The Washington Redskins’ preseason schedule comes to a close tonight with a meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field. Because of a lack of OTAs and minicamps, this isn’t just your usual throw-away fourth preseason game featuring a bunch of long shots fighting for roster spots. Oh, there will be plenty of battling bubble players, but key jobs and rotation spots remain on the line.
Here are five storylines for tonight’s game.
1. Ryan Torain’s debut: Finally recovered from a broken hand – an injury that sidelined him for all but four days in the month of August – Torain will do his best to change the minds of coaches, who are strongly leaning toward Tim Hightower as the starting running back. It wouldn’t be surprising tonight to see a healthy dose of Torain, who last season averaged 4.5 yards a carry and scored six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving) in eight starts.
2. Defensive line rotation: Adam Carriker will be back at left defensive end after missing the past two games becasue of blisters on his heels (he still has some rough-looking scars, but they no longer are painful). He will start alongside Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen. From there, Kedric Golston, Darrion Scott and Doug Worthington will do their best to show that they are worthy of taking over the spot in the rotation that was held by Jarvis Jenkins. Golston started 13 games at right end last season and would appear to have the leg up, although Scott initially replaced Jenkins last week.
3. Brandon Banks’s return: Speedy Banks made a strong impression in the preseason opener, peeling off a 58-yard kickoff return and 19-yard punt return. But his left knee swelled up following the game, and he had been sidelined ever since until returning to practice this week. Meantime, Terrence Austin has done a solid job in place of him, and also offers better versatility as a wide receiver. Banks has a big chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he should remain Washington’s top kick/punt return threat.
4. Rookie auditions: Ryan Kerrigan is hoping to eliminate the mental errors that hampered his efforts last week (twice jumping offsides in key situations), and is looking for a sack in a third consecutive week. He’s on the team, as is running back Roy Helu. The other members of the 12-player draft class (Jenkins excluded) hope to finish off the preseason on a strong note as they battle for roster spots. If they don’t make the 53, there are eight practice squad spots. So remaining with the team certainly is not a given for all of them.
5. Quarterback competition: You didn’t really think this would be left off the list, did you? John Beck and Rex Grossman have both looked good in the preseason, but neither has been able to separate himself from the other. Beck wins in the athleticism category, and Grossman has a big experience advantage. But both have produced this preseason. Beck’s numbers through two games: 20 for 27 (74.1 percent), 248 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 99.0 QB rating. Grossman through three games: 34 for 53 (64.2 percent), 407 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 92.3 passer rating. Will either lock up the job tonight?