- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS — If the Washington Redskins‘ starting quarterback job is John Beck’s to lose, he did enough in his highly-anticipated preseason debut Friday night to maintain his advantage over Rex Grossman.

Beck was 14-for-17 passing for 140 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half of Washington’s 16-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

He flashed the potential that earned him the confidence of coach Mike Shanahan, while at times looking like a quarterback who has played only five regular season games.

Beck did some good things, such as completing all five of his third-down passes for 51 yards. And there were negatives, too, including some open receivers he failed to recognize downfield.

“I felt pretty good about it,” Beck said. “I’m antsy to see the tape to see things I can improve on because I know there are going to be a lot of things I can take from this and say, ‘All right, let me tweak this.’ There were a few plays right away on the field I knew, ‘OK, this is the change that’s going to have to happen as we move on.’”

There were no major gaffes, though, and perhaps that was Beck’s greatest accomplishment in his first start of any kind since his rookie season in 2007.

“I thought he did a good job,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “It was nice to get him some playing time. You get to see him in practice every day and it’s always nice to get him into game situations. It’s a good experience to run a system you’re not used to and finally get the chance to go live. There’s nothing like playing time.”

Beck guided the Redskins to points on each of their first four drives. They were buoyed by a running attack that has showed signs of life during the first two preseason games.

Starter Tim Hightower had 70 yards on six carries, including a 58-yarder that set up his 1-yard touchdown plunge on the opening series. Roy Helu followed with 101 yards on 14 carries, including a 51-yarder.

“We still run the same plays we’ve been running last year,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “It’s just everybody is more familiar with the plays. It’s coming to us a lot easier.”

Beck’s mobility was an asset; he ran twice for 17 yards. He also moved the offense on the bootlegs and rollouts characteristic of Shanahan’s offense.

He did well in recognizing advantageous coverages, such as throwing to Anthony Armstrong in man-to-man for a 9-yard gain on third-and-8. He also checked down and didn’t take many risks.

“I thought he was pretty efficient,” Grossman said of his counterpart. “He took what they gave him. He played well.”

Beck appeared to miss some opportunities to get the Redskins into the end zone, though. The negative play that stood out in his mind was a 3-yard completion to Terrence Austin on third-and-4 from the Colts‘ 12-yard line.

His throw to Austin near the left sideline was low, which prevented Austin from turning upfield after the catch.

On first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 18 in the second quarter, Beck rolled out and did not throw to an open Fred Davis down the middle. Instead, he ran for 6 yards.

The Redskins ultimately settled for field goals of 28, 27 and 26 yards while Beck was in the game. Grossman’s failure to get the Redskins in the end zone in last week’s victory over Pittsburgh was one of the coach staff’s talking points during the week.

“We want to get good at that,” Beck said. “Right now we’re doing a decent job of moving the ball, but we have to be able to finish. Things to improve on.”

Grossman played four series in the second half. He was 7 of 12 passing for 67 yards and an interception with the second-string offense. Washington scored all 16 of its points before Grossman entered the game.

“Other than the one interception, I tried to do the best I could,” Grossman said. “I thought I handled the situations pretty well except I didn’t see that [weak-side] linebacker reading the play.”

On the other side of the ball, Indianapolis’ offense was lifeless with quarterback Curtis Painter at the controls instead of Peyton Manning. Washington’s first-string defense played the whole first half and held the Colts to 41 yards.

“The Colts without Peyton Manning is like a car without a steering wheel,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “You don’t get excited about stopping the Colts without Peyton Manning. We know what we did right. We know what we can do better. I think next week with Baltimore we’ll get a stiffer test.”

First-round pick Ryan Kerrigan recorded his first sack of the preseason. Seventh-round cornerback Brandyn Thompson intercepted Colts third-stringer Dan Orlovsky late in the game.

This night belonged to Beck, though. The last player to leave the locker room, he threw his bag over his shoulder and walked out with a smile

“He did what was expected of him,” receiver Anthony Armstrong said. “He took charge of the offense, made very wise decisions and was able to move the ball down the field and put points on the board. That quarterback battle between him and Rex is kind of heating up a little bit.”

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