With a 29-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 1, the Washington Redskins improved to 3-1 this preseason to give them some steam as they head into the 2011-2012 National Football League season.

After a dismal 6-10 campaign last season, Skins fans will welcome any signs of improvement. But despite an exciting finish, in which a 41-yard touchdown hookup between third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens and receiver Donte’ Stallworth gave Washington their final lead with 1:07 left, the real storyline of the preseason finale was the performance of quarterback John Beck.

With one last shot to prove himself an adequate starter, Beck delivered his most lackluster performance of the shortened summer, finishing 10-for-21, 108 yards and an interception for a 43.4 passer rating. Beck had been battling last season’s backup turned starter Rex Grossman, who didn’t play in the contest.

The absence of Grossman tilted the starting gig in Beck’s favor, unlike last week against Baltimore where head coach Mike Shanahan rotated the two signal callers searching for a clear winner. Although Beck’s performance was at best, unspectacular, several ears close to the organization believe that Beck will still be named the starter come opening day, which may explain Grossman’s absence.

Operating without the team’s starting set of running backs and receivers, Beck played throughout the first half, leading Washington to a 17-0 halftime lead, due in part to Brandon Banks’ 95-yard kickoff return.

Beck gave way to Clemens and Matt Gutierrez in the second half as both signal callers battled for the third-string position.

Last year’s starting running back, Ryan Torain, saw his first action of the preseason as he returned from a wrist injury to close out the game, rushing 17 times for 73 yards. Washington held a 20-6 lead in the second half before Tampa took its first lead of the game 24-23 behind Jonathan Crompton’s 20-yard strike Armando Allen with 2:07 left.

After Stallworth’s touchdown grab, the Redskins defense sacked Crompton for a 17-yard loss to end the game and secure the victory. Washington will host the New York Giants on Sept. 11 in their season opener.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO