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Colts vs. Redskins: 10 Key Players, Things to Watch for Washington

Joe VersageCorrespondent IIAugust 23, 2012

Colts vs. Redskins: 10 Key Players, Things to Watch for Washington

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    Andrew Luck is no stranger to Robert Griffin III. For the past year, the two have been the faces of college football, competitors for the Heisman Trophy, and now, the new torch bearers of the NFL

    Some young men would cave in to the pressure of that type of notoriety, but that hasn't been the case for Luck and Griffin. Instead, they seem energized by it and act more like seasoned pros than 22-year-olds fresh out of school.

    On Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, America will be in for a treat, as both rookies lead their teams into preseason action. Griffin will be introduced as the reigning Heisman winner and Luck as the award's two-time runner-up, but so far, they both have been winners, in person and on the field.

RGIII: It's Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

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    Saturday will be Robert Griffin III's inaugural appearance in the nation's capital, and nobody is more excited to show off than the man himself. But, while fans appreciate Robert's enthusiasm, they also want him to use his head more than his legs in games that don't count.

    Last week in Chicago, the Bears gave RGIII a NFL lesson, which means "Not For Long" when you're a risk-taking gunslinger who's trying to stay healthy.  

    "In the heat of battle, you figure it out as you go along," said Griffin, via John Keim of the Washington Examiner. "I'm starting to figure out when I need to get rid of it. I've got to know when to make the play and when not to make a play."

    Griffin had one exciting 14-yard run, but he held the ball too long on numerous occasions and was sacked three times. 

    “I think two of those sacks were screens, and we just have to learn to throw those at the guy’s feet," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, via Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly (per Yahoo! Sports). "[Robert]can look to see if he can make a play, but I think that will become more natural to him over time, as he learns to just throw it away.”

    The former Baylor quarterback also gambled one time too many along the sidelines, as he attempted to stay in bounds for an extra yard or two.

    College stars can get away with that because they're usually the most elusive men on the field. But at the pro level, RGIII is easy prey for world-class athletes who want to put him out to pasture.

    "The players in the NFL are better than the players in college. That’s just a given," acknowledged Griffin, via Mike Jones of The Washington Post. "You [can't] concede all the time, but you don’t always have to make the best play in the world.”

    It's all part of a maturing process, which can take years for some quarterbacks. Griffin will have his share of rookie mistakes, but the odds are good that he'll overcome them to excel against his competition.

    “You put him in different situations,” Shanahan said, per The Post's Mike Jones. "Every time he goes into a game situation, it’s going to be a constant learning experience and you just hope you don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Colts Fans Rejoice with 4-Letter Word

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    In a 7-6 win over Buffalo in the preseason opener, RGIII was nearly perfect, with four completions in six attempts for 70 yards and a touchdown pass. In Indianapolis, Luck was even more impressive, with a scoring throw on his very first attempt and a 10-of-16 performance that yielded 188 yards and another touchdown toss.    

    Griffin was barely touched (0 sacks) against the Bills, but things got a lot tougher for him and Luck in Week 2

    As The Washington Post's Tracee Hamilton points out, "neither [one] is playing behind a reincarnation of the Hogs, as yet. They’re going to have to be smart and swift and creative to survive their rookie seasons."

    Intelligence and creativity are two of the many characteristics that enamored the Colts to Luck and the Redskins to Griffin. But, Andrew has chosen to be low-key since replacing the legendary Peyton Manning in Indy. In contrast, Griffin took some time to embrace the many opportunities he had prior to training camp.

    According to Washington Post writer Kareem Copeland, "Griffin is seemingly everywhere, endorsing everything, [while] Luck has yet to star in his first commercial as a professional." As a standout at Stanford, Luck knows that Hollywood won't wait forever. He just wants to postpone his acting bits for now.

    “You realize that’s the nature of the beast, nature of playing quarterback, nature of being drafted 1-2 at any position in any sport,” Luck said, via Copeland's column. “It’s not too hard not to get caught up in it. We have much bigger things to worry about.”

    Colts veteran receiver Reggie Wayne agrees with his young quarterback. And according to Phillip B. Wilson of IndyStar.com, he shunned the media, when asked to give his opinion on the hype. 

    Those much bigger things are NFL pass defenders, who are more than happy to indoctrinate the two rookies into the NFL. But no matter how well they play in their first seasons, the debate over who's better will continue to rage.   

    Here's an interesting exchange between ESPN analyst John Clayton and anchor Bram Weinstein who previously worked in DC as a Redskins beat reporter for ESPN Radio. Weinstein leads into it with a quote from former Packers, Jets and Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who decided to chip in his two cents, for what it's worth.

Pierre's Prepared to Face Former Mates

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    Newcomer Pierre Garçon may feel slighted Saturday night when the Redskins battle the Colts. That's because two rookies are going to garner most of the attention. But, the former Colts receiver should do fine in a supporting role, as he takes on the franchise that gave him his first chance to shine.

