Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Saturday night's preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:
This was the tale of two halves for the Redskins, as the starters struggled to gain traction in Chicago, and the reserves nearly brought them back for the win. The Redskins trailed by 20 points in the third quarter, but scored three-straight touchdowns to put them back in the game.
Win or lose, the score doesn't matter in a preseason game, and the Redskins have other concerns moving forward. Defensive starters Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather both left the game with injuries, and their long-term status is unclear.
Tonight wasn't pretty, but ultimately, Robert Griffin III's experience tonight was more important than his preseason debut. The Bears tested Griffin III, and his results will be reflected in how he adjusts his game from here. With any rookie quarterback, there will be times when he looks like a rookie. Better to have his best learning experiences happen in games that don't matter.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins had a great bounce-back game tonight, picking apart the Bears defense in the second half. With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Cousins led the offense on a 15-play, eight-minute, 68-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to tight end Niles Paul. This was Paul's third reception of the game, and his first touchdown since moving to the tight end position. This sparked an offensive outpouring the rest of the game.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Bears kicked directionally away from Banks on two of the first three kicks, but made a mistake giving him the ball in the open field. Banks needed a big night and after a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown, he appears to be a favorite to retain his returner duties.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Despite not catching a pass until six minutes remained in the third quarter, receiver Aldrick Robinson put on a clinic in the fourth quarter, catching six passes for 104 yards. Kirk Cousins was the master behind the second half offensive attack, but Robinson proved his value with the ball in his hands, turning modest gains into game breakers.
Dezmon Briscoe didn't see the field vs. the Bills last week, but showed up in the fourth quarter with 51 yards and a touchdown tonight. Brisoce brings ideal red zone size to the Redskins offense, and forged a connection with Cousins in training camp. With Hankerson still on the mend, Brisoce could make sense on the final 53-man roster, as a big receiving threat off the bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Roster competition. Despite falling behind by 20 points in the third quarter, the Redskins reserves battled back for 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter. Look for some of the top performers late in the game to get opportunities earlier in the game next week against the Colts.
-- The battle for Redskins returner got a lot more interesting tonight, with Brandon Banks turned in an electrifying touchdown return. Shanahan said that Banks will need to prove himself on offense, but can you turn down six of the fastest points in football?
--Redskins punter Sav Rocca said he expects his best season in 2012, and has certainly started off on the right foot this preseason. Rocca dropped three-of-four punts inside the 20-yard line, allowing only 14 return yards all night. Rocca had nine games with at least two punts inside the 20 last season, and finished near the top of the NFL in that category.
-- Receiver Aldrick Robinson boosted his stock dramatically tonight, catching a 49-yard pass from Kirk Cousins for a fourth-quarter touchdown. This was the longest offensive preseason play for the Redskins since 2009, when then Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell threw a 73-yard pass to Chris Cooley vs. New England. Robinson finished the night with six receptions for 104 yards.
-- The Redskins running game came out strong this week, picking up huge gains on the opening drive. Even when the Bears should have expected the Redskins to run, the Redskins still had good success with Alfred Morris and Evan Royster.
-- Reserve nose tackle Chris Baker continued his dominant preseason, forcing continued issues at the line of scrimmage in the second half. Possessing the build and mean streak of a 3-4 nose tackles, Baker is seizing his opportunity as Barry Cofield's primary backup at nose tackle.
--Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins continued his return to form tonight, earning a sack on Jason Campbell on a third-down play. Rather than convert for a first, Jenkins ensured the three-and-out and Bears punt.
--The Redskins cleaned up their act this week, earning only four penalties for 46 yards, after committing nine penalties in Buffalo. By comparison, the Bears drew five penalties for 69 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- The Redskins secondary struggled against Mike Shanahan prodigies Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, who gashed the defense for 81 yards on the opening drive, including a 41-yard gain on the first play. The Bears twice targeted a familiar foe in former Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin, who covered Marshall in single coverage.
-- The Redskins' starting offensive line opened up holes in the running game, but couldn't keep Griffin III upright, yielding three sacks through the first 17 minutes of play. One of those plays was a run out of bounds by Griffin III that could have been avoided, but one led to a fumble that turned into a Bears touchdown.
--The Redskins team health on defense. Injuries woes continue this week on offense, but the defense lost two starters in Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather to awkward injuries in the first quarter. Neither player returned to the game, and their long-term statuses are unknown.
The Redskins come home next week, hosting a much-anticipated matchup against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, Aug. 25. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m., and you can catch all the action on NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet. This is the first time that 2012 first-round picks Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will square off in their NFL careers.
With his 91-yard touchdown return, Brandon Banks has now returned a punt for a touchdown in three-straight preseasons. Banks was originally an undrafted receiver out of Kansas State and has never returned a punt for a touchdown in the regular season. He does have one kick return for a touchdown, in his rookie season, 2010.
"I'm just trying to do my role, step up, and really fill that void and play like London does – you know, lead the defense. I wish we could have done a little bit better today. We gave up what, 14 points, 17 points? That's just uncalled for."
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has reminded fans to be patient with Griffin III, as he learns the NFL with on-the-job training. The Redskins got a look at Griffin III under pressure, and he only turned the ball over on a vicious hit from behind. Hopefully the injuries to Orakpo and Meriweather will be minor, and they can return in time for meaningful football games in September. The Redskins finally come home next week to take on the Indianapolis Colts, a team in a similar position as far as rebuilding with youth. Will the starting offense get healthy? Will the defense be able to attack Andrew Luck? The Redskins find out in one week at FedExField.