NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CBSDC/AP) — Robert Griffin III sure looks good warming up and handling the coin toss. Kirk Cousins keeps showing he’s more than ready to fill in whenever needed at quarterback for Washington.
Cousins threw for a touchdown and missed only one pass as the Redskins edged the Tennessee Titans 22-21 Thursday night in their preseason opener. It was just the third time start of his NFL career.
The Redskins sat eight starters, including Griffin. Cousins looked sharp in Griffin’s place, completing six of seven passes for 52 yards and a TD for a 137.2 passer rating in two series for the defending NFC East champs.
“For him to win the second position last year he really had to do it quickly,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s been impressive from the moment that he got here. He’s a student of the game. He’s got God-given talent and he’s bright guy who works extremely hard.”
Shanahan said he told Griffin he was welcome to go through pre-game warmups as the Redskins ease last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year back onto the field. Griffin also was in uniform for the coin toss.
“Robert wanted to get some more work done, and it was good to see him out there,” Shanahan said.
The Titans showed off their revamped run game as Chris Johnson scored on a 58-yard burst. Tennessee had 92 yards rushing and a 14-7 lead after the first quarter; Shonn Greene added a 19-yard TD run.
Pat White scored on a 9-yard TD run with 2:23 left and found Emmanuel Ogbuehi for the 2-point conversion to avoid overtime.
Redskins sitting out included tackle Barry Cofield, cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson, and safety Brandon Meriwether, who’s recovering from knee surgery. Washington started three rookies in the secondary: safety Bacarri Rambo, safety Phillip Thomas and cornerback David Amerson.
The Redskins’ caution proved smart when Thomas hurt his foot on a run by Greene and didn’t return. Receiver Donte’ Stallworth also hurt his left hamstring and did not finish, while linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough hurt his right shoulder with 2 minutes left.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo, who missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, looked very healthy when he beat left tackle Michael Roos and sacked Jake Locker.
Cousins may wind up starting all four preseason games as the Redskins work to make sure Griffin is ready for the opener Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.
The quarterback, who played in four games himself as a rookie last year, including the playoff loss to Seattle, was efficient and at his best in his second and final drive. He drove the Redskins 64 yards in seven plays and capped his night with a 3-yard toss to tight end Fred Davis all alone at the back of the end zone to put Washington up 7-0.
Rex Grossman followed Cousins, and added an 8-yard TD to Leonard Hankerson just before halftime.
Locker looked better for Tennessee in his preseason debut than a year ago. He was 7 of 11 for 58 yards and a 77.1 passer rating. But he was sacked twice, and the Titans went three-and-out on the opening drive.
Then they started running.
Revamping the offensive line was the top priority for Tennessee this offseason. The Titans signed left guard Andy Levitre and drafted right guard Chance Warmack at No. 10 overall. With coach Mike Munchak wanting a run-first offense out of new coordinator Dowell Loggains, they also signed Greene to a three-year deal.
“It was a good, solid start,” Munchak said.
Johnson, who has 14 plays of 50 yards or longer in his career, took a handoff and went left. With only Rambo between him and the end zone, Johnson gave a little wiggle and surged right for the TD.
“I just gave him a move,” Johnson said. “My offensive line, they got a great push on it, and they pushed those guys to the right side and gave me a cutback lane.”
Call it a learning experience for Rambo.
“The first time I go to make a tackle in the NFL, I came up against one of the greatest backs in the league and I should have tried to put a better shot on him instead of just throwing my body into him,” Rambo said. “He cut back, and it was a good move. He made a good play.”
The Titans led 21-14 on a 9-yard pass from Rusty Smith to Quinn Johnson midway through the fourth period. White drove the Redskins 80 yards, and he took advantage of a roughing-the-passer play that wiped out a possible turnover to give Washington the win.
NOTES: The Titans’ loss snapped an 11-game winning streak in the preseason on their home field. … Greene ran well, too, including a fourth-and-1 conversion; the Titans’ offense ranked last in time of possession last season.
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