Rex Grossman spent his bye weekend in Northern Virginia taking stock of his first four games as the Washington Redskins' full-time starting quarterback and contemplating the heights to which he could lift this team.
He hosted some visitors from out of town but set aside time to throw to tight end Fred Davis on Thursday and Friday. He also re-watched some video clips of the good and bad plays that define the first quarter of his season. He tuned out the criticism of his uneven play and remains convinced that the Redskins' best football is ahead of them.
"Overall, it was good, but I can definitely play better," he said when asked to grade his performance. "We can play better as an offense, and we are going to play better."
For the Redskins to accomplish their goal of winning the division, that must start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins could bury the consensus preseason NFC East favorite by dealing them their fifth straight loss and pulling 3 1/2 games ahead of them in the standings.
But the Eagles' 1-4 record belies their explosive offense. They scored 24 points last week despite five turnovers. The Redskins' offense, by contrast, has not accounted for more than 22 points in a game this season.
And with a resurgent Washington defense playing well, perhaps the Redskins are going to go as far as their starting quarterback can take them
"I think quarterback, in my opinion, is the most important position in sports, so Rex playing well will definitely benefit us in terms of winning a lot of games," tight end Chris Cooley said. "But it's not just Rex; it's everyone around him."
Grossman has seven turnovers attached to his name on the stat sheet, but two, in particular, stand out. In consecutive games against Dallas and St. Louis, he was intercepted by the middle linebacker on similar passes after failing to see either of them in coverage.
Against Dallas, the Cowboys changed their coverage when Redskins running back Roy Helu motioned to receiver and left the backfield empty.
"One hundred percent my fault," Grossman said. "I didn't see the backer get there. I didn't see him at all."
The Rams duped him the following week with an adjustment to their scheme. When Grossman faked a handoff, he expected St. Louis' weakside linebacker to drop into coverage. The middle linebacker ran back instead.
"I credit the defense on that play," Grossman said.
And so the quarterback with a reputation for turning the ball over digested his mistakes and moved on with a clear mission.
"He still knows that he has to take care of that ball and that's kind of typical," coach Mike Shanahan said.
"Quarterbacks have to be tough on themselves, but you have to find a way to win. When you find a way to win, it does a lot because it's not just throwing the football. It's the way you manage the game. It's the way you handle your teammates. It's how you prepare and how you work on game day."
Grossman carries the burden of playing the most scrutinized position, but his teammates understand they significantly affect his fortunes.
Receiver Santana Moss, for example, dropped a fourth-quarter pass against St. Louis that was intercepted. Instead of positioning the Redskins for a field goal that could have put that game away, the turnover gave life to the woeful Rams.
"Rex is the guy," Moss said. "By him being the guy, we're the guys [with] him to make sure the production carries over every week. It's not about putting more pressure on him. We're going to put pressure on ourselves to be good as a whole."
That's crucial because the 2011 Redskins arent the 2006 Chicago Bears, the team Grossman quarterbacked to the Super Bowl.
That Chicago defense ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per play. The Bears that season won two games in which Grossman had no touchdown passes and at least three interceptions.
The Redskins still are a growing team that has not proved it's capable of winning in spite of Grossman. Actually, they need him.
"As long you're doing your job and trying to accomplish your task and keep getting better, that's all you should focus on," Grossman said. "I'm happy with where we are at 3-1, and I know we can be better, which is exciting."
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