Leading up to the showdown between the top two picks in April’s draft, rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were pumped up for another tune-up before the season starts in two weeks. And while preseason contests rarely matter much, the battle between two potential franchise saviors took center stage before more than 60,000 fans at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. on Aug. 25.

In the Washington Redskins’ preseason home opener, the Indianapolis Colts’ Luck topped Griffin III in the statistics department, doubling his counterpart’s passing yards total while throwing a scoring strike early in the second quarter. But it was Griffin’s skills and presence that guided the Redskins over the Colts, 30-17.

The two quarterbacks finished with passer ratings within a point of each other, and both flashed the traits that made them such high draft picks. Whether it was Luck’s poise and zip or Griffin’s athleticism and deep ball, cameras flashed around FedEx for most of the game as the two signal callers took center stage.

“I thought it was great,” Griffin III said afterwards.“I thought everybody played up for that. They blew this up as a head to head. We’ll see what happens next.”

Both Griffin III (93.8 passer rating, 74 yards passing, one touchdown) and Luck (94.7 passer rating, 151 passing yards, one touchdowns) were the star attractions, but it was unknown running back Alfred Morris (107 rushing yards, one touchdown) that gave the finest performance of any Redskin this preseason. Morris received the start at a busy position for the Redskins, but starred as the opening act for the Luck vs. Griffin III show.

“I’m glad it doesn’t count in the win-column,” a semi-subdued Luck said afterwards.

While both rookies still have a ways to go in terms of polish and precision, neither disappointed a rowdy arena before they were each benched early in the third quarter.

Many fans weren’t even aware of Morris when the preseason began. The sixth-round pick in this year’s draft has made the most of his chance with Washington, and racked up his 107 yards on just 14 carries.

Since his days with the Denver Broncos, Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan has been known for turning no-name running backs into productive stars. He won two Super Bowls in 1997 and ’98 with former Pro Bowl running back Terrell Davis who, like Morris, was drafted as a sixth round pick.
Redskins’ Backups Keep The Success Rolling

The Redskins dominated once the starters left the game, as Washington’s backups outscored Indianapolis’ backups, 16-10. Second-string quarterback Rex Grossman completed all eight passes he attempted for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Grossman is a former starter and played in a Super Bowl before, so playing against the backups in the preseason game didn’t appear to cause him problems. His touchdown passes were thrown to veteran receiver Josh Morgan and second-year receiver Dezmon Briscoe.

The Redskins’ current third-string quarterback, rookie Kirk Cousins, played only briefly against the Colts, failing to complete his lone passing attempt. Cousins’ short performance was unexpected after the rookie passer completed 18-of-24 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 18.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO