Redskins' arms race heats up

August 20, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Beck uttered words that seemed out of place in August.

Asked when he first knew he might be in for a good night in his first major audition for the Washington Redskins’ starting quarterback job, he had an interesting answer.

“Really, in pregame, I felt our team came ready to play,” Beck said. “I felt like immediately I could tell from the offensive line and skill players that they were ready. And I think that when you’re in warmups and you feel that, you just want to carry it over into the game. I feel like it started even before that first play.”

OK, that’s cliché stuff after a big victory, or maybe even after a routine regular-season win, but when was the last time something like that was said about an exhibition game?

It shows just how important the preseason is to Beck in particular — as well as the Redskins in general.

Their first two opponents, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, are accomplished teams with little to prove, and it could be easily claimed that they mailed it in — or at least failed to generate much of a “came ready to play” vibe.

Not Washington. A 16-7 win over the Steelers was followed by a 16-3 victory Friday night over the Colts. The Redskins have outgained the opposition by a staggering margin of 867-336. The way NFL fans tend to overreact, there are surely fans in the nation’s capital already eyeing a second trip to Indianapolis in early February.

It’s far too early for that, obviously, but there are reasons for optimism from the two games. The defense continues to look strong, even with five starters missing with various injuries. And while fans will surely settle for either Beck or Rex Grossman proving worthy of the starting job, it turns out they’re both off to a good start.

Grossman completed 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards in the first half against the Steelers. Beck countered with a 14-for-17 performance for 140 yards in the first half against the Colts.

So where do things stand now? Stay tuned.

“I know they have confidence in him because they voiced that to me,” Beck said. “So I know that they’re confident in him. I hope they’re confident in me. I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

It’s hard to fault coach Mike Shanahan for wanting to see a strong preseason. There are so many new key players that need to get used to working together. Besides, the franchise needs any psychological boost it can get after three straight years in last place.

And, of course, Beck and Grossman are motivated to do well as they fight for an important role. It’s one Beck has never held before — the No. 1 QB spot at the start of a season. It’s always worth repeating that he hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since 2007, and he’s pumped to be around a coach who believes in him.

“Words can’t really describe when I sit down with coach Shanahan and talk,” Beck said, “just the way that I feel. That’s what I worked so hard for. ... I want to be the quarterback this team needs.”

Beck said he was “antsy” to review the game, that he would no doubt see plenty that didn’t go as planned. The quick review: He used his legs well and moved the chains by spreading the ball mostly with short passes, aided by a ground game that rushed for 160 yards before halftime.

Beck’s longest completion was 23 yards. Tim Hightower (58) and Roy Helu (51) each had a run that went twice as far.

The red zone continues to be an issue. Beck’s first four drives produced points, yet three of the drives stalled around the 10-yard line. Graham Gano’s chip-shot field goals accounted for most of the scoring, but Shanahan figures that ratio will improve once he is game-planning for opponents in the regular season.

“It’s always disappointing when you don’t put the ball in the end zone, there’s no question about that,” Shanahan said. “That’s why you’ve got to game-plan. Hopefully we do get better when we game-plan. Hopefully we don’t get any worse.”

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