yet to make it on the field at the same time, and a key figure, strong safety LaRon Landry, has yet to get off the PUP list. With cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson and safeties Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe not having played together yet, there likely will be some growing pains to start the season.
We saw last night that although he may feel more comfortable in the second year of the system, Rocky McIntosh remains a liability in pass coverage. But at the same time, he probably is the best option at that second inside linebacker spot because, according to Jim Haslett, Perry Riley’s development has been stunted by a lack of OTAs. The defense also loses some firepower with the loss of Jarvis Jenkins, so while Adam Carriker will be the clear-cut starter there, the team likely will have to rely on Darrion Scott or Doug Worthington to provide depth at that left end spot. That’s a significant dropoff.
3. Terrence Austin is making the most of his opportunities.
It’s safe to say the star of the preseason has been the second-year wide receiver out of UCLA. Each week, Austin has gotten better, and it’s clear both his level of confidence and Kyle Shanahan’s level of confidence in him are growing.
Against the Ravens, Austin had five catches for 71 yards. He was at his best during the third-quarter scoring drive when he made catches of 15, 28 and 13 yards. The 15-yard catch came on a crucial third-down play. The 28-yard reception came on third-and-2, and the final catch gave John Beck his first touchdown pass of the preseason.
“I was eager to make plays and knew plays needed to be made,” Austin said. “On third down, I was happy they called for three receivers because I knew I was going to get out there and make a play.”
Once the apparent odd man out, Austin has forced his way onto the 53-man roster. A wideout collection that features Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, Austin and one, maybe two others, will be solid.
4. Eight players didn’t see any action at all.
The first round of roster cuts are coming on Tuesday, when Washington must get down to 80 players. As of Wednesday, the Redskins had 90 players, but saw no point in keeping nose tackle Thomas Weaver around and announced before the game that they had waived him.
The following eight players didn’t get on the field at all Thursday night: K Clint Stitser, RB Shaun Draughn, DB Dante Barnes and O-linemen Donovan Raiola, Clint Oldenburg, Selvish Capers, Corey O’Daniel and Xavier Fulton. Is the writing on the wall?
A few people asked me about Evan Royster. I was surprised the rookie running back didn’t get any snaps, but he did play on special teams. Makes you wonder if the Redskins have seen enough from him and are hoping to stash him on the practice squad.
5. Ryan Kerrigan is making progress.
The Redskins’ first-round draft pick continues to grow more comfortable in his transition from defensive end to linebacker. After dropping Joe Flacco in the backfield Thursday night, Ryan Kerrigan has now recorded sacks in back-to-back weeks, and you can tell that if he continues to progress, Washington will have a nice tandem in Brian Orakpo and the rookie out of Purdue.
But Kerrigan also needs to settle down just a bit, as twice he hurt his team with neutral zone infractions. Chalk those up to eagerness. But you know the young fella is still kicking himself.