Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Wednesday night's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField:
Preseason exhibition games are less to do with team outcome and more to do with individual performance. This fact may never be more apparent than in the fourth preseason game, where roster spots and livelihood were on the line.
Indeed, the fourth preseason game is some of the best football of the year from a purely competitive standpoint, and the Redskins did not disappoint in that regard tonight. The Buccaneers will be a much better team than they showed tonight, and the Redskins will find out first hand in four weeks in Tampa Bay. But for tonight, the Redskins should be thrilled with the quality depth they have throughout the roster.
The revealing moment of the game happened on the first play from scrimmage, where Redskins nose tackle Marlon Favorite sacked Bucs quarterback Brett Ratliff. This play set the tone for a Redskins' defensive masterpiece, which carried through to the fourth quarter. The Redskins defense tallied five sacks, keeping the Bucs quarterbacks off balance all night.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Late in the third quarter, the Redskins executed their best gadget play of the preseason, faking the handoff to his running back and then handing it off to playmaker Brandon Banks. Banks rumbled 43 yards down the sidelines for his second-longest play of the day, firmly solidifying himself as a contributor on offense. Both long plays by Banks led to Redskins touchdowns.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Running back Roy Helu Jr. made his triumphant return to the gridiron today, showing burst and effort in the running and passing game, finishing with 124 total yards and a touchdown. He got off to a rough start, fumbling a pitch out of bounds, but this can be attributed to his unfamiliarity with quarterback Kirk Cousins. After that, Helu Jr. was the team's most productive running back.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to impress, validating the decision by the Redskins front office to select him in the fourth round of the draft. Without question, the Redskins front office made the right decision in taking two quarterbacks, as the Redskins now have two intriguing young options to groom under center.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- The Redskins nose tackle position got interesting quickly tonight, as free agent addition Marlon Favorite and undrafted rookie Delvin Johnson each got sacks in the first quarter. The depth chart looks set with Barry Cofield and Chris Baker on top, but there is always opportunity for playmaking defensive linemen in Washington.
--Despite practicing only once with the Redskins field goal unit, newly-signed kicker Billy Cundiff did not disappoint in his Redskins debut. Cundiff knocked his first three kickoffs out of the back of the end zone, and scored three field goals and three extra points. His one field goal miss will be reviewed and fixed in the next 10 days before New Orleans.
--Veteran defensive lineman Kedric Golston battled elbow and triceps soreness during the preseason, but returned tonight in the starting unit. Golston collected a sack early in the second quarter, and was an important part of the Redskins defense that held the Bucs to -4 yards of offense in the first quarter.
--The Redskins rushing attack looked healthy and productive tonight, with Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. splitting carries in the early going. For Royster, this is a triumphant return after a knee injury shelved him on Saturday. For Helu Jr., this was his first extended action of the year, after battling tendinitis in both Achilles this preseason. If both players check out healthy later this week, the Redskins could have all four available next Sunday vs. the Saints.
-- Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong got his first start of the preseason tonight, and made the most of his final roster audition. Showing the moves that made him a deep threat in 2010, Armstrong caught two passes for a team-leading 61 yards, including a 46-yard bomb to put the offense in the red zone. That drive culminated two plays later with a 1-yard touchdown run by Evan Royster.
--Redskins seventh-round rookies Richard Crawford and Jordan Bernstine each had an interception tonight, tallying three-of-four Redskins' interceptions this preseason. Both needed big performances today to cement their status in the organization, and both players will be hard to let go in Friday's roster cuts.
--Redskins starting fullback Dorson Boyce made the most of his opportunities tonight, throwing vicious blocks at the line of scrimmage, and showing his ability as a ball-carrier late in the game. Not only was he the team's third-leading rusher tonight (10 carries, 44 yards) and picked up a clutch fourth-down conversion. Coaches will have to decide if they want to carry two fullbacks, but Boyce did his job tonight on offense and special teams.
--Redskins receiver Brandon Banks recovered from a rough start by blazing past Buccaneers' defenders on two downfield plays. The first was a 47-yard diving catch in the red zone, followed shortly by a 43-yard handoff that ended up in the red zone. Banks has not had a strong preseason offensively, but turned that around today in just two plays. Both plays set up Redskins touchdowns.
-- The Redskins defense utterly dominated the first half of the game, limiting the Bucs' offense to 38 yards, collecting five sacks along the way. The Bucs did not score for the first 38 minutes of the game, as the Redskins held them to the lowest score by an opponent in the 2012 preseason.
--The Redskins have improved on penalties each week of the preseason, collecting just three flags today for a preseason-low 23 yards. In a game that featured Redskins without much playing experience, this was a surprisingly low number, and a good focus on fundamentals.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--Brandon Banks made the big plays on offense tonight, but also had a critical error with a fumble on a handoff situation in the fourth quarter. Banks had the gap large enough to pick up the first down, but did not secure the handoff from quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
The Redskins wrapped up the preseason tonight, with all games counting henceforth. The Redskins open up on the road in New Orleans in 10 days, before going on to St. Louis Week 2. The Redskins will not return to FedExField until Week 3, when they host the Cincinnati Bengals. The Redskins will see the Buccaneers again soon, traveling to Tampa Bay for Week 4 of the regular season.
The Redskins held the Buccaneers to -4 yards in the first quarter, which hasn't been done by the Redskins in regular season action since before 1950. The closest that the Redskins have come to this is allowing 5 yards in a quarter to Tampa Bay in 2003.
This game didn't carry nearly as much hoopla as Saturday's showdown against the Colts, but it may have made and broken NFL careers. Most players in need of a dynamite performance turned one in tonight, and the Redskins turned in a fundamentally-sound, total-team win.
Between now and the final roster cuts on Friday, the Redskins' coaching staff will have very difficult decisions to make. Shanahan made it a goal to add more depth to the roster this offseason, and the results were highlighted with a big win tonight.