In a time where players are clamoring to shorten the amount of preseason games (and money- grubbing owners itching to turn those preseason games into regular season games), the Redskins last three games of the 2010 season (last week’s loss against Dallas, this week’s win over Jacksonville, and next week’s finale against the Giants) are ironically nothing more than three extra preseason games for the 2011 season.
When you boil it all down, they’re nothing more than a few extra 2011 exhibition games that take place at the end of 2010, serving as auditions for players to keep their jobs and earn invitations to the 2011 training camp in Ashburn.
And like a late preaseason game where the coaches withheld the majority of their starters to prevent injuries heading into the regular season, the group of starters that the Redskins trotted out on Sunday looked like a rag-tag menagerie of football players thrown together and duct-taped for the purpose of finishing an NFL game.
Here’s a fact to digest: thirteen of the Redskins 22 opening-day starters did not start against the Jaguars yesterday. That includes the starting quarterback, running back, tight end, 3/5ths of the offensive line, 2/3rd of the defensive line, and half the secondary. Their starting running back on Sunday (and overall leading rusher) wasn’t even on the active roster when they played Dallas in September. Neither was their nose tackle, the lynch-pin for the much-discussed 3-4 defense. Both of the starting safeties were guys who were originally drafted as cornerbacks within the last three years, and one wasn’t even on the team as recently as Thanksgiving day. I really wound’t be surprised if the Redskins coaches made players where those “Hi, My Name Is:” stickers on their practice jersey during the week.
So like any other preseason game, the Redskins coaches undoubtedly spent Sunday sifting through the this hodge-podge of passed-over veterans and newly signed & promoted youngsters to determine if any of them can legitimately make a difference for this team next year, and who should be updating their resume(s).
Sunday was day for defensive players like nose tackle Anthony Bryant and linebacker Rob Jackson to make impressions on their coaches. Bryant has the size to be a nose tackle in the NFL, and while he isn’t the most dominant guy in the league at that position, he’s played a lot better than the disappointing Ma’ake Kemoeatu has. Jackson showed glimpses of being a very effective situational pass rusher on Sunday, just a few days after being promoted off the practice squad. His speed and hand placement on pass rushers frustrated Jaguars offensive tackles for a good part of the afternoon.
Sunday was also a day for someone like Kevin Barnes to showcase his skills. Barnes was drafted as a cornerback yet started the game at safety for the Redskins, since they had almost nobody else healthy enough to start there. And ironically, probably just as Barnes was getting comfortable in his new position, he was flippled right back to cornerback after Carlos Rogers went down with an injury. So it was a game like this where Barnes could showcase his ability to help out against the run (which he did very effectively, both as a safety and as a corner), and his coverage ability (leading to the game-deciding interception in overtime).
In the end, all the 2010 standings will tell you is that the Redskins dropped almost 5-7 slots down the first round of the 2011 draft, and simultaneously took a big dump in the punch bowl that was the Jaguars playoff aspirations.
But it in reality, it gives the Redskins players, coaches, and fans something to hold on to and discuss as this season comes to a close and we begin to spout the inevitable mantra of “we’ll get ‘em next year.”