The last thing the Washington Redskins wanted to see was quarterback Kirk Cousins leaving a preseason game because of an injury, and the foot problem Cousins suffered Monday night quickly became one of the franchise’s biggest concerns.
Cousins left early in the second quarter after being tackled on a scramble in Washington’s 24-13 victory over Pittsburgh at FedEx Field. Starter Robert Griffin III’s status for the regular season opener — and possibly the first month of the season — is unknown as he works to reclaim his job after major knee surgery. Cousins’s injury put the focus back on former starter Rex Grossman, who is firmly entrenched as the Redskins’ No. 3 quarterback.
There were other developments in Washington’s second preseason game. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan came up with another interception return for a touchdown. Beginning his third year, Kerrigan makes it easy to understand why he is so important to the defense. Rookie safety Bacarri Rambo could help a lot, too, but he’s got to pick up the pace on tackling.
On offense, another standout tight end could be emerging. Grossman had to direct the offense longer than anyone anticipated Monday. Let’s start with the game’s most important position: quarterback.
Rex to the rescue?
After failing as a starter, Grossman is still on the roster because he understands the offense. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a good relationship with play-caller Kyle Shanahan, whom Grossman also played under in Houston.
Coach Mike Shanahan has said Griffin will not play in the preseason. Until the Redskins know the extent of Cousins’s injury, Grossman is No. 1 on the depth chart.
Grossman has big-play ability. Problem is, the turnover-prone passer has often kept both the Redskins and their opponents in games. Grossman has proved he cannot be trusted to direct the offense efficiently.
Against the Steelers, Grossman completed 10 of 16 passes for 133 yards with a touchdown. However, he also had one of his signature sharp-quarterbacks-don’t-make-that-decision interceptions.
Kerrigan is listed at 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds. He was a hand-down 4-3 end in college. When you think of NFL defensive players who make big plays against the pass, Kerrigan isn’t the first guy who comes to mind. But Kerrigan gets it done in coverage.
He returned an interception for a touchdown in each of his first two seasons, and Kerrigan’s highlight-tape turnover in the first quarter Monday resulted in the game’s first touchdown. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger locked in on running back Jonathan Dwyer, who ran a swing route out of the backfield, and it appeared Roethlisberger didn’t see Kerrigan, who leaped to catch the ball and bobbled it for about seven yards while running untouched for the 22-yard score.
Kerrigan’s interceptions during the regular seasons occurred on similar plays. He displayed his smarts against Pittsburgh, breaking off his rush on Roethlisberger once he recognized the pattern. Kerrigan also had a big night rushing the quarterback.
Using both speed and power moves, Kerrigan applied constant pressure. On one play in the second, Kerrigan sped past Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert and slapped the ball out of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski’s hand, and the Redskins recovered the fumble.
With the return of Brian Orakpo, the Redskins have their bookend outside linebackers together again. The last time Kerrigan and Orakpo each played a full season, they combined for 16 ½ sacks. So far in the preseason, Kerrigan has shown he’ll hold up his end this season.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett rushed to Rambo’s defense after his grasping-at-air moment in a 22-21 preseason victory over Tennessee. Rambo whiffed while attempted to tackle Titans all-pro running back Chris Johnson, who raced 58 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson should have been stopped at the line — Orakpo missed a tackle — and the speedy star has embarrassed safeties with a lot more experience than Rambo, Haslett said. All of that is true, and Rambo impressed in practice throughout training camp. It’s also fact, however, that Rambo is getting schooled by veteran running backs at this point.
Twice against Pittsburgh, Rambo overran plays that resulted in long gains by Dwyer. The Steelers blocked well on both plays, and Rambo’s teammates up front didn’t help him much. As the last line of defense, though, Rambo could be in a similar position often this season. Rambo made a nice play when he knocked the ball loose from Dwyer and the Redskins recovered it.
The draft scouting report on Rambo was that he displayed big-time coverage skills for the Georgia Bulldogs but needed to work on his tackling. Of course, you could say that about many rookie defensive backs. Bottom line, the Redskins need Rambo to tackle better.