Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Saturday evening's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at FedExField:
What a difference a week can make. Last Saturday in Chicago, Robert Griffin III looked out of sync with the offense, throwing for only 49 yards in the first half while taking three sacks. This week in his FedExField debut, he looked comfortable under pressure, wheeling and dealing in the pocket and on the run.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins defense harassed Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, despite Brian Orakpo's absence from the starting lineup. At one point in the first quarter, Ryan Kerrigan, London Fletcher and Stephen Bowen tagged Luck for two sacks in three plays. The Colts offense was able to move the ball, but the defense stood stout when backed up past midfield.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took his first hard shot as a professional football player, on an A-gap blitz by Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Griffin III popped up after the hit, and did not show any ill effects from the moving forward.
This was a big step forward for Griffin III, who took three sacks last week in Chicago. Realizing he had no one open with pressure in his face, Griffin III threw the ball away and avoided the sack. The drive ultimately stalled, but the Redskins won the battle of field position after a deep punt from Sav Rocca.
PLAY OF THE GAME
This wasn't an easy choice, but the play of the game belongs to reserve linebacker Chris Wilson, who got a safety sack vs. Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish in the third quarter. Wilson entered the game as an injury replacement for Rob Jackson, and got the first Redskins safety since Kedric Golston sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson on December 23, 2007.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Running back Alfred Morris started training camp needing to prove he deserved a spot on the final 53-man roster. Six weeks later, Morris earns his second start of the preseason and rushes for 107 yards in a little over two quarters, making a strong case to be the starting running back in Week 1 against New Orleans. Given that he is the only completely healthy running back in the competition, the coaching staff has to be pleased.
Offensive guard Chris Chester was a stabilizing force on the Redskins offensive line, returning from an injury that sidelined him for the first two weeks. The Redskins offensive line set the tone at the line of scrimmage, opening up holes for 142 yards on the ground and allowing zero sacks on the afternoon.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- The Redskins linebacking corps had a tour de force this afternoon, combining for 10 tackles, three sacks and a safety. Coaches should feel comfortable with the depth at outside linebacker, as Rob Jackson started for Brian Orakpo, but third-stringer Chris Wilson had a career day, earning the safety and flying around the ball.
--The Redskins offensive line started only two regulars last week vs. the Bears, and suffered the consequences with an uneven run game and three sacks. This week, the unit opened wide holes for Morris and gave Griffin III time to throw or run out of the backfield. Chris Chester is only part of the unit, but his return to the starting lineup certainly yielded positive results.
--Redskins running back Tim Hightower took the field this afternoon for the first time since tearing his ACL in Carolina in Week 7 of the 2011 regular season. It was a long road back for Hightower, who re-signed this offseason as a free agent and diligently rehabbed his knee. He got his first opportunity to test his knee in the second quarter, and responded with an 18-yard end around burst.
--Redskins receiver Dezmon Briscoe was a late addition to the Redskins 90-man roster, joining the Redskins in training camp and working to earn his playing time. After not appearing in the first preseason game, Briscoe has turned in back-to-back 50-yard receiving days, catching a red zone touchdown from Rex Grossman. Briscoe does not play special teams, which leaves him on the bubble, but he has certainly made his case for the final 53.
-- The battle for Redskins returner got some new faces this afternoon, as both tight end Niles Paul and veteran receiver Santana Moss threw their hats in the ring for consideration. Given the team's many options at returner, this may not bode well for a Brandon Banks roster spot. Then again, given his 91-yard touchdown last week, he's still the best specialist on the team.
--Redskins punter Sav Rocca continues to impress without competition, averaging 42.0 yards on five punts, with four downed inside the 20-yard line. Punting stats don't normally made headlines, but Rocca's performance this preseason has surpassed his excellent 2011 season.
--Redskins receiver Joshua Morgan got his first extended look of the preseason, and came through for two receptions, 24 yards and a Rex Grossman touchdown. Morgan is a Washington, D.C.-native, and this was his first start at FedExField after spending the last four seasons in San Francisco.
-- The Redskins defense pitched a shutout for 26 minutes in the middle of the game, allowing one touchdown to the Colts' starting offense, and not again until the fourth quarter. The Redskins defense has achieved this twice this season, holding the Bills scoreless for 26 minutes between field goals in Week 1.
--After drawing nine penalties a week ago in Chicago, Redskins starters committed just one penalty for five yards this week. The team finished with three flags for 30 yards, and the cleanest performance in the most-important game so far.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- The Redskins defense remained stout in the clutch, but still yielded more than 320 yards of offense to the Colts and 19 first downs. The Redskins kept the Colts out of the end zone on most drives, but trailed in time of possession by nearly seven minutes.
-- The Redskins kicking competition hasn't yielded opportunities for either kicker to make or break his roster spot. With only one game left to test Graham Gano and Neil Rackers, the coaches will either needs to manufacture opportunities or rely on practice performance.
The Redskins will be back at FedExField soon, hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Kickoff for this game has been changed to 7 p.m., and will be broadcast locally on NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet. This is the first time that former Bucs Raheem Morris, Tanard Jackson, James Lee and Dezmon Briscoe are scheduled to play their former team.
With his half-sack of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Ryan Kerrigan has registered at least one half-sack in each of the first three preseason games. Kerrigan has 2.5 sacks this preseason, and had consistent pressure today, despite missing bookend pass rusher Brian Orakpo (shoulder).
This was the performance that we needed to see out of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and his supporting cast. More than 60,000 fans braved the inclement, and Griffin III stepped up in front of a national audience. Both Griffin III and Rex Grossman made plays and limited mistakes, finishing the day with zero sacks and no turnovers. With one preseason game left on the schedule, the Redskins score a moral victory in the box score, and take an important step forward toward the regular season.