    Indianapolis was good to the 25-year-old receiver, but there's a lot more to Pierre than just football, as indicated in a column I wrote on June 21.

    To his family and friends in America and to relatives and strangers in his native Haiti, Garçon is a modest, humble and unselfish man, who is always willing to have the backs of those he cares for. In general, he is just the type of player the Redskins want on their side moving forward.

Kory's Back!

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    The Redskins got good news this week, as right guard Chris Chester returned to duty. According to John Keim of The Washington Examiner, Chester has recovered from a sprained ankle and is expected to play against the Colts.  

    In the meantime, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger returned to individual drills, just weeks after having a surgical clean-up done on his right knee. According to Mark Maske of The Washington Post, Lichtensteiger even admitted that he is close to full strength. Nevertheless, he is not expected to participate in the remaining preseason games.

    Fortunately for me, I was able to find a picture of the back of Kory's jersey, so I wouldn't flub the spelling of his last name. It also takes forever to type three times, so for now, I'll just leave this message for the recovering Redskin.

    "Welcome back K.L. Your fellow linemen have missed you. Now take it easy the next couple of weeks, so you can kick butt on September 9 in New Orleans!" 

    Fullback Darrel Young (hamstring pull) may return to action against the Colts, according to Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times. His status could still be a game-time decision, but it looks promising after Darrel returned to drills this week.

    Young's reemergence could make Chris Cooley obsolete from here on out. And if Cooley doesn't pitch in at fullback or tight end, his Redskins' future will be as cloudy as right tackle Jammal Brown's currently is.

Morris Steps Up as Helu Remains Halted

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    Recently, I told a friend of mine that rookie running back Alfred Morris likes to be called Fred. He laughed when he learned this because he didn't think Morris had a snowball's chance in hell to make the team.

    It's funny how my friend's not laughing anymore.

    Through two games, Morris has looked more like a second-round draft choice than a sixth-round one. If you don't believe me, take a look at his current stats, compared to Washington's other healthy back Evan Royster. And with injuries to Roy Helu and the slow return of Tim Hightower, chances suddenly look very good for Morris to make the Redskins final 53.

    I've even told my friend that I wouldn't be surprised if Morris becomes Mike Shanahan's next diamond in the rough. Stranger things have happened in Shanny's coaching tenure, especially when it comes to running backs. If that's the case, it may have an effect on the depth chart and could spell doom for a guy like Hightower.   

Orakpo Out, Fletcher Likely

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    Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo gave Redskins nation a scare when he grabbed a hold of his left arm last week in Chicago. According to Mark Maske and Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post, Orakpo "initially thought that he re-injured his [surgically-repaired] pectoral muscle badly enough for his season to be in jeopardy."

    Fortunately for everyone, Brian doesn't double as a doctor. An MRI exam revealed no serious damage, and Orakpo should be good to go for the Redskins' season-opener in New Orleans. Until then, he'll rest the shoulder, while motivating his teammates from the sidelines

Cedric Seeks Redemption

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    Cedric Griffin is a man who has been to the top and the bottom of life in the NFL. A former All-Pro with the Minnesota Vikings, Griffin suffered two serious knee injuries and had them both surgically repaired.

    Now, he's just trying to make it as a No. 3 cornerback with the Washington Redskins.

    In Buffalo and Chicago, Griffin had his moments, but the majority of them weren't pretty.

    Against the Bears, he got taken to town (for 40 yards) on Jay Cutler's first pass of the game. Griffin, then, had trouble covering rookie wideout Alshon Jeffery, who beat him on a slant for 16 yards. Later, Jeffrey went for 34, but as John Keim of The Washington Examiner points out, it wasn't really Cedric's fault. 

    Griffin has been used at corner because DeAngelo Hall may roam a lot this season. According to the Associated Press (and Hall per NFL.com), defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is thinking about utilizing DeAngelo in the slot this season. It will occur occasionally, so somebody has to man the island.    

    Despite his difficulties, Cedric should make the team because of his ability to play in Washington's nickel defense. But, if he has a few more ugly plays, all bets could be off.  

Aldrick's Ready for Repeat Performance

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    Wouldn't it be something if second-year wide receiver Aldrick Robinson makes the final 53 and actually contributes to the team and not the practice squad this season?

    It's looking like a true possibility after Robinson lit up Chicago's defensive backs last week in Washington's 33-31 loss to the Bears.

    Robinson was targeted seven times and made the most of his chances, with six catches for 104 yards. He found openings all night, but his most electrifying play came on a 49-yard catch and run to the end zone. Four defenders were around him when he caught the ball and turned up field. He then left six men grasping at air the rest of the way.

    “It felt good to actually get in the open field right there, so I can use my speed and get into the end zone,” Robinson said, via Zac Boyer of The Freelance Star and Fredericksburg.com.

    Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is equally excited about a guy who has worked hard in the offseason to get noticed. Following minicamp in June, Robinson volunteered to train with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in Waco, Texas, (per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). It certainly looks like it's done wonders for him.

    “He’s gotten better through this offseason,” said Shanahan, per Boyer's column. “I think it has really helped him, and you can see the rewards and how he’s handled himself in game situations as well.”

    In the meantime, Terrence Austin and Waco attendee Anthony Armstrong continue to sweat things out.

    Austin returned a kick 31 yards last week and saved a touchdown on one Chicago kick return.

    Meanwhile, Armstrong's strength is not in numbers because he is begging for reps. In a game review I wrote last Sunday morning, I mentioned that he didn't see the field against the Bears, when he actually did for one play. Sorry, Anthony. I didn't notice. 

    As for Brandon Banks, he is still worried about his future, despite a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown in Chicago. 

    Perhaps, he should be because Mike Shanahan wants him to make the team as a receiver and he has caught just two passes on nine opportunities through two games.

Dynamic Duo?

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    There is no quarterback controversy. Say it with me. "There is no quarterback controversy." And repeat. "There is no quarterback controversy." At least for now.

    If you are a Redskins fan, you probably did a double take, when the organization announced its fourth-round pick in April's draft.

    You probably also rewound to watch the entire second half of Washington's preseason loss to the Bears last week to make sure you believed what you had seen the first time.

    No. 12 in burgundy and gold is not John Beck. Not even close. It's actually Kirk Cousins, who holds the majority of Michigan State's passing records. And yes, it was he who was the Skins' fourth-round choice.

    So how in God's name did he shred the Bears defense to the tune of 264 yards and three touchdowns? Very carefully, my friends, and with the precision of a sharp-shooter. 

    You can read all of the reviews about Cousins performance, but you had to see it to believe it.

    Some have tried to draw subtle and absurd conclusions about how Washington fans are reacting. But, from what I can gather, they cannot speak for you. And from what I saw, Cousins may have quite a future, but not necessarily anytime soon.

    Kirk was certainly stoic against Chicago's second and third-team defenses, and Robert Griffin III was classy in congratulating Cousins on the sidelines. But, I'm most impressed with what came from Cousin's mouth this week. 

    "This is Robert's team," Cousins said Monday, via The Associated Press (per NFL.com). "This is Robert's opportunity. The coaches have made that very clear, and it's my job to do the best I can in my situation and with my opportunities, and that's what I'm trying to do."

    Cousins may be a rookie backup, but he speaks and plays like a true professional. And that's all I got to say about that. 

Safeties Have the Chance to Fill in

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    Starting safety Brandon Meriweather breathed a sigh of relief when he learned that his injured left knee was just a strain. According to The Washington Post's Mark Maske, an MRI revealed no ligament or cartilage damage, and that's spectacular news for the Redskins' secondary. 

    Although Meriweather will miss the last two preseason games, he is hopeful for the season-opener against the Saints. Meanwhile, others on the roster (like holdover Reed Doughty) are anxious to take advantage of some more repetitions.

    Washington has been pleasantly surprised by the play of seventh-round rookie corner Richard Crawford, who wreaked havoc from the slot last week in Chicago.  

    The Washington Examiner's John Keim also gave Crawford kudos in his defensive review of the Bears game.

    "[The] best thing I can say is that the game doesn’t look too big for him," Keim wrote.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

Reggie Plays Santana as Clinton Exits Quietly

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    I just thought I'd close this slideshow with a tip of the hat to Clinton Portis, who retired from the NFL Thursday as a member of the Redskins

    The announcement had its share of tears and memories, but Clinton went out with class.

    Clinton Portis@TheRealC_Portis

    It's a beginning and an end, this is just the new beginning to the rest of my life, the game was great to me! HTTR I'm forever a skin!!!!

    Portis had a solid career at running back for Denver and Washington, but he may best be remembered for the crazy cast of make-believe characters he came up with during Joe Gibbs' second stint as head coach of the Redskins.

    With an array of fancy outfits, Portis preformed his routines during weekly meetings with Washington's press corps. They were legendary for their humor, but also because they broke up the monotony that is sometimes associated with covering the NFL.

    Reporters never knew what Portis had up his sleeve, and he never disappointed them. Even recently, he appeared on NFL Network to introduce some new characters. 

    On Saturday, the former Miami Hurricanes' great will root for two of his closest friends. Indy's Reggie Wayne has always been tight with Portis, and teammate Santana Moss helped him through his toughest time, following the tragic shooting death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

    Taylor played with Portis on Miami's 2001 national championship team, which (according to Wikipedia) is considered one of the greatest college football teams of all time. Current NFL stars Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey and Bryant McKinnie also starred on that Hurricanes team.

    Farewell, Clinton. You'll be missed, but never forgotten. 

     

    Joe Versage is a NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.  He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 

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