LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Rex Grossman #8 of the Washington Redskins looks for an open receiver against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 22-21. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The Redskins walk into Big D with a chance to go 3-0 and notch their second win in their division, continuing what most consider a surprising start. And though the season is still young, there have been a few early developments that have been quite noteworthy.
Here's a quick take at some of the early-season themes:
4. Hightower, Helu looking like the real deal: What's been interesting to watch is the complete reconstruction of the Redskins backfield in such a short amount of time.
In the offseason, Mike Shanahan spoke tepidly about Ryan Torain's stronghold on the starting tailback position. His concern was an obvious one - could Torain stay healthy for an entire season? His track record suggested he wouldn't, and his hand injury in the preseason all but confirmed Shanahan's fears.
With that, the acquisition of Tim Hightower and drafting of Roy Helu came as no surprise. With these two new horses in the backfield, Torain has been effectively buried deep down on the depth chart, and been almost an afterthought. With Hightower and Helu, the Redskins finally have two effective backs with very contrasting styles.
In years past, the Redskins may have had multiple backs, but they ran with the similar styles. This year, the early returns of Hightower's quickness and power paired with Helu's great vision and speed have shown to be a huge asset for Washington. Opposing defenses will have a tough time preparing for the Redskins running game because of the unique problems each back presents on each play.
Sunday was just a glimpse of what this duo is capable of, and I'd suspect we see a lot more of what we saw against Arizona in terms of these two sharing the load.
3. Kerrigan's a quick(er) study: Even if you were one of the people who believed Kerrigan was a good bet to be a successful outside linebacker in a 3-4, you probably didn't expect him to produce this quickly. It's a bit surprising to see the Redskins' top pick producing the way he has this early in the season. He's better than expected in coverage, rushing from a two-point stance, shedding blocks and making plays in the run game. Perhaps the best news of all is that he'll only get better as the season goes on, but he's making plays while learning. It could be fair to say that - while not as physically gifted - he is adjusting to playing linebacker quicker than Brian Orakpo did at this time last season.
2 . Tight end competition one sided…..for now: Let’s face it – Fred Davis has been a flat out monster for the Redskins offense. He’s a huge matchup problem for any defense, as he’s too fast for linebackers and too strong for any defensive back. That’s the classic problem for defenses trying to contain an athletic tight end. He’s certainly shown that he deserves the amount of touches he’s getting at this point.
But that doesn’t mean that Chris Cooley is over-the-hill all of a sudden. Far from it. At this point, Cooley’s only obstacle may be getting back to what Mike Shanahan calls "football shape". Remember – he’s practiced only once in advance of the Giants game and had his first full week of practice last week. Sure, Cooley doesn’t have the same skill set as Davis, but he’s coming off of a very solid season (77 catches, 849 yards, 3 TDs) and looks to still have the same attributes that have made him effective over the years. He’s shown nothing thus far to suggest he still can’t run good routes to get open, utilize his reliable hands, or excel using his run-after-catch ability.
Having tight end depth doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. In other words, just because one is having success, doesn’t mean the other one is automatically a bum. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing the strengths of both guys. Just ask Tom Brady.
1 . Rex is (mostly) in effect: Thru two games, the Redskins starting quarterback has done the only thing that matters – win.
Of course, it was a pretty ugly start for Grossman Sunday against the Cardinals, but I thought his ability to regroup and come through when his team needed him most said more about him than the mistakes he made. That being said, he hasn’t shown that he can fully conquer his mistake-prone tendencies. But that’s Rex, I suppose. He’ll look All-World for a few drives, then revert back to his old self.
That being said, he really seems to have the belief of his head coach and fellow teammates. It’s easier for Grossman to keep the faith too. That’s probably because he’s in a system he’s clearly comfortable with, along with what could be a vastly improved running game that will keep defenses off of him.
Can he keep it up? We’ll find out. Monday looks to be a big opportunity to write another chapter in Grossman’s redemption story.