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For Rookies, A Mixed Bag In Preseason Debut

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Redskins rookies saw their first NFL action in Friday night's 16-7 preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Some had to get accustomed to the style of play, while others were just focused on trying to claim a roster spot on the team.

The first half was dominated by the starters on both sides of the ball, but several rookies played with the first-team.

On the defensive side, first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan took the field as the starting outside linebacker across from Brian Orakpo and second-round pick from Clemson, Jarvis Jenkins, had playing time with the first-string defense.

"At first it was kind of a blur, like coming from high school to college, getting that first play under your belt and you'll be alright," Jenkins said. "My first play out here, I got the 'POW,' so I got introduced [to the NFL] pretty good. After that it was full steam ahead."

Jenkins settled into his position and eventually made his presence felt in the backfield. He pressured the quarterback once, forcing a hurried throw.

Kerrigan had three tackles, including one in the backfield, taking down Mewelde Moore on a 3rd-and-1 play and helping force a punt.

"As the game went on, I got a little more comfortable and adjusted to the speed of the game," Kerrigan said.

Said head coach Mike Shanahan on Kerrigan: "By no means was it perfect, but I was pleased with the effort, not just with Ryan but with a lot of our young players.

"I think Ryan is going to keep getting better. Just like a lot of young players, they quit looking at the ball, they get caught up in the game, they don't do the basics like they should. But that is typical for young players coming in."

On offense, veterans carried the load for the entire first half, but undrafted rookie offensive tackle Willie Smith helped protect Rex Grossman and kept his quarterback upright.

Fourth-year running back Tim Hightower had the bulk of carries in the first half, but rookie sixth-round draft pick Evan Royster filled in to give him a breather.

Royster had a 5-yard run on a 2nd-and-2 play and also was used for the 2-minute drill as a blocker in the first half, but he made more of an impression in the second half. Overall, he carried 15 times for 66 yards, including a long of 15 yards.

Fifth-round draft pick Niles Paul had several strong blocks to create space for the running backs and also had a 16-yard catch to help set up a Redskins field goal.

Fourth-round running back Roy Helu had eight rushes running for 28 yards, with a long of 18.

For other rookies, their first game was a steppingstone to getting better.

Sixth-round wide receiver Aldridge Robinson hoped to make an impact in the return game. After Brandon Banks returned kicks for the first half, Robinson had trouble handling his only two punts. He fumbled twice, and the result both times was that the Redskins' offense was pinned deep in their own territory.

Third-round Leonard Hankerson saw action time in the second half. He was targeted three times, making one catch for eight yards. He dropped one pass, something that has been a problem for him during training camp.

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