But there were some positives and negatives across the board. Here are five observations from the preseason finale:
1.) O-Line struggles – That wasn’t a good way to end the preseason. After doing rather well in the first three games, the starting offensive line – particularly the interior – was rather weak against Tampa Bay. Trent Williams and Jammal Brown appeared to take care of their assignments on the edges. But the Bucs had little trouble getting pressure up the middle. Right guard Chris Chester got knocked down on a few plays, center Will Montgomery got called for holding once, and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger had a rough night. The first and last Beck pass attempts failed badly because Tampa Bay was able to get pressure by sending men at Lichtensteiger. Was it just an off night, or can we expect to see more of the same during the regular season?
2.) Hightower’s worth – Thursday night Tim Hightower proved how valuable he is to the Redskins, and he didn’t even play. He runs with a burst and an authority that Ryan Torain and Evan Royster do not. Both had a few decent runs – Torain’s best coming in the second half – but the Redskins’ offense lacked balance without Hightower. It also would have been interesting to see how Beck would have done with Hightower picking up blitzes as well.
3.) Rocca a major improvement – The Redskins lacked a punter that could hang the ball in the air long enough for the coverage to get down field and hold opponents to short returns. This year, they appear to have their man. Sav Rocca is clearly an upgrade. The Bucs managed only 16 yards on three punt returns. Two of those three went for a big, fat zero as Armando Allen had to settle for fair catches.
4.) Tough call at receiver – Niles Paul, Donte Stallworth and Brandon Banks didn’t make things any easier on coaches as they try to sort out how many receivers they keep on the 53-man roster. You have to think Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Terrence Austin are locks. Banks after that big night is as well, bum knee and all. He’s just too valuable a weapon. Third-round pick Leonard Hankerson hasn’t impressed, but Shanahan likes his upside. Paul was solid while getting the start (three catches, 21 yards) and can contribute on special teams. Stallworth had five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, but was it enough? Do they keep six, or seven wideouts?
5.) Handwriting on the wall – Two offensive linemen that appear to be on the outside looking end: Guard/tackle Selvish Capers and backup center Donovan Raiola. Neither got snaps in the crucial fourth preseason game. It was the second straight week that the two linemen got no action. Rookie seventh-round pick Maurice Hurt got all of the second-half snaps at left guard, where Capers had been working this camp, and Erik Cook again played all of the second half snaps.