John Beck Era Begins for Redskins, but Offensive Line Injuries Are Bigger Concern

Beck to StallworthWashington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan promoted John Beck as starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers game and thereafter. Not that Shanahan put his hook away.

That decision pleases Redskins fans who have seen enough of Grossman. The news hit today. Shanahan made up his mind by Monday evening. Grossman and Beck were informed Tuesday, even as Santana Moss and others expressed support for Grossman. Shanahan made the formal announcement to the team at practice this morning.

Hog Heaven is not getting into this. We made our assessment known since preseason. There are style differences between Beck and Grossman, but they bring the same level of play. It does not make a difference to the playoff run—as long as the quarterback does not turn the ball over.

Turnovers were Grossman’s undoing and shall be for Beck if he is no better. The Redskins v2011 are playing 20th-Century football—Run the ball; Stop the run. They failed at both against Philadelphia. The ‘Skins would have lost for that reason even if Grossman were perfect.

The bigger factor against Philadelphia was the loss of two starting linemen, both on the left. G Kory Lichtensteiger was injured on the same play as Grossman’s first interception. T Trent Williams went down later in the half. The Redskins placed Lichtensteiger in Injured Reserve today.

Losing two offensive linemen on a run-first team was devastating for the game. Losing two for the season would be devastating, period. (Full Disclosure: My bias is that 51 percent of the success or failure of every offensive play is falls on the line.) Who the ‘Skins use backfill the holes is a bigger deal than Beck or Grossman under center. Improved play by the line, not by the quarterback, is the reason for the Redskins improved offense.

What will the Redskins do on the line? Yesterday, Rich Tandler wrote this:

“Jammal Brown could swing to left tackle in Williams’ absence with Sean Locklear, who went in on the left side when Williams went out on Sunday, playing right tackle. It seems likely that they will stick with the interior line shuffle that took place after Lichtensteiger went out with Will Montgomery moving from center to left guard and Erik Cook playing center. However, Shanahan did not commit to staying with that arrangement.”

Sports writer Grant Paulson tweeted this this afternoon”

@granthpaulson Shanahan wouldn’t comment on whether Jammal Brown was playing RT or LT this week but I was told he was at RT during today’s walk-through.”

Shanahan gave no hint what he would do for Carolina. Why should he tip his hand? But, Brown playing right tackle suggests that Williams will be back in a game or two. That, or Shanahan and Mike Haslett are not too concerned about the panthers pass rush to set Sean Locklear into the critical left guard spot for the game. Locklear is her for that very reason, depth.

If you are a Redskins fan, you do not want to another starting lineman going to IR. It would be OK to panic if that happens.

Passing game

I am impressed that the Redskins targeted the weak point of the Eagles secondary, Kurt Coleman, with their best weapon, Fred Davis. I am sticking by that opinion even though the strategy was in this instance an abject miserable failure.

You don’t go against the Eagles by planning to target Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Asante Samuel. Coleman had a singularly great day. With one more pick, his game day jersey would be hanging in Canton, right up there next to DeAngelo Hall’s, for tying the league record of four interceptions in one game.

By now, Panthers’ safeties Martin Sherrod and Charles Godfrey…and Kyle Shanahan have texted Coleman for how he read Grossman last Sunday.

Check out Ryan O’Halleran’s piece on dissecting Grossman four interceptions in Sunday’s game. O’Halleran gives down, distance, situation, Grossman’s thinking and result of the play. Four plays are still out of context to the whole game. It is a nice piece of analysis, however.  There is so much more to this than “Grossman sucks.”

Grossman, unfortunately, played as he usually plays—with about two turnovers per game on average. They just don’t come in every game. It would be more manageable if they did. But, Grossman always played with a wide range of performance. Sometimes he’s Sexy Rexy. Sometime he’s Wrecks. It just averages two turnovers over whatever number of games that he appears.

John Beck’s No. 1 goal is to take care of the ball, especially down in field goal range. But, Beck will not give us more than Grossman did. That’s why this team is built the way it is. Beck’s greatest advantage is that he is not Grossman.

The Redskins need to run the ball, if it can with this O-line, against the Panthers. Washington’s receivers are no better or worse than Beck-Grossman. The Redskins can play competitive ball with them. They can beat some people, but the receiving corps is not a dominant one. No Redskins receiver ranks in the top-25 in yards, catches or scoring. It is what it is.
That does not change the bottom line about the Redskins v2011. This is a better team than last year. There is a lot to like about them, even if they finish with the same record. 

Beck had a nice rhythm going with Donte’ Stallworth in preseason, just as Grossman had something going with Jabar Gaffney. Beck as starter could mean a bigger role for Stallworth. If you are into fantasy football, add Stallworth to your roster and see what happens. Stallworth is owned in a paltry seven percent of the fantasy leagues on NOTE: I suggest grabbing him for your roster, not starting him in place of a stud.

The quarterback shuffle

Like many people, I’ve kept my eye on former Redskins quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Donovan McNabb to see how they would do since their ugly departure. I hoped for a measure of redemption for both.

If Carson Palmer works out in Oakland, Campbell’s days with the Raiders are numbered. That may be why Jason said he could be back in six weeks. Most observers expect him to be out for the season. That would be too bad. Oakland is a sweet spot for Campbell.

Self-denial is the cruelest deception. Donovan McNabb said today that he was surprised to be benched in favor of rookie Christian Ponder. Riiight! That bewildered look on his face when it he was benched (again) said it all.

McNabb’s first impression of the 2011 season, that 39-yard effort in Week One, was a lasting one. He did not play badly after that, when he made 30 or more pass attempts. He just came up about 300 yards, three touchdowns and three wins short over his run. That does not make him a bad quarterback. He just is not the rainmaker he used to be.

I still think both McNabb and Shanahan would have been better off if No. 5 had another year in this system. McNabb wanted out as much as Shanny wished him gone. Now McNabb is benched for the second time in two seasons by two different teams and Shanahan is expressing confidence in John Beck. I cannot make up my mind what’s worse for McNabb, to be benched for Rex Grossman, or for a rookie.

Eventually, Donovan will see the writing on the wall for what it is. Perhaps McNabb wants the rest of his career to mimic Mark Brunell, who needs the money. Otherwise, what’s happening to him is painful to see.

Players are released. Coaches are fired. That’s how most NFL careers end. There is no shame in it.

Compliment Shanahan for one thing. He’s getting better at switching quarterbacks. The last time, he switched to Grossman for the 14th game of the season, too late to do anything but evaluate Grossman. Before that, he benched McNabb with two minutes to go in the Detroit Lions game, too late for a cold Rex Grossman to do anything, really. Grossman’s fumble in his first play made everyone, especially Shanahan, look silly. it threw the Redskins off track for the rest of the season.

If a coach is going to make a switch and has the confidence in both players that Shanahan professes, make theswitch when it can do some good.

Just remember, sports fans, the Redskins are on their third quarterback since Campbell left…in 2010. It’s the stuff of lore and legend.

Dan Steinberg has another humorous send-up on the quarterback shuffle on DC Sports Bog. Redskins quarterbacks in a word cloud. Chuckles.

Go get ‘em, John Beck. HAIL!

Photo by Anthony Brown 

Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.