Reporting Grant Paulsen
Ranking the six players who have the most to gain in the Redskins’ second preseason game
6) Roy Helu
Last week Evan Royster tallied 15 carries while Roy Helu was only allotted eight. Expect their roles to reverse tonight. Helu will likely be the first back to spell Tim Hightower and the Nebraska product should also be the focal point of the Redskins’ running game in the third quarter.
A 2011 fourth-rounder, Helu amassed 18 of his 28 rushing yards on one carry against the Steelers. But that one long run out-weighed his lack of productivity on the other seven because he displayed the burst and open-field elusiveness the Redskins are hoping he’ll provide this fall. I still think Helu will make the team ahead of Royster. A strong showing tonight will greatly benefit the 22 year-old.
5) Graham Gano
Gano was flawless in his first audition of the preseason, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts while not allowing Pittsburgh to return a single kickoff. But less than a week after Shayne Graham was released, Gano will be initiating yet another kicking-competition tonight in Indianapolis.
His new positional adversary is 26-year-old Clint Stitser, who made seven of the eight field goals he attempted with the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Having just re-joined the Redskins after spending time with his wife and new-born baby, Gano’s quest to prove that he can make kicks in games continues tonight.
4) Chris Horton
Positioned squarely on the roster bubble, Horton is benefitting immensely from the plethora of injuries the Redskins are experiencing at safety. With OJ Atogwe, LaRon Landry and Kareem Moore all sidelined with preseason ailments – Horton has ascended to a starting role over the past two weeks. But he struggled in coverage against Pittsburgh, twice finding himself out of position on long completions after sneaking into the box pre-play.
Horton, a stout special teamer who has played extensively at both safety positions, is versatile enough to win a job on Washington’s roster. But he has to prove more reliable in coverage. After last weekend’s game he told me that he was rusty because he hadn’t played since suffering a season-ending injury last October. He predicted a much better showing tonight.
3) Kevin Barnes
Starting cornerback Josh Wilson isn’t going to play tonight. Phillip Buchanon, suspended for the first four games of the season, didn’t see a single snap on defense a week ago. His status for tonight’s game is unknown. If he doesn’t play again, Barnes will likely draw the start opposite DeAngelo Hall in the Redskins’ secondary. If Buchanon does play, Barnes will still see substantial play-time.
The Maryland product played in all four quarters of Washington’s win over the Steelers last Friday, and he even registered a sack in a blitz from his nickel-cornerback position. After the game, though, Barnes was unhappy about another opportunity for a sack that he missed. Showing well tonight against Indianapolis’ quality wide receivers would continue to enhance the coaching staff’s growing confidence in Barnes.
2) Terrence Austin
Coming off a two-catch, 46-yard performance against the Steelers, Austin’s role will expand tonight in Indianapolis. The roster-hopeful is expected to handle Washington’s first half return duties with Brandon Banks deactivated with a knee injury. Austin, who caught 10 passes and scored a touchdown during the 2010 preseason, played in five of the Redskins’ final six games last year. He made a reception in each of the team’s final two games last year, including a 28-yard catch-and-run against the New York Giants in week-17.
Still just 22 years-old, the 2010 seventh-round pick is a developing prospect who has stood out at training camp. He could dramatically augment his chances of making the Redskins roster with a big play on special teams tonight.
1) John Beck
The time has finally come. After months of talking about what Beck is capable of and how he compares to Rex Grossman, Redskins fans will finally get their first legitimate glimpse at the journeyman quarterback. Will he command the Redskins’ offense with poise? Will he sling the ball toward receivers with the same accuracy and precision that Grossman did last week? Can he get the Redskins out of the huddle and up to the line of scrimmage with the same tempo that Grossman did?
Many of those questions will be answered tonight. I’m not saying we’ll know exactly what Beck is capable of by night’s end. But at least we’ll know what he looks like on the field, in the pocket, operating an offense.