The Washington Redskins hosted the 2004 AFC North Champions and put on their best showing of 2005. While little can be gauged by meaningless pre-season games, it’s always good to see improvement. The Redskins were solid throughout the lineup and managed to come away with a 17-10 victory, their first victory of the year. The 5th quarter normally only ranks the various units’ performances, but for the pre-season, it seemed prudent to critique at least the first two strings for each unit.
1st String: Patrick Ramsey’s search for confidence started disastrously. He threw an interception early and it was returned for a touchdown. It looked as though his struggles would continue but he bounced back well. He would finish 12 of 19 for 141 yards with Santana Moss being the biggest recipient with 40 and 28-yard receptions. David Patten also caught 4 balls for 37 yards. Ramsey climbed all the way back from the interception when he hit a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley that capped a 10-play drive to end the first half. After the touchdown pass, Patrick was jacked up and Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas looked jacked up for him as well. Patrick wasn’t great, but other than the interception, he was improved. Most importantly, he showed that as he gets more comfortable, his play improves dramatically.
2nd string: Mark Brunell continued his steady 2005 performance. He made very few mistakes and finished a gaudy 6 of 7 for 60 yards. Brunell managed to take the Redskins all the way down the field on a 12-play, 85-yard drive on his first possession. The drive culminated in the Redskins second TD and put the Redskins ahead of the Steelers for the first time in the game at 17-10.
1st string: Well it started with Clinton Portis and it just filtered on down through the ranks. Portis was near unstoppable and made the vaunted Pittsburgh defense look ordinary. He needed some work having only carried the ball once in the pre-season, and he made the most of nearly every single touch. His 8 carries for 48 yards was proof that both the offensive line played well, and that Portis himself is more for comfortable with the running schemes this year. A 6-yard average is much more like what Redskins fans and coaches have been hoping to see from Clinton since he got to Washington. Portis also added an 8-yard reception giving him 56 all-purpose yards.
2nd string: Ladell Betts’ per carry average may not have been quite what Portis’ was, but his performance was every bit as impressive. Betts’ 9 carries for 41 yards included some really tough, straight up the gut runs — a staple of the Gibbs offense. Betts added 2 catches for 14 yards as well giving him 55 all-purpose yards. He not only looked capable of backing up Portis, but he is making an indelible impression on the coaching staff that he deserves more playing time.
3rd string: If it wasn’t already so before this week, Rock Cartwright put his name on the 2005 Redskins regular season roster Friday night. The 12 play, 85-yard drive mentioned in Brunell’s synopsis included eight touches from Cartwright that netted 48 of the 85 yards on the drive. One of those runs was the 10-yard TD run by Rock. He finished with 8 carries for 24 yards, and had 2 receptions for an additional 26 yards giving him 50 all-purpose yards as well.
4th string: Here is Redskin fans’ Nemo watch. The rookie from the Citadel continues to move the chains for the Redskins. Albeit playing against second and third stringers, Broughton continues to play well as he chalked up 46 yards on 12 carries. He continues to make a claim for making this roster – and not just the practice squad. Though just 4 yards short, Nemo was the only Redskin RB to not register 50 all-purpose yards.
Note: Despite not being a 5th quarter staple, it bears mentioning that ALL of these Redskin running backs were successful because the first and second units of the offensive line played very well. They dominated the trenches and put a hurting on a good Pittsburgh defensive line all night long.
1st string: Say what you want, it’s hard to see the 2005 defense being much different from 2004’s 3rd ranked Redskins defense. Gregg Williams continues to field units that do not yield yards. The Steelers managed just 130 yards of offense in the first half but 51 of those came on a Willie Parker run. Even with that run, the Redskins starting defense held and limited Pittsburgh to just a field goal. Ben Roethlisberger managed just 57 yards on a 6 for 15 night. The only Steeler major came on the Ramsey interception, so the defense held Pittsburgh to just 3 points. Shawn Springs had an impressive 6 tackles on the night but perhaps the best tackle from a CB came when Carlos Rogers stuffed Jerome Bettis on a run.
2nd string: The second unit for the Redskins was just impressive as the first. Lavar Arrington returned to action and played with the second unit. His impact was noticeable and it doesn’t look like it will take long for L.A to return to full form and knock the rust off. There were a few stand out performances as well — Pierson Prioleau and Khari Campbell both staked big claims for making the roster. . With Ryan Clark not playing, Prioleau made the most of the opportunity with an interception, 3 tackles and defending 2 passes. Campbell only had two tackles but was all over the field and did a good job of commanding the defense from the MLB spot. With cut week on the horizon, there are some tough defensive decisions ahead.
Unfortunately, special teams were not much of a bright spot for the Redskins against the Steelers. Antonio Brown made a couple of bad decisions on fielding balls, but most of the special teams’ malaise on Friday came through penalties. There were three or four penalties that cost Washington decent run backs and Danny Smith will not be happy with the lack of discipline. The brightest spot for special teams was undoubtedly Andy Groom. It might be hard to grasp how good a night Groom had if you were to just look at his 7 punts for a 39.3-yard average. He boomed a 52-yarder and pinned the Steelers inside their own 20 four different times. It is going to be so hard to cut this guy, but Tupa is just more consistent. Regardless, the organization has to be looking at their respective ages and wondering what they can do to keep Groom on the roster. Maybe Bubba Tyer will find a slight hamstring pull in Groom that would put him on the IR all year and protect him.
Notes: Safety Matt Bowen had to leave the game with a rib injury but Joe Gibbs mentioned that he thought Bowen was alright after the game.
Several Redskins did not play due to injuries: Ryan Clark (knee), Walt Harris (quad), Tom Tupa (back), and Taylor Jacobs (toe).
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway