Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Thursday's night's preseason action between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium:
Professional football aspirations are on the line tonight as the Redskins take the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. By Saturday night, 22 players will no longer be able to call themselves Washington Redskins, but for tonight, all the cards are on the table.
The circumstances of fourth preseason game inspire some of the best football that fans can watch all season. Unlike in years past, few Redskins are battling for a starting role, but dozens of reserves will put their best foot forward and try and latch on with the defending NFC East Champions.
Expect the cream to rise to the top.
Since arriving in Washington from Tampa Bay, Dezmon Briscoe has been an enigma, flashing NFL-caliber talent and maddening inconsistency. On the one hand, he is still young enough (23) to find his way in the NFL, but given the top-tier talent on the roster, he needed a big night tonight.
Check and check. Briscoe came alive early, catching a short pass from Pat White near the sideline, shaking off a sloppy tackle and turning it into a 66-yard gain. He was eventually chased down from behind, but put the Redskins in the red zone, and eventually the end zone. The play was indicative of the level of competition tonight, but it was a play well done by Briscoe.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Unlike most games, the play of the game came in victory formation, as the Redskins did what they came to Tampa Bay to accomplish. The Redskins avoided any major injuries, Robert Griffin III was cleared to play in Week 1, and the Washington Redskins go home to play games that matter.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kai Forbath continued his trademark consistency tonight, nailing three field goals from 30, 37 and 47 yards. He finishes up the preseason having scored 32 of the team's 106 total points in the preseason, not missing a single kick and improving the effectiveness of his kickoff attempts. The Redskins enter the 2013 with three of the most consistent specialists in the NFL and a group that has a history of working very well together.
Rob Jackson and Jarvis Jenkins are two players that will say goodbye to the team in the next few days and leave to serve their respective four-game suspensions. Both players performed well tonight, as Jackson collected an effort sack at the end of the first half and Jenkins forced a fumble recovered by Phillip Merling. Both players will need to get back into football shape during the Week 5 bye week, but the Redskins leave with positive film on both players.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The defense did not allow a touchdown in the final seven quarters of preseason play, an impressive accomplishment for any squad against any team at any time. The only Buccaneers touchdown scored tonight was off of a pick-six.
--Rookie wide receivers Skye Dawson and Nick Williams have been largely relegated to special teams duty this offseason and preseason, but got their looks on offense tonight. On a drive late in the second quarter, Dawson showed good concentration, hauling in a sideline pass in traffic for an 11-yard gain. On the very next play, Pat White found Williams for a 7-yard gain before he was stood up. Inexplicably, he twisted out of a leg lock and pushed ahead for another six yards and another Redskins first down.
--Not only did rookie running back Chris Thompson likely secure his spot on the roster, he also filled a gaping hole at punt returner after the loss of Richard Crawford for the year. Thompson flashed potential on special teams last week, but didn't break one until tonight, when he returned a punt 69 yards for the score. He also got the nod at kick returner tonight and did not embarrass himself, running back one kick from inside the end zone to past the 20.
-- While preseason wins technically don't count, the Redskins went undefeated in the preseason for the first time since 1985. History has proven that there is no correlation between preseason success and the regular season, as the middle-2000 Colts regularly went 0-4 in exhibition play and the 0-16 Lions went 4-0. But the last time the Redskins went undefeated in the preseason, the team finished 10-6. Ten wins is probably enough to win the NFC East or a wild card spot.
--The last time the Redskins played the Buccaneers in the preseason, Kai Forbath was roster fodder on the Buccos, actually trying his hand at punting in that game. Fourth preseason games are valuable opportunities to look at game film, as Forbath earned consideration for a later tryout and then won the job before Week 6. Tonight, he continues to make Mike Shanahan and Co. look smart, scoring nine points and booting a kickoff into the end zone.
--Pat White had a golden opportunity to show what he could do in extended action and turned in a strong performance. While he was charged with a pick-six, he also 13-for-22 for 180 yards and rushed for an gritty touchdown on the ground. Each time he takes the field, he looks more comfortable in the Redskins offense, and has the opportunity to earn his spot, force a trade or pick his next city to play in.
--The Redskins undefeated preseason will be discredited based on the recent woes of their competition, but fans can take solace in the fact that they did not play down to the competition. The Redskins won each game rather handily (Tennessee included) and blasted the Bills and Bucs to close out the preseason.
--As part of that effort, the defense clamped down this week, at one point forcing 3-and-outs on 10 of their last 11 stands. This included the last seven drives against Buffalo and three-out-of-four to start the game tonight. This is encouraging from a defense that, at times last year, struggled to get off the field. This may not have been starters in the game, but the mentality of the defense is vicious going into the regular season.
--Lance Lewis was a player I had my eye on tonight and he continued to show his value doing the dirty work on special teams and defense. In the first quarter, Lewis was the lone Redskin who went the distance in coverage, chasing down the Bucs returner at the 5-yard line, just short of a touchdown. The return was ultimately called back with a holding penalty, but the effort and execution has to count in Lewis' favor. On offense, he had miscommunication with White on several attempts, but still did his job blocking in the run game. Lewis has the raw talent worth developing at receiver, and the polished ability to contribute right away on special teams. Whether or not that's enough will be reflected in roster cuts on Saturday evening.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--Not many negatives to be away from tonight's game, other than momentary lapses in execution that allowed the Buccaneers to score nine points tonight. The touchdown was scored on a pick-six from a defender that drifted into the flats in front of a Pat White pass. Other than that, the Redskins operated with very few regrets.
--Losing receiver Dezmon Briscoe and Keiland Williams for the game was disappointing, as both players are likely playing for their futures in Washington. Briscoe racked up 75 yards early in the first quarter, but left the game with a shoulder sprain that ended his night. Williams had a breakout game last week against the Bills, but left with the same injury after just one carry for -1 yards. These injuries likely hurt the individual more than the team, but the disappointment remains the same from a competition standpoint.
This is the fourth-consecutive preseason in which the Redskins have returned a punt for a touchdown. The first three were scored by Brandon Banks, who secured a roster spot with his preseason heroics, but struggled to elude regular season coverage units.
Thompson brings similar speed and shiftiness with NFL size and offensive value. If he can catch translate this success to the regular season, he brings shades of Brian Mitchell back to the position.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III tweets (via @RGIII) after the game:
"Operation Patience....Complete. Cleared. To God Be The Glory."
For Redskins players on the bubble, all of the play has been put on tape and there is little else they can do besides wait. By 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, the Redskins will have their 53-man roster and the 2013 Redskins will embark on their first title defense since 2000.
The next time the Redskins will take the field for practice is likely to be Wednesday, following the typical Monday Night Football schedule. The next time the Redskins take the field on gameday will be Sept. 9 at FedExField for the 2013 season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Washington Redskins close out the preseason riding a high that matches the expectations the team brings into the 2013 season. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's return to the gameday gridiron is imminent and the Redskins answered most if not all of the questions the team faced going into training camp.
How will this team work together when the regular season arrives? Will the offense and defense operate under the same systems fans grew accustomed to last year, or will adjustments dictate schematic changes?
The only way to know for sure is to tune in and enjoy the ride.