Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck split first-team practice repetitions with Rex Grossman in preparation for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Saturday.
It's a sign that coach Mike Shanahan is losing patience with Beck, who has lost all three of his starts. Shanahan customarily gives his starting quarterback all of the first-team reps, while the backup takes all of the scout team offense's snaps. But this new arrangement, which was first reported by the Washington Post, gives Shanahan some flexibility at quarterback Sunday as the Redskins try to break out of a major offensive slump and end their four-game losing streak.
Shanahan did not say during the week which quarterback he plans to start against the Dolphins.
Coaches and players traveled to South Florida on Saturday and were not available to comment.
Shanahan benched Grossman after a four-interception performance against Philadelphia in Week 6, but Beck has not sparked an offense that also is coping with a slew of injuries to top contributors.
"I believe in both of these quarterbacks," Shanahan said Wednesday. "I've got to give them the right supporting cast. That's my job, and I'm going to get them the right supporting cast. But both guys can get the job done."
Shanahan emphasized the importance of a quarterback's supporting cast several times this week, but his decision to split practice reps indicates he also believes Beck shares significant responsibility for the Redskins' recent offensive woes.
Shanahan awarded Beck the starting job partly because Beck played well in relief of Grossman in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Beck engineered a late 80-yard touchdown drive, but he has not consistently matched that level of production in three starts since.
"You take a look at the fourth quarter of Philly, pretty impressive," Shanahan said. "You take Buffalo, you say, 'Maybe he's hanging on to the ball a little too long.'
"You take a look at [San Francisco] and you say, 'Wow, maybe if he would have held it a couple more times against the 49ers he could have had a couple more big plays.' That's the nature. As time goes, he'll feel more comfortable with the system and feel more comfortable actually playing in game situations."
The question now, though, is whether Shanahan will give Beck that time. Sunday's game would be just his eighth NFL start.
"There are things here and there in games where I can tell I'm feeling more comfortable with, and a lot of that comes with experiences where I am learning from those experiences," Beck said. "I'm just trying to get better every day."
Comparing Grossman's five starts this season to Beck's three is difficult because Grossman played with the entire first-string offense for his first four.
During Beck's three starts, though, the Redskins have been without starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee) and tight end Chris Cooley (knee).
Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) missed Beck's first two starts. Against Carolina in Beck's first start, No. 1 wide receiver Santana Moss broke his left hand and top running back Tim Hightower suffered a season-ending knee ligament tear.
Beck was sacked 10 times by a Buffalo defense that entered the game with four sacks on the season. Against San Francisco last week, he failed to recognize open receivers at times, Shanahan acknowledged. Washington was shut out against Buffalo and scored only 11 points against the 49ers.
"Obviously you're going to evaluate [a] player week by week on how he handles himself in every type of situation," Shanahan said Monday. "Then you're taking a look at the shuffling pieces that go within the system. Sometimes it's a little bit harder to evaluate a guy when we're moving a few people around."
So how does he distinguish which problems are caused by Beck and which result from the backups?
"It's not always easy," he said, "but it's part of your job to make those decisions based on past experience."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.