Halfway through the NFL preseason, the Washington Redskins are leading the league in both offense and defense.

Before you burgundy and gold diehards start dreaming about a return to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI in February, don’t forget two huge caveats: 1) the last two times the Redskins started preseason 2-0 in 2002 and 2008, they went 7-9 and 8-8 during the regular seasons; and 2: three of the six teams to start preseason 2-0 last year finished at .500 or worse.

What’s more, Washington is just 16th in scoring this summer after finishing 25th during the 2010 season.

The two players vying to lead the offense, quarterback John Beck and Rex Grossman, had very different outings in last Friday’s game against the Colts.

Beck, who hadn’t been on the field in two years, played the first half with and against the starters and produced scores on all four of his drives, 16 points and a 101.0 quarterback rating.

Grossman finished 2010 as the starter and sparkled with a 109.0 rating (but produced just seven points) with the regulars in the first half of the previous week’s victory over Pittsburgh. However, Grossman was blanked by the Colts while compiling a 46.5 rating.

So now the contenders for the throne once occupied by Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh and Sonny Jurgensen, MVP Joe Theismann and Super Bowl MVPs Doug Williams and Mark Rypien head into Thursday’s usually pivotal third preseason game – starters normally play little in the preseason finale — not knowing if how they fare against the usually fierce Baltimore defense will decide their competition.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but when I do get a chance, I want to be at my best,” said the 30-year-old Beck, who hasn’t started a regular season game since he was a rookie with the woeful Miami Dolphins in December 2007.

If Grossman, who turns 31 tomorrow, seems a little less intense about the situation, it’s because he started a Super Bowl five years ago for the Chicago Bears, an event that makes the Sept. 11 opener against the New York Giants seem like a yawner.

“I’m not worried about too much right now,” Grossman said. I’m just trying to get ready to play Baltimore and have a good game. I’m not focused on the John-Rex stuff. I don’t have any clue what the time frame is (for coach Mike Shanahan to name his Week 1 starter. I’ll be ready whenever they say.”

As for the entire team, Grossman has predicted a stunning NFC East title, which would be Washington’s first in 12 years. Beck sees a shift from the 6-10 downer that was last season and is eager for the test against the Ravens, who were his teammates less than 13 months ago.

“I feel like we are moving in the right direction … chipping away at what we want to accomplish,” Beck said. “Going against that defense is going to be really good for us.”

But will either quarterback be good enough on Thursday to claim the job?

David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.


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