Washington Redskins: How Did the Big Competitions Play out in Game One?

Ben ScullyContributor IIIAugust 13, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 09:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins hands off to Chris Cooley #47 of the Washington Redskins  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on August 9, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Redskins looked mighty impressive Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills. The hype surrounding RG3 may be a tad blown up, but in his rookie debut, Robert Griffin established his ability to lead the offense. 

The defensive line established that they’re ready to become the next elite front in the NFC East—on their opening play, second year linebacker Ryan Kerrigan mobbed Ryan Fitzpatrick for a sack. The Skins backfield also looked tight, with rookie Richard Crawford making his case to have a space on the roster.

As for the offense, Pierre Garcon looks great in a Redskins uniform. It seems as though him and RG3 have something good going on, although it may be too soon to say. Josh Morgan also came on strong against the Bills—it’s looking like Dan Snyder’s big free agent signings weren’t for naught this year (big sigh of relief).

While the starting receivers have yet to be decided, three of the biggest competitions that I’m watching are going to involve the running backs, the kickers, and the backup quarterbacks.

The starting position for QB is going to be Robert Griffin. That’s been decided, and solidified by the play of RG3 on Thursday. The backup position, however, became interesting last night.

Both Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman have the capability to be the backup, but one of them needs to make the case that he deserves the spot.

Rex Grossman looked awful in Buffalo. On four separate occasions that I saw, he attempted to force the ball to Brandon Banks, while Banks was being tightly covered—once in double coverage. His completion percentage was bad, as he only connected with receivers twice out of ten times. Not a solid way for Grossman to kick off the season.  

I was actually impressed by Kirk Cousins. It’s not like he had a great game, but it was better than Grossman’s. He completed nine out of twenty-two passes for over 70 yards and an interception. The interception that he had was absolutely his fault, but he really didn’t look bad other than that.

In a few years, I could absolutely see Kirk Cousins becoming a quarterback like Tony Romo. If he continues to play like he did against the Bills, I don’t see a reason that he won’t be placed as RG3’s backup.

Obviously, we’re not going to see Cousins overthrow Griffin III for his spot as starter, but it’s nice to know that the Redskins offense has a safety net other than Rex Grossman.  

The running backs weren’t entirely convincing last Thursday night against the Bills. Roy Helu and Evan Royster combined for 38 rushing yards, on 11 attempts. They were up against a very solid Buffalo Bills defensive line, but it’s no excuse for a mediocre game.

Tim Hightower didn’t get a chance to run, so we didn’t get to see what he would bring to the table. Hightower is still recovering from the torn ACL that he injured last season, so it may be a little while before we see him in action.

Out of all of the backs on the team, Hightower brings the most individual upside to the game. The competition between second year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu for the backup position behind Hightower is probably more interesting. 

Evan Royster showed last season in the two games that he started that he could be a premier running back. Both of his starts had over 100 yards rushing—he would be a productive backup.

Against the Bills, Royster did better than his stats indicate. His largest run was fourteen yards, but Shanahan seemed pretty intent on using him to wear down the Bills right side. Regardless, his numbers need to go up next week.  

In most minds though, Roy Helu is a better running back than Royster. He may not be as difficult to tackle, but he’s a better receiver, he has better speed, and his stat sheet is fairly loaded from last season.

Helu didn't have a bad game in Buffalo, just nothing flashy. He averaged slightly over four yards per carry, and only got the ball four times. Usually, running backs don't look spectacular with only four rushing attempts. Hopefully he'll get more carries against the Bears next week, so we can get a better look at him. 

The wild card in this situation would be rookie Alfred Morris. Similar to the Helu and Royster, Morris had a difficult game against the Bills. He did have a much better rushing average than Evan Royster though; if he keeps it up, he may be able to claim a roster spot of some sort.

As for the Redskins kicking crew, there was literally not a single opportunity for Neil Rackers and Graham Gano to duel it out. Head coach Mike Shanahan said that the competition would be proven in the preseason games, so the Redskins offense is going to have to help them out a bit in the next few games.

Out of the two, Neil Rackers is the better, much more experienced kicker. Graham Gano has been the Redskins kicker for the last few years though. So far in training camp though, it’s been pretty much neck-and-neck, with no clear winner.

It’s football time again. Barring any substantial injuries, I’m pretty optimistic about the outlook of the season.