Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald takes a closer look at Thursday night's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField:
In a game full of rookies and roster hopefuls, the Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29-24 on Thursday night at FedExField.
At least 14 Redskins starters sat out the game, including Tim Hightower and Santana Moss on offense and Barry Cofield, London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall and Oshiomogho Atogwe on defense.
Rex Grossman sat out the game, too. Does this mean he's the Redskins starting quarterback ahead of John Beck? It's tempting to draw a determination, but remember this quarterback competition has been unpredictable all preseason.
So it was Beck who started and he turned in an uneven performance, completing 10-of-21 passes for 108 yards and one interception.
Still, for the third preseason game in a row, the Redskins jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half.
The Redskins scored an early touchdown thanks to the defense forcing a turnover. Then the ever-electrifying Brandon Banks broke loose on a punt return for another score.
After the Redskins yielded a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, Donte Stallworth -- one of those roster hopefuls -- pulled in a 41-yard touchdown pass to seal the win.
The Redskins finished 3-1 in preseason.
After Tampa Bay scored 11 fourth-quarter points to go up 24-23, it looked like the Redskins were going to let a late lead slip away for the second week in a row. The offense had one last chance, though. At the Buccaneers' 41-yard line, Donte Stallworth was in 1-on-1 coverage on the outside with cornerback D.J. Johnson. He raced past Johnson on a downfield route and pulled in Kellen Clemens' deep pass for a game-winning touchdown.
PLAY OF THE GAME
For pure drama, it's Brandon Banks' 95-yard punt return for a touchdown. Banks saw a hole straight up the middle of the field and burst past tacklers. Forty yards later, he shifted left, leaving everyone behind. A sure touchdown. Hold on. Just before Banks was about to cross the goal line, he started celebrating a little too early and let the ball fall out of his hand. Referees saw it and decided to review it. Given the replay, it could have gone either way. It went Banks' way. The earful Banks received from special teams coach Danny Smith on the sidelines? You can bet it wasn't G-rated.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Linebacker Rob Jackson had a strong training camp and preseason, so he likely had a roster spot secured prior to Thursday's game. Late in the first quarter, he blitzed into the backfield, easily getting past the left tackle, and leveled quarterback Rudy Carpenter for an 11-yard loss. Carpenter lost the football and rookie linebacker Markus White scooped up the ball and raced downfield for 37 yards to the Buccaneers 2-yard line. The play set up the Redskins' first touchdown.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- Even with Tim Hightower sitting out the game, the Redskins still managed to compile 123 rushing yards. Ryan Torain led the way with 73 yards on 17 carries and rookie Evan Royster logged 44 yards and on 11 carries before suffering a concussion.
-- The Redskins' backup receivers stepped up, with Donte Stallworth leading the way with five catches for 80 yards, including his 41-yard game-winning touchdown. Rookie Niles Paul also impressed, catching three passes for 21 yards.
-- Some had suggested that Mike Sellers was battling for a roster spot on Thursday night. Maybe so, but Sellers rose to the occasion. He caught two passes for 14 yards but he also had several nice blocks, including one that allowed Evan Royster to squeeze in for a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
-- The Redskins' offense was solid on third downs, converting 6-of-16 attempts. So was the Redskins' defense -- they limited Tampa Bay to 1-of-14 on third downs.
-- The Buccaneers had a 3rd-and-goal at the Redskins' 1-yard line and the defense stuffed them on consecutive run plays for an impressive goal line stand. Cornerback Kevin Barnes was in on a pair of tackles to stop running back Kregg Lumpkin short of the end zone.
-- Cornerback Josh Wilson saw his first extended preseason action since the Aug. 12 opener and he recorded a first-half interception.
-- Graham Gano looks poised for a solid season. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts (from 22, 27 and 35 yards).
-- Instead of going for a game-tying extra point that could have forced overtime, Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris opted to go for a 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. The Bucs converted, giving them a short-lived 24-23 lead. Given that this was the fourth and final preseason game, this was the right call.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- Evan Royster drew the start at running back. On his first carry of the game, he fumbled on a run to the right. The ball was picked up by a Buccaneers defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers and returned to the Redskins' 19-yard line.
-- The Redskins' red zone offense is going to be closely scrutinized in the week leading up to the season opener. The offense was 1-for-6 in the red zone on Thursday night.
-- Late in the first half, the Redskins were in scoring range. On 3rd-and-6 at the Buccaneers' 15-yard line, Beck was blitzed again. He tossed a high-arching pass to the end zone, but cornerback D.J. Johnson had position at the goal line and leaped up in front of Paul for an interception.
Roster cuts are looming. The Redskins must reduce their roster to a league-mandated 53 players by Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET. On Sunday, the team can name an 8-member practice squad. And on Monday, the Redskins begin preparation in earnest for Week 1 of the regular season. The New York Giants are coming to town. Get ready.
Rookie cornerback Brandyn Thompson is a roster longshot, but he made some nice plays in the second half. He finished with four tackles and three passes defended in the game. Should the Redskins decide depth is a priority at cornerback with Phillip Buchanon suspended for the first four games, then Thompson could find himself in the mix.
Statistically speaking, here is the Redskins' quarterback competition in a preseason nutshell: Rex Grossman finished with 34-of-53 pass completions -- a 64.2 percentage -- for 407 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. John Beck finished with 30-of-48 completions -- a 62.5 percentage -- for 356 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Grossman's QB rating was 92.3 and Beck's was 74.7.
"I thought I was 10 yards in the end zone. It'll never happen again, I promise." -- Brandon Banks, on dropping the football as he crossed the goal line on his 95-yard punt return
Evan Royster suffered a mild concussion and left the game in the second half, according to head coach Mike Shanahan. Team officials will also monitor Brandon Banks' knee to see if it swells up following Thursday night's game. That was what happened after the Aug. 12 preseason opener vs. Pittsburgh and he missed the next two games as a result.
Preseason is prologue. Once the roster is finalized on Saturday, it's time for the Redskins to shift gears and focus on the New York Giants. One big question remains, though. Who's the quarterback?