The first three weeks of the 2011 preseason have been a bit of a revelation. Ever since that first opening offensive drive against the Steelers three short weeks ago, these young(er) 2011 Washington Redskins have done nothing but surprise, impress, excite and even begin to alter expectations.
I admit it—I've been as surprised as anyone. I hoped that Year Two of the Shanahan/Allen Era would bring the kind of synergistic upswell that we've gotten hints of the past three weeks ... but there's a difference between hoping and seeing.
Forget the stats, the record, all that. To me it's been the un-scientific stuff—about the "look" and "feel" of this team so far in 2011—that stands out. The attitude, the body language, the confidence, the execution, the crispness. Preseason or not, there's a "feel" you get for a football team after a few of these gloriried scrimmage, and through three weeks of preseason, these Redskins feel a whole lot different than anything we've seen from them in quite a while.
Yes, I know, self-described "realist" fan. It's just preseason. I get that, really. But they've looked pretty good. Far better than anyone really dared hope. It's all right, no one's keeping track. You can admit it.
Now on to what I really care about heading into this last preseason "game"...
Cliches are cliches for a reason. They are rooted in Truth. So as always, the number one wish for the Redskins final 2011 preseason affair, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field on Thursday night, is this:
To your health, Washington.
The QB Conundrum. John Beck vs Rex Grossman.
Forget all that. Says here the decision was made some time ago. The tea leaves strewn haphazardly about my office tell me John Beck will, and should, be your starting quarterback on opening day against the New York Giants. Even if he's just average against the Buccaneers.
I won't "make the case" here, because frankly, 1) I don't have time/space to go all Closing Argument, and 2) you arent' interested anyway—you've formed your own opinion. For the record, however, mine is that Beck is the guy.
Unless, of course, he gets hurt.
Which he won't. The universe can't be that cruel.
It's high time for the Redskins to have a difference-maker at quarterback again. I think waiting a full generation is more than penance enough for being gifted a front row seat to The Glory Years. I don't know how good Beck will turn out to be, or for how long, but I've given myself over to the gut feeling I've had since that first brief glimpse against the Colts in week two. The man can play.
To your health, John Beck.
Calling LaRon Landry.
Here's a guy we sadly will not see debut against Tampa Bay. The one lingering, nagging sore tooth I've worried all preseason has been about when and if this monster, finally relieved of fill-in duty at free safety and playing at his natural strong safety position, would be back on the field ready to rock. It hasn't been discussed all that much, and by now it's ancient history, but the 2010 defensive identity suffered dramatically from the loss of Landry midway through last season.
The man had 85 tackles through nine games before being lost for the season. By way of reference, that had him on pace for 151 over the season, which would have finished him tied for 3rd in the NFL. He was coming on. Big time. As exciting as it has been watching the 2011 defense come together so far this preseason, the fact remains that come the regular season, teams will gameplan differently with Reed Doughty starting at strong safety than they will should the Redskins have the services of a healthy Landry.
That isn't to dog the heady, overachieving Doughty. It's to point out that Landry was on Pro Bowl—maybe even Defensive Player of the Year—pace last season. He was becoming a difference-maker. You don't drop a guy like that from a unit and not feel it.
To Your Health, Laron Landry.
Prior to the signing of free agent running back Tim Hightower late in the offseason, few Redskins were being counted on to shoulder a heavy load in 2011 more than second year running back Ryan Torain. Word is, we do get to see him make his 2011 debut tomorrow night.
If you remember last year, you were probably pretty excited about seeing what he could do in 2011 with not only an improved offensive line personnel-wise, but an improved offense overall, in terms of syncing and familiarity with the Shanahan system. Hell, maybe even with a passing game capable of supporting/enhancing the run game for change, something we have seen precious little of around here for the past decade plus.
Then he got hurt. And largely disappeared.
With the Hightower explosion so far this preseason, plus the excitement and promise generated by rookies Roy Helu and, to a lesser extent, Evan Royster, who showed workmanlike effectiveness in his sole appearance in the opener against Pittsburgh, Torain quickly became a sidebar story.
Let him crank out a few 10+ yarders against Tampa Bay on Thursday night, however, or break off a long TD run of his own, and suddenly Ryan Torain will be right back in the conversatio. Nothing would serve this team better than a deep and capable backfield featuring breakaway threats like Hightower and Helu, supported by a decisive, determined downhill runner like Torain, all available and champing at the bit for playing time.
To your health, Ryan Torain.
That's enough. It's preseason after all.
No wait, one more thing.
If you haven't yet, for chrissakes sign up already. Win cool shit. Own your fellow fans. Impress the opposite sex (or your own if that's your thing).
It's free, you know. Just do it.
To your health my friends.