The Redskins finished the 2010 season ranked 18th in the NFL in offense with an average of 335.9 yards a game. They were 30th in rushing yardage (91.3) and eighth in passing (244.6). Washington was 25th in scoring with an average of 18.9 points a game. They succeeded on 24 of 35 field goal attempts, a 68.8 success rate that was the league's lowest.
Rex Grossman, who started against the Giants on Jan. 2, was named by Coach Mike Shanahan as the Skins' starter. Grossman topped John Beck in a preseason battle after Donovan McNabb was traded to Minnesota. The nine-year veteran, who led Chicago to the Super Bowl five years ago, is 20-14 (.588) as a regular season starter in the NFL. His career stats include a 54.2 percent completion rate, 40 touchdown passes and 40 interceptions. Grossman is a good short and medium-range passer who can throw deep when called upon. He is accurate throwing off balance and is a very good bootleg passer. Beck had almost identical preseason statistics to Grossman after missing the first game with a strained groin.
On Aug. 1, the Redskins completed a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to obtain running back Tim Hightower, who rushed for 736 yards for the Cardinals in 2010. Hightower is a one-cut-and-go back, the perfect runner for the system employed by Shanahan and his son, Kyle, the offensive coordinator. He's a patient runner who sets up his blockers and is a big-time upgrade over the backs Washington used last year. Rookie fourth-round draft choice Roy Helu is listed as the second back on the depth chart released this week by the Redskins. The Nebraska product is a good change-of-pace back with vision and quickness. Ryan Torain led the Skins last year with 742 rushing yards, the only player on the team with more than 300 yards. He is a big powerful runner who has been playing with a broken left hand. Torain is also a sure-handed receiver.
Washington's fullback is Darrel Young, a former linebacker who played seven offensive snaps in 2010. He carried the ball four times for 19 yards and scored a three-yard touchdown on his only reception. Young is a punishing blocker who can buckle linebackers and safeties on contact.
Speedy Santana Moss remains the Redskins' most targeted and productive receiver in his 11th season. Moss' speed enables him to outrun coverage and his experience helps him make route adjustments to find openings when a play breaks down. Washington acquired Jabar Gaffney in a trade with Denver on July 27. A savvy inside receiver, he had career-high totals of 65 catches and 875 yards last year. Anthony Armstrong is the Redskins' most explosive wideout, as the Giants well know. He scored on a 64-yard reception against them in the 2010 finale. Terrence Austin, a seventh-round draft choice last year, is getting more playing time and tied with Moss for the team lead with 11 receptions in the preseason. He is an improving player with good awareness of the field and is a contributor on special teams. Veteran Donte' Stallworth remains a deep threat. Third-round draft choice Leonard Hankerson has uncommonly huge hands – they're bigger than Hakeem Nicks' and that's saying something.
Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley has long been a vital component to the Redskins' passing game, but he did not play a down in the preseason because of an injury to the meniscus in his left knee. Cooley was limited in practice this week and his status is up in the air. Fred Davis is talented enough to be a starting tight end. A 6-4, 258-pounder, Davis creates mismatches in coverage vs. linebackers. Davis has the speed to be a vertical threat. Logan Paulsen lines up all over the formation as a blocking tight end. Mike Sellers, a 12-year veteran, played mostly fullback last season but is working more at tight end this year. He's a good blocker and special teams player.
Washington's offensive line is much-improved. Second-year pro Trent Williams possesses all the necessary tools to be a terrific left tackle. Guard Kory Lichtensteiger is undersized, but tough and strong. Center Will Montgomery is a bullish point-of-attack player. Right guard Chris Chester is a former tight end who is now a promising lineman. Right tackle Jammal Brown is a big man with good body range.
The 2010 season was the Redskins' first running Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. They finished 31st in the NFL in yards allowed (389.3), including 26th against the run (127.6) and 31st vs. the pass (261.7). Washington was tied for 21st in points allowed (23.6 a game). Not surprisingly, the Redskins imported six new defensive starters: Linemen Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, linebacker and first-round draft choice Ryan Kerrigan, cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. With all these new parts, Haslett is expected to unleash a more aggressive defense this season.
