- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2011

John Beck’s final audition for the Washington Redskins‘ starting quarterback job wasn’t exactly a performance worthy of an encore. With Rex Grossman watching from the sideline Thursday night, Beck scuffled his way through the first two quarters of the Redskins‘ 29-24 home victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Beck was 10-of-21 passing for 108 yards and an interception against a defense comprised entirely of reserves. He was inconsistent, missing some open receivers with errant throws but moving the offense at times on keepers and bootlegs.

“Obviously [I] would have liked for it to go a little bit better,” Beck said. “There were definitely some throws out there that I usually don’t miss on, and I was just a little off.”

Grossman, meanwhile, was among 15 players that didn’t play. Of those, all but tight end Fred Davis are projected first-stringers.

Coach Mike Shanahan said he played Beck and sat Grossman to even out their preseason passing attempts. Beck entered the game with 27 compared to Grossman’s 53.

“This whole thing, I’ve tried to not to read between the lines,” Grossman said when asked about joining the starters on the sideline. “They’re pretty honest. I just listen to whatever they have to say and try not to think about it too much.”

The Redskins concluded the preseason with a 3-1 record. Preparations for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the New York Giants begin with final cuts, which are due by Saturday at 6 p.m.

Return specialist Brandon Banks stole the spotlight from Beck, providing a reminder that he is the Redskins‘ most electrifying play-maker. He returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown, racing through the middle of the coverage and benefiting from excellent blocking.

It was a crucial play for Banks’ roster hopes. He missed the last two preseason games with a sore left knee, but he proved he still possesses the explosiveness that coach Mike Shanahan covets.

“I think being on the injured list … it was important to go out there and do what I do,” he said.

Banks was not touched en route to the end zone. His touchdown was in doubt, though, when officials reviewed whether he dropped the ball in celebration before crossing the goal line. Video replay upheld the call.

Banks’ anxiously paced on the sidelines with hands on his head, and he pumped his arms when the touchdown was confirmed.

“I can’t do that no more,” he said. “I didn’t realize I did that. It was a close call.”

That score provided the spark that Beck could not.

He played with the Redskins‘ first-string offensive line, which struggled run blocking. Running back Tim Hightower and receiver Santana Moss did not play. The offense lacked the rhythm it enjoyed in the first three preseason games.

“It’s a little tough to go out there today, with a lot of people playing a lot of different positions,” Shanahan said. “What I mean by that is any time you don’t go with your first unit and you’re trying to separate people: wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen, some times it gets a little ugly. But you’re still able to evaluate players.”

Beck paused at his stall long after the locker room had cleared out and pondered some of the throws he missed.

There was the one he appeared to telegraph to the left sideline on Washington’s third series, which a Tampa Bay defender nearly intercepted. One throw to Terrence Austin was batted down when he failed to put the ball out in front of Austin and away from the defender.

“Tonight wasn’t necessarily my best, because there were some throws that at my best, I make those throws,” Beck told reporters.

Beck was intercepted late in the second quarter on third-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 15. The Buccaneers brought pressure up the middle, and the Redskins‘ line didn’t pick it up.

Beck threw off his back foot a jump ball to rookie Niles Paul in the end zone. Cornerback D.J. Johnson had inside position and intercepted the pass.

“I would’ve liked for it to end on a higher note tonight,” Beck said.

Running back Ryan Torain finished with 73 yards on 17 carries in his first preseason game. The first-string running back entering training camp had been sidelined by a broken left hand.

In the first half, rookie running back Evan Royster (44 yards, 11 carries) scored from 1 yard out three plays after linebacker Rob Jackson sacked third-string quarterback Rudy Carpenter. Markus White returned the ensuing fumble to the Buccaneers‘ 2-yard line.

Tampa Bay took the lead, 24-23, with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 2 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.

Washington won it, though, on Donté Stallworth’s 41-yard touchdown from Kellen Clemens with 1:07 to play. Stallworth beat Johnson on a fly pattern down the right sideline and juggled the ball before securing it in the end zone.

By then, the two competitors for the Redskins‘ starting quarterback job had made their closing arguments. Now we await the verdict.

“We get a chance to look at film from today, and we get a couple more days of practice,” Shanahan said. “Then we should make a decision, at least from a coaching staff standpoint. We may share it, we may not — it all depends on what we think gives us the best chance to win.”

NOTES: The first-stringers on offense that did not play were Grossman, Davis, Hightower, Moss, receiver Jabar Gaffney and fullback Darrel Young.

The defensive first-stringers that sat out were nose tackle Barry Cofield, defensive end Stephen Bowen, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan, London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh and Brian Orakpo, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safeties Reed Doughty and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

Atogwe (hamstring) and tight end Chris Cooley (left knee) said they expect to play against the Giants.