We're halfway through the NFL preseason, and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan seems to be taking this quarterback competition pretty seriously. He's not even giving a hint as to who will start in Thursday's preseason game in Baltimore against the Ravens. A earthquake in D.C. is more likely than an decision on John Beck and Rex Grossman at this point (oops!).
Meanwhile, Albert Haynesworth was back in D.C. taking a knee in court with a "no contest" to simple assault. At least the guy is consistent. He didn't put up a fight on the field or off at any point while he was in town.
This week's Chain Reactions deals with the quarterback battle that is going to the wire and the position that should be the signal-caller's best friend.
Why Not Quarterback by Committee? (That's A Rhetorical Question)
The Shanahan's are not ready for the big reveal quite yet. The head Shanahan even might keep the decision a secret until kickoff of the regular-season opener, so it is too close to call.
"We'll probably have [the Giants] get ready for both quarterbacks," Shanahan said. "It is unusual. I understand why it gets all the scrutiny and it doesn't happen very often, but we have two guys we believe in, two guys that are [competing] very close right now. I feel very comfortable going into the first game with either quarterback.
"We'll have to make one of those tough decisions, and we won't make it until the end."
Why not rotate the quarterbacks? OK, sorry, Steve Spurrier's gone.
Anyway, if the Shanahans are serious, it will be a tough week of sleep for New York Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell going into the September 11 opener. That poor guy is going to be tossing and turning not knowing if it is Beck or Grossman! That is, if he isn't already having sleepless nights trying to figure out if he has 11 healthy defensive players.
So far, both quarterbacks have performed very well. Thursday night's prime-time game against the Ravens should give each their best test to date. The Ravens, unlike the Colts, actually put out some effort in the preseason. The Redskins would have gotten a better look against former Baltimore Colts than the guys in Indy.
Barring a complete meltdown against the Ravens, I think Beck (a former Raven) will get the ball to start the season. He is the great (we hope) unknown, and they need to find out what he can offer before the 2012 NFL Draft, which could be stocked with quarterbacks. Grossman is a known quantity and would probably handle relief duty better than Beck.
For me, it is hard to fathom either quarterback being able to start all 16 games this season. If they start the slightly younger Beck, you can bet Grossman always be warm in the bullpen.
Running Game Could be Game Changer
No matter who the quarterback ends up being, it appears they will be playing with a much better running game behind them. Since the team parted ways with Clinton Portis, they have retooled with a younger and more explosive backfield. Tim Hightower was a steal from Arizona. He is the total package as runner, receiver, blocker and (so far) not a fumbler, which has plagued him in the past.
Meanwhile, rookie Roy Helu out of Nebraska has been as good as advertised in the Shanahan running attack, and fellow rookie Evan Royster out of Penn State showed some promise too. The projected starter going into camp, Ryan Torain, remains limited as he returns from a broken hand. He is encouraged by what he sees from the sideline.
"The team looks great. We've got a lot of team camaraderie and I'm just focused," said Torain, who last season led the team with 742 yards (averaging 4.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. "But competition makes us great. We're all going to push each other and to be better, and we just have to stay together as a team."
The offensive line deserves credit too. Hopefully the younger Shanahan will stick with the running game this season after last year's sometimes overly-pass-happy approach.
Red Zone a Dead Zone
It is just preseason. Now that that's out of the way, though, there is a reason for concern with the Redskins' 2-0 mark in the preseason. Sure, they are racking up tons of yards, but tet they have only are a pedestrian 2-9 in converting touchdowns in the red zone. It should be noted there has been no game planning in the preseason thus far, but offensive players do not want to shrug the struggles off.
"That’s just an excuse, I think. We have to get it in there regardless," said guard Kory Lichtensteiger. "Good teams get it in the end zone consistently, and that’s what we’re trying to work towards. We have to execute better."
It also should be noted defenses are not game-planning either. The Redskins need to get better in that area of the field and should be helped once a healthy Chris Cooley returns to the lineup and they pick one quarterback. If they don't get better, be ready to grab Graham Gano in your fantasy league. He might be real busy.
Stephen Strasburg Gets a Promotion
Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg took another step forward on his return from Tommy John surgery, as he is getting the promotion to Syracuse, where the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reports he will start Saturday. Strasburg is not just working on his arm during rehab. As MASN Sports' Byron Kerr points out, he's also working on his entire body.
"It is a lot more regimented," Strasburg said. "I know exactly what I need to do the night after I pitch and the next day. What I need to get ready for my bullpen (session) and how many pitches I want to throw in my bullpen. That stays constant and that is something I can't control. It is going to put me in a position to hopefully go out have some success every fifth day."
Strasburg is working out for 60 to 90 minutes after starts, and is working hard on keeping his muscles guessing.
"The big thing that they want to do with me is keep my muscles confused," Strasburg said. "They never get used to doing the same exercise over and over again. There is a set of exercises that I filter through every few weeks to just kind of keep my muscles guessing."
I smell an endorsement opportunity for the Nationals' future ace with P90X. Tell Scott Boras to send me my cut.