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Redskins' backups end preseason with rout of Buccaneers

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Difficult choices remain for final roster spots

The Redskins entered their final preseason game with difficult choices at receiver. They exited the same way -- and that's a good problem for them to have.

First let's dispense with the facts: Washington beat Tampa Bay 30-3 at FedEx Field to finish 3-1 in the preseason, proving that the Redskins' backups are better than the Buccaneers' as the starters didn't play. Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 15 of 27 passes for 222 yards, showing poise and savvy. He handled various situations well, knowing when to throw it away, not forcing throws on third-and-long and sliding after picking up a first down on a run.

Cousins' lone major blemish was an interception in which he overthrew Aldrick Robinson down the right seam. However, to that point Cousins handled the position like a veteran. On third-and-long, he was content to dump the ball off when his first read wasn't open downfield. On a bootleg to the left Cousins spotted no one open in the end zone, so he threw it away before getting hit. If nothing else this preseason he showed enough to think the Redskins might have solved the quarterback situation for the next several years.

Meanwhile, running back Roy Helu, who missed the last two games with sore Achilles, rushed 15 times for 90 yards and added another 34 receiving. Facing backups, he showed his ability to shake defenders with quick cuts. New kicker Billy Cundiff kicked three field goals -- 39, 27 and 22 yards -- and missed one from 46 in his Redskins debut.

But Cousins already was on the roster. Other players must anxiously await their fates Friday when the roster is trimmed to 53. With the most intriguing battle at receiver, the Redskins provided opportunities for those on the so-called bubble.

Anthony Armstrong caught two passes in the first half for 61 yards. In both cases he beat man coverage at the line. Once the defender tried to jam him. The second time he did not, and Armstrong turned that one into a 46-yard gain, showing his speed.

Brandon Banks averaged 13 yards on five punt returns, though in each case he was given lots of room to run. He also caught one pass for 47 yards on a deep corner and ran an end around for 43 yards. However, Banks muffed one punt and lost a fumble on a handoff. Coach Mike Shanahan said he had to prove he could play receiver; it's debatable whether he was successful over the course of the preseason. But he made the sort of big plays others can't make because of his speed.

Dezmon Briscoe caught a 17-yard pass, once more providing a good target in a tight window because of his 6-foot-2 frame. Robinson, silent since the second preseason game, showed he could return kickoffs with a long of 35 (he averaged 33 yards on two).

Cornerback Richard Crawford, a seventh-round pick, continued his strong summer with another interception, doing a good job tracking the ball in the air and outmuscling the receiver. It's hard to imagine him getting cut.

The last linebacker position will be interesting, too. Chris Wilson had a good camp, but he had a quiet game. Meanwhile, Bryan Kehl intercepted a pass -- albeit in the fourth quarter. Kehl also had a sack.

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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