The holdover on the defensive front is left end Adam Carriker, whose only preseason appearance was in the opener. He is a competitive player who gets a good push in the pass rush. Cofield had career highs in tackles and sacks for the Giants last season. In Washington, he is playing nose tackle for the first time. Cofield is smart and aware and he locates the ball quickly and provides a good inside pass rush. Bowen is a former Dallas Cowboy with long arms and more power than the other linemen. Backup Kedric Golston is a former starter who is a high-motor, high-effort player with toughness and smarts. Rookie Chris Neild plays behind Cofield.
The linebackers are led by the indomitable London Fletcher, who has not missed a game since entering the NFL as a college free agent in 1998. On Sunday, Fletcher will play in his 209th consecutive game, which will officially become the league's longest active streak when Peyton Manning doesn't suit up for Indianapolis. He will also start his 168th consecutive game, which places him second behind Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber (183 and counting). Last year, Fletcher earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation with 188 tackles. His 2,053 career tackles are second-most among active players (Ray Lewis, 2,491). Fletcher was limited in the preseason with groin and hamstring injuries. But he still beats blockers to the spot, still works through traffic to reach ballcarriers and still wraps them up when he catches them.
Kerrigan, the 16th overall selection in this year's draft, was a defensive end at Purdue who has been converted to linebacker. His strength and aggressiveness make him a difficult assignment for any tight end in the run game and Kerrigan is also a productive pass rusher. The other outside backer is Brian Orakpo, who played in the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. He is a legitimate playmaker vs. the run and pass and a particularly explosive pursuer of quarterbacks. Veteran Rocky McIntosh, the inside linebacker next to Fletcher, is a good zone player. Lorenzo Alexander is a versatile, fundamentally sound reserve. Keyaron Fox and Rob Jackson all get their share of snaps.
The Redskins might be without arguably their best defensive back, strong safety LeRon Landry. Limited to nine games last year because of an Achilles injury, Landry did not play this preseason, nor did he practice early this week, because of a hamstring injury. He told reporters covering the Redskins that he expects to miss the game. When healthy, Landry flies around the secondary and is one of the NFL's hardest hitters. If he can't play, Reed Doughty, who has 25 career starts, will step in. He is a strong box safety and core special teams contributor. The free safety is Atogwe, formerly of the St. Louis Rams. Quick to read and react, Atogwe is hard to fool. He is a ball-hawker with good anticipation. Rookie DeJon Gomes is expected to play in sub defenses.
The left cornerback is three-time Pro Bowler DeAngelo Hall, who had four of his six interceptions last season in a victory in Chicago. He is a smart and instinctive player with good ball awareness. Hall is difficult to throw over and he is very competitive when the ball is in the air. He has a knack for poking the ball out of a runner's hands. The other corner is Josh Wilson, signed from Baltimore as a free agent on July 30. He intercepted four passes in 2010. Wilson is a tough cornerback with a good burst to the ball. Phillip Buchanon would be the nickel corner, but he is serving a four-game NFL suspension. Without him, Kevin Barnes and Byron Westbrook are the backup corners. Barnes is the handyman of the secondary who is expected to be the nickel back in Buchanon's absence.
Graham Gano, who made all 10 of his preseason field goal attempts, will do the placekicking and kickoffs for Washington. He has the leg strength to hit from more than 50 yards. The Giants are familiar with punter Sav Rocca, who spent the previous four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins have one of the NFL's best return specialists in Brandon Banks, who averaged 11.3 yards on 38 punt returns and 25.1 yards on 46 kickoff returns, including a 96-yard touchdown. He had a 95-yard punt return vs. Tampa Bay in the fourth preseason game and a 58-yard kickoff return vs. Pittsburgh earlier in the preseason.