Unlike some fans, I wholeheartedly believe that very little can be taken away from a preseason game (well … unless Steve Spurrier decides to try out his entire playbook during the meaningless exhibition). Veterans go into these games with two objectives — avoid injury and enjoy finally hitting someone in a different jersey. If they work out a few kinks or iron out some flaws in their techniques that’s great, but after lining up against teammates twice a day for a couple weeks I cannot convey how much they relish hitting an opponent.
So right out the gate, I’ll say that this post is meant to simply satisfy the desires of the diehard fans who believe football season can’t start soon enough. Instead of worrying about veterans who saw little or no playing time, I’m going to focus on the Redskins 2008 draft class. Here’s where Cousin Vinny’s rookies stand after their first NFL preseason game:
Devin Thomas, wide receiver, Michigan State — The ‘Skins top draft pick did not play in Canton due to a hamstring injury.
Fred Davis, tight end, USC — “Sleepy” Davis hauled in three catches for 23 yards in his debut. His longest catch was for only eight yards and he averaged 7.7 per reception, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t stand out in head coach Jim Zorn’s eyes.
“We wanted to give Fred Davis the ball a couple times, and he not only caught it, but he turned up field and showed that he is a tough runner after the catch,” said the rookie coach. “He did very well sustaining blocks, and we were pleased with the way he handled things one-on-one.”
Malcolm Kelly, wide receiver, Oklahoma — Like Thomas, Kelly was forced to sit the game out due to injury. In fact, Kelly underwent arthroscopic knee surgery the day after the game to remove loose particles in his left knee and is expected to miss two weeks.
Chad Reinhart, offensive lineman, N. Iowa — Offensive tackles Todd Wade (sprained ankle) and Stephon Heyer (strained knee) were both injured during the ‘Skins-Colts game, forcing Reinhart into additional playing time.
“Chad Rinehart played both tackle and guard, and he did an excellent job for a young guy,” Zorn said. “He really is aware of what is going on, and as he gets more reps, he will continue to improve. He will be a factor this year as a guy that can play two positions.”
J.T. Tryon, cornerback, Arizona State — Not a great day at the office for Tryon. By my count, the brash rookie got beat twice on defense and fumbled a kickoff.
Durrant Brooks, punter, Georgia Tech — The ‘Skins obviously wanted to give Brooks the chance to win the job, choosing to bench veteran punter Derrick Frost in favor of the youngster.
“What we wanted to do is see if he could handle a whole game,” Zorn said. “There were no shanks which I was excited about. We got to see him hold one field goal, which we missed, but the hold was just right. Overall, I was pleased with his performance.”
Kareem Moore, safety, Nicholls State — I had to double check the gamebook to see that he did, in fact, play in the game. Guess it’s safe to say Moore didn’t make much of an impact.
Colt Brennan, quarterback, Hawaii — Let me put it this way, the first time Todd Collins threw an incomplete pass (on 3rd and 4 during the ‘Skins first drive of the second quarter) more than a few fans began calling for Brennan. By the time the rookie QB finally trotted out to the field, you’d have thought that Art Monk was jogging back into the Redskins huddle as fans voiced their approval. So how did Colt fare? Brennan completed 9 of 10 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Redskins back-ups to a victory over the Colts back-ups. A couple more outings like this and the ‘Skins might have the first-ever back-up quarterback controversy.
Rob Jackson, defensive end, Kansas State — Jackson might have only finished the game with one tackle and one sack, but he was definitely noticeable whenever he was on the field. The guy seems to have the abilities, he just needs to get more reps to avoid moments like when he got too excited and jumped offsides.
Chris Horton, safety, UCLA — While most fans exited the stadium gushing over the play of Colt Brennan, Horton’s play was what impressed me the most. That’s because the seventh-round pick finished with five tackles, two sacks and recovered the Colts’ onside attempt to start the game. People will remember Jason Campbell’s perfect touch pass to Antwaan Randle El for the touchdown, but that never happens if Horton doesn’t make the play.
All in all, the play of Horton, Brennan and Davis should give fans (and Randy Thomas) a reason to smile moving forward. If this is the starting point as the players continue to improve and adjust to the NFL game, then maybe, just maybe Vinny Cerrato knew what he was doing when he brought these guys into town.