I maintained throughout training camp my belief that QB Rex Grossman would be the starter on opening day against the Giants, but I’m flip-flopping after watching QB John Beck deftly manage four scoring drives against Indianapolis’ first-string defense Friday.
There are three main reasons for this. First and foremost, Beck threw the ball better than he did in practice over the last two and a half weeks. Much better. His accuracy and timing were inconsistent during training camp, but he was very sharp in the first half Friday.
Heck, a perfect 17-for-17 performance was within reach: His first incompletion could have been a touchdown to TE Mike Sellers if Sellers’ feet didn’t tangle with the defensive back. His second incompletion was tipped by a linebacker, and his third was a throw-away under pressure. He completed everything else.
Beck’s best throw, in my opinion, was the 23-yard completion to WR Donte’ Stallworth on third-and-12 in the second quarter. Beck kept his eyes downfield despite pressure from his left and held onto the ball when the defender slapped his right arm. He stepped up in the pocket — instead of fading from pressure, as Grossman sometimes does — and slid left to find a passing lane. Beck used to have a lower release point in high school, and he went back to the sidearm delivery in finding Stallworth to move the chains.
Two other throws really stood out. On the 19-yarder to WR Jabar Gaffney, his first pass of the game, Beck looked right as he dropped back. Either his progressions went from right to left, or he was intentionally moving the safety away from Gaffney’s path to the post. Either way, Beck came back to the left and delivered a strike that set up a touchdown.
The third throw was an 11-yard slant to WR Terrence Austin on third-and-4. When Beck got under center, Stallworth came in motion from the left sideline into the slot next to Austin. Beck was looking at the Colts‘ cornerbacks and could see they were in man-to-man by how they adjusted to Stallworth’s motion. Expecting Austin to be open on his inside release, Beck hit Austin out of his break with a perfect throw in-stride. First down.
On the first play of the Redskins‘ fourth series, Beck turned a bootleg left into a first down by running for 10 yards when the nearest defender dropped into pass coverage. Beck showed he will be able to challenge defenses on the perimeter and exploit them. Grossman’s athleticism won’t command similar respect.
And my third reason: If 2011 is a building year for greater things in 2012, which I believe it is because the Redskins still don’t have enough playmakers or depth, it makes sense to let Beck experience his growing pains and ascend the learning curve before the team is positioned to contend next year. Remember that Beck has played only five NFL games. In that context, he’s still a rookie. His ceiling is higher than Grossman‘s, though, so let him start growing this season.
I don’t mean to overreact to one half of preseason football, but Beck clearly showed what the coaches see in him. Mike Shanahan sometimes refers to the game being too big for players; guys who are talented but can’t carry it over to the game. Well what if Beck is the opposite? What if he’s a gamer? We wouldn’t know because he hasn’t played a real one since 2007. If Friday night is any indication, we’re going to find out starting Sept. 11.
It wasn’t all rosy for Beck, though. I’ve already discussed his low throw to WR Terrence Austin on third-and-4 from the Indy 12. The location of the pass didn’t give Austin a chance to gain yards after the catch. That was the throw Beck wanted back most.
I’m still looking forward to asking him about his decision-making on first-and-10 from the Colts‘ 18 in the second quarter. Beck didn’t recall the play after the game Friday, but he was scheduled to review game film Saturday.View Entire Story
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