But something unexpected happened. Not only didn't the Redskins lose, but they won. And looked damn good doing it. Aainst none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The AFC Champions. "Those" Steelers.
Preseason or not, the Redskins went toe-to-toe with one of the NFL's big boys and came out on top. Forget the score; Friday night's pleasant surprise was about the young "rebuilding" Redskins showing organization, speed, cohesion, efficiency ... things that have been all-too wanting around here for a long time.
There were also noteworthy individual performances:
QB Rex Grossman—maligned and subject of more undeserved scorn from his home town fans than any player I can recall—was sharp. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself.
Newcomer RB Tim Hightower flashed big time. One half of preseason football doesn't automatically project into a Pro Bowl season, no, but few Redskins fans could watch Hightower burst around left end, one-cut and slash decisively, and for good measure truck former Redskins safety (and Steeler lightning-rod du-jour) Ryan Clark, and not get just a little bit juiced.
WR Santana Moss shined. Sharp routes, sure hands. 7 catches, 64 yards and a TD in a half.
The new defensive line—Carriker, Cofield & Bowen ("The Firm")—was stout, and even provided something Redskins fans barely recognize ... consistent pass rush from the down linemen.
Oh, there were concerns to be sure ...
The secondary, mostly. Sans both starting safeties, LaRon Landy and Oshiogho Atogwe, the pass defense looked shaky at times. If Pittsburgh quarterbacks hadn't overthrow a couple of deep passes to wide open receivers, the outcome and overall feel of Game 1 might have been quite different indeed.
Of course, that works both ways.
If Redskins K Shayne "We Hardly Knew Ye" Graham hadn't suffered a bizarre case of the yips and duck hooked a chip shot field goal early; or TE Fred "Slim" Davis and WR Leonard "Hand Size Doesn't Matter" Hankerson hadn't dropped on-the-money intermediate passes over the middle, in the red zone, the Redskins 16-point total could have been considerably higher as well.
But in the end, none of that really matters. The beauty of Game 1 wasn't in the numbers (although some of them are worth a quick mention):
Honestly, one could scarcely ask for anything more to start the preseason.
Total yardage: Redskins 452 (!), Steelers 186Yes, it would have been nicer not to have to call a time out on 1st-and-goal after that epic opening drive, when the Steelers D was reeling and on its heels, taking them off the hook (no pun intended, Shayne G.)
Turnovers: Redskins 0, Steelers 0
3rd down Efficiency: Redskins 5-14 (35%), Steelers 2-11 (18%)
Penalties: Redskins 3-38, Steelers 2-10
Time of Possession: Redskins 39:25, Steelers 20:35
And it would have been nice not to leave all those points (missed FG's, dropped passes) on the field.
But holding the opponent scoreless in the 2nd half; looking organized and crisp, avoiding mistakes and turnovers, etc. That's something to hang your hat on.
It's also something that sets the bar heading into Game 2. Meaning it's time to start digging into the trends, patterns, position battles, and expectations going forward.
Biggest storylines for Game 2?
1) QB John Beck — If you haven't seen it already, check out this interview clip from earlier in the week. Amidst the manic media maelstrom swirling around him, you gotta like the man's poise. If nothing else, he has the Basic Interview Rap down cold.
You might like the demeanor toward the end of the video even better. You can't generally fake camaraderie. You can't generally fake body language. You get to see a bit of the "real" Beck, the man behind the public personna, shine through in a relatively unguarded moment with RT Jammal Brown.
All of which means nothing of course, if the man can't play. We get to start gathering evidence on THAT front tonight. Stay tuned.
2) Redskins secondary — Looking to bounce back and solidify after a shaky Game 1, The back four will be without not only Landry and Atogwe again, but also without new starting CB Josh Wilson. Throw in that LB London Fletcher, the straw that stirs the defensive drink, is not going to play either, and it's posible that come this weekend, the new "uh oh" vibe will be whether or not the Skins can defend the pass.
To that end, tonight would be a good time to see the front seven exhibit some carryover from last week and apply consistent pressure to helpe rotect their shorthanded secondary.
The good news? From the Media Packet also linked below:
Last week, with Peyton Manning on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Indianapolis’ quarterbacks combined to go 10-of-25 through the air in their preseason debut. Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky combined to throw three interceptions.
The Colts are 10-9 all-time against the Redskins in the preseason, but 0-1 since relocating the franchise from Baltimore in 1984. The last time these teams met in the preseason was at the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
3) I really want to see rookie RB Roy Helu get some run. Fellow rookie RB Evan Royster (video) wasn't bad, but wasn't particularly impressive either. To his credit, he did appear to warm/loosen up as the game progressed, but he did not show any real burst or change of direction. I'm hoping that Helu gets at least a dozen carries Friday night to show what he can do.
4) WR Leonard Hankerson - Let's face it, the struggled, looking tentative and unsure. Probably not unexpected or all that surprising for a rookie wideout in a timing-based offenses, but throw in the awful drop in the red zone, and his first-impression performance left a bad taste. I'd really like to see the Shanahan's work to get Hanks of Stone (sorry, too easy) a handful of opportunities to make catches and boost the confidence level—his, his teammate's, and, well ... mine.
5) Don't mail it in. You know? The warm fuzzies from last Friday could go away in a hurry if the Skins show up in Indianopolis tonight looking flat and disinterested.
Would it mean any more in the big picture than their looking crisp and energized last week? No. Hey, it's preseason, it has to work both ways. But I rather enjoyed feeling good about my team this week. Even got to poke fun at a couple Steeler fans. Life is better when you smack the bully down.
6) Do. Not. Lose. Anyone. To. Injury.
Just a few hours to kickoff.
Soup To Nuts About Redskins vs Colts (PDF, 6.53MB)