Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald takes a closer look at Thursday night's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium:
In the all-important third preseason game, in front of a nationally televised audience, the Redskins lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
All preseason, the Redskins have been playing with a little more intensity than their opponents, and it has showed. On Thursday night, the Ravens played with an equal degree of intensity, so much so that a tussle occurred after an extra point in the first quarter.
The Redskins put in a game plan for the Ravens – first time this preseason they have done so. This was a dress rehearsal for the regular season and the starters played the entire first half.
From DeAngelo Hall's 52-yard interception return for a score to Tim Hightower's 37-yard touchdown run to Santana Moss's 24-yard touchdown catch, the Redskins' first-teamers impressed on both sides of the ball in building a 21-14 halftime lead. Rookies and roster hopefuls let the victory slip away in the fourth quarter.
The other top storyline? The Redskins' quarterback derby. Rex Grossman had the starting nod and he rotated with John Beck through the first three quarters. Grossman finished with 8-of-15 pass completions for 112 yards, one touchdown and a QB rating of 99.9. Beck was 6-of-10 for 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a QB rating of 90.8.
Both had good moments, both had bad moments. Is there a leader at this point? Probably, but head coach Mike Shanahan won't tell. From all appearances, it's close.
The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and they were one step ahead of the Ravens on the scoreboard most of the game. When Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor's pass bounced off the hands of running back Anthony Allen on 4th-and-goal with 3:36 left, it appeared the Redskins were on their way to a 31-27 victory. The Ravens would get another chance when LaQuan Williams returned a Sav Rocca punt 38 yards to the Redskins' 35-yard line. Two plays later, Ravens wide receiver Brandon Jones stretched across the goal line to convert a 9-yard touchdown, sealing a comeback win for Baltimore.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Any number of Redskins plays could fit here, but we'll go with Tim Hightower's impressive touchdown run midway through the first quarter. At the Ravens' 37-yard line, Hightower took a handoff and followed a block by right tackle Jammal Brown. He found a seam, and then cut back to the left to avoid a tackler. Hightower burst into open field, cutting around the Ravens defense on his way to the end zone. He reached out and pushed the ball just past the goal line for a critical touchdown.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Terrence Austin has come a long way. He was a fresh-faced, seventh-round rookie a year ago and even then he was making plays. (Recall that he led the Redskins in preseason catches in 2010.) Austin has clearly improved again this preseason, finishing Thursday night's game with a team-best five catches for 71 yards. In the third quarter, he caught a bubble screen from John Beck and weaved through tacklers on his way to a 13-yard score. At this point, it would be a real surprise if Austin were not on the Redskins' final roster.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
-- DeAngelo Hall got the defense off to a fast start, sitting back in a zone and picking off Joe Flacco early in the first quarter. Hall weaved past tacklers, cut back twice, and made his way to the end zone on a 52-yard score.
-- Ryan Kerrigan recorded his second preseason sack in as many games. He easily beat Ravens right tackle Jah Reid and pulled down Joe Flacco for a 3-yard loss. On the sidelines, London Fletcher was smiling. Kerrigan finished the game with six tackles.
-- Overall, the Redskins finished with four sacks, including two on cornerback blitzes. Kevin Barnes logged his second preseason sack and rookie Davonte Shannon had one in the fourth quarter as well. Cornerback blitzes have been effective for the Redskins. It's something to keep an eye on in the regular season.
-- Reed Doughty has had an impressive preseason. Midway through the first quarter, he read a handoff to wide receiver Torrey Smith and blitzed into the backfield. He tackled Smith for a 7-yard loss.
-- On offense, the Redskins continue to thrive on big plays. The unit tallied 341 yards of total offense, including 103 on the ground.
-- Maybe there's a reason why Tim Hightower has been a hot fantasy league pickup lately. Hightower has been outstanding in preseason, rushing for 56 yards on nine carries, including a 37-yard touchdown run. His yards-per-carry average was an impressive 6.2.
-- The Redskins put their struggles in the red zone to rest, for at least a week. The offense was 2-for-2 in red zone appearances on Thursday night, scoring touchdowns on both attempts.
WHAT WENT WRONG
-- DeAngelo Hall was in 1-on-1 coverage with wide receiver Lee Evans on a deep throw to the end zone. Hall appeared to mis-time the ball. He waved his hand in front of Evans' arms, but the ball snuck past him and Evans caught it for a 35-yard touchdown.
-- The Redskins' defense came up with some big plays when it needed them, but they also yielded two long Ravens touchdown drives, including a 96-yarder and an 80-yard. Baltimore compiled 452 yards of total offense, including 138 in the run game.
-- Rex Grossman was blitzed twice in the game by Ravens cornerbacks. In the first quarter, his pass fluttered away after he was leveled by a Ravens blitzer. In the second quarter, he was sacked on a 3rd-and-10 play by a blitzing cornerback. Grossman has some mobility, but it does not appear he is great at escaping pressure.
-- Cornerback Reggie Jones led the defense in tackles with eight, but he committed two penalties, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct infraction in the second quarter. Jones has flashed talent at times, but young players have to play smart to secure roster spots.
-- Lorenzo Alexander was flagged for a running into the punter penalty. It gave the Ravens a first down on what would end up a 68-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
-- Overall, the Redskins committed eight penalties in the game, for 52 yards.
All NFL teams must cut their roster to 80 players on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Two days later, the Redskins return to FedExField for the preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It'll be the last chance for many rookies and roster hopefuls to secure a roster spot or earn a place on the practice squad.
Keyaron Fox stepped in at middle linebacker for injured London Fletcher and the Redskins' defense did not miss a beat. Fox was particularly solid in run defense, logging four tackles in the first half. Fletcher sat out the game with a lingering groin and hamstring injury. He may not return to the field until the regular season opener.
In three preseason games, here is where we stand in the Redskins' quarterback competition. Rex Grossman leads the offense with 34-of-53 pass completions -- a 64.2 completion percentage -- for 407 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His QB rating is 92.3. John Beck is second with 20-of-27 completions -- a 74.1 completion percentage -- with one touchdown and one interception. His QB rating is 99.0.
"We told [Rex Grossman and John Beck] from the start, we're going to compete every day, every practice, every 7-on-7, every game, and at the end of the day we're going to make a decision. As I've shared with everyone, including them, I believe in both of those guys. They can play. So whichever direction we go, not only do we have a first-team quarterback, we have a second-team quarterback." -- head coach Mike Shanahan
The most serious injury was to defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who suffered what appeared to be a right knee injury in the first quarter. Jenkins had to be helped off the field. The team sent word to the press box that it was a right knee sprain, but the severity of it is not known yet. Mike Shanahan said Jenkins would have an MRI on Friday. If he is out for any substantial time, it would be a tough break for Jenkins. He has been perhaps the most impressive Redskins player in training camp and preseason.
The Ravens are a good team with solid depth – this is a team that has made the postseason each of the last three years. Consider that in the last two preseasons, the Ravens have beaten the Redskins twice by a combined score of 46-3. A strong showing by the Redskins on Thursday night against their I-95 rivals – even in a losing cause – signals progress. It's something we've suspected, but now we can say it for sure.