This is a list of things about the Skins' 2012 season that I want to remember when we get to free agency, draft, and beyond.
1. RG3's Spectacular Season. The whys and hows of his injury will dominate the offseason discussion but let's not let it totally overshadow the greatest rookie season in franchise history. His debut game in New Orleans was stunning. The final drive in Tampa, the 76-yard game-clinching run against Minnesota, and the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter in East Rutherford were breath-taking early-season moments. The 7-game season-ending win streak featured 8 touchdown passes in back to back wins over Philly and Dallas, a clutch go-ahead touchdown pass against the Giants in a huge Monday night win, and two clutch throws on the final drive against Baltimore on one leg. He threw 20 touchdowns against just 5 picks with a 102.4 QB rating.....as a rookie! Oh and by the way, he rushed for 815 yards while leading the league in yards per carry at 6.8. The list of eye-popping plays he made during the course of the season are too numerous to mention but how's the 88-yarder to Garcon in the opener, the 4th and 10 to Paulson the first Giant game, the 76-yard TD run against Minnesota, the 30-yard go-ahead TD pass to Moss in the first Giant game, and the TD pass to Moss just before the half on Thanksgiving in Dallas for starters.
2. Pierre Garcon's Impact on W's and L's. With Garcon the Redskins were 9-2, without him they were 1-5. He was a difference-maker for sure.
3. Alfred Morris. He was the perfect zone-stretch and zone-read runner. He set the franchise record with 1,613 yards with the perfect combination of vision and power. His 33 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in the NFC East title game against Dallas in the season-finale is one of the franchise's all-time great individual performances.
4. Santana Moss Wasn't Done. The 33-year old led the team with 8 touchdown catches and was third on the squad with 41 catches.
5. The Offense Was Top 5 and Could've Been Better. They finished 5th overall, 1st in rushing averaging 169.3 per game, 4th overall in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and it could've been better if their defense didn't rank towards the bottom. Imagine that offense with a defense that gave them the ball back quicker.
6. Offensive Innovation. Mike and Kyle Shanahan introduced the NFL to the "Pistol". The "Pistol" was nothing more than a formation that allowed them to more effectively run their traditional zone-stretch offense while also threatening defenses occasionally with the lethal "Read-Option". Once the Shanahans introduced RG3 as a run-threat out of the "Pistol", the offense became nearly unstoppable. The most overrated talk during the season was how many times RG3 ran from the "Pistol" while underrated was what the threat of him running did to defenses. Separating truth from fiction, the "Read-Option" was not only the most effective passing offense the Redskins ran, it was the safest and cleanest pocket for RG3. He barely got hit on throws on the "Read-Option" and his primary receiver was almost always open. By midseason, San Francisco and Seattle were among the teams copying what the Redskins were doing.
7. Turnover Margin. The Skins ranked 3rd in the league at +17 and led the league with just 14 giveaways. A big reason for their 7-game season-ending win streak was 15 takeaways and a plus-10 margin.
8. Defense Got Better. 28th overall isn't good and leaves a ton of room for improvement but after the bye at 3-6, a defense that couldn't stop anybody started to and a team that couldn't generate any pass rush got some. Jim Haslett deserves a lot of credit for figuring out how to take a defense decimated by injuries and suspension early (see Carriker, Orakpo, Merriweather, Jackson) and turning into a competitive group by the final month of the season.
9. Penalties' Good and Bad. The Redskins were penalized an average of 7 times a game (5th most in the league) but just 2.7 times per game in their last 3 games (best in the league).
10. Danny Smith's Comeback. From two blocked punts in the first two games to a very good rest of the year. Fans wanted him fired early but his punt coverage team finished 8th while his kickoff coverage team finished 12th. Brandon Banks was ineffective but the move to Richard Crawford on punt returns worked.
11. Kai Forbath. Nobody can explain the move to Cundiff at the end of the preseason but the final outcome was a good one after Cundiff predictably failed. Forbath set an NFL record by making 17 straight field goals to start his career....he finished 17-18, missing his final attempt of the season into the wind and on the sand at Fed Ex.
12. Fed Ex Turf. A total disaster late in the season and a total embarrassment in the playoff loss to Seattle.
13. Biggest Offseason Needs. Safeties, corners, and another playmaker on offense are my top 3 priorities. Big decisions regarding Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo.
A nice win with a quarterback not completely healthy and against an Eagle team that came to play. The good, bad, and more. Also, their updated playoff situation is listed below.
1. The Defense. Jim Haslett schemed up more pressure on the quarterback than in any game this year. The players also won more matchups than they have in any game this year. Five total sacks with several more hurries. Pressure was a factor all day but most importantly on three key plays. First--the Ryan Kerrigan sack/forced fumble on the final play of the 1st quarter. They were down 7-zip and on the verge of going down more. Second-the 4th and 2 sack at midfield up 20-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again, it was a Kerrigan play pushing the tackle back into Foles for the sack. Third-the final play of the game. Pressure forced the intentional grounding and the 10-second run-off...game over. The two turnovers forced in the first half were huge. I say forced because Kerrigan forced one with the sack and Cofield tipped the ball that Fletcher picked off. By the way, Cofield was very good all day as was Fletcher and Riley.
2. Offensive Playmakers. The Redskins have guys making plays after catches, during catches, and after getting hit. It's as important as anything we've seen during the 6-game win streak. Pierre Garcon makes plays. Joshua Morgan makes plays and was especially effective today. He had an incredible run on a reverse that should've been a loss. His touchdown catch and run was typical of the kinds of plays their receivers are making. Moss's touchdown catch was spectacular. Morris makes plays especially after contact. Royster had a good move on 3rd and short. Niles Paul had a nice catch and run. Attribute it to the scheme, the return of Garcon, or anything you want but the Skins have guys making plays with the ball.
3. Kai Forbath. He's money. 17 for 17 and the new record for most kicks made without a miss to start a career. His two early field goals today were important and gave the Skins some momentum.
4. Kyle Shanahan. He had a quarterback that was clearly less than 100% yet he was able to come up with a gameplan that kept the threat of RG3 as a runner in place without actually running him much. All season long I've felt the talk of him as a runner has been so overrated compared to the biggest benefit which has been the "threat of RG3 running" even when he didn't. There was plenty of pistol and even several read-option plays but he only ran on one read-option. The others were Morris runs or the read-option was used to set up passes. Kyle threw in several wrinkles....two plays stood out. On a completion to Garcon in the first half off the read-option look, Joshua Morgan was in motion than moved into the backfield prior to the snap. They've used that alot on plays where the WR ends up being a decoy on a run play or is used as the pitch back on the option but never on a quick throw off the read-option. The more interesting play was the touchdown run by Morris. That play appeared to be a fake read-option to one side with an old-school counter trey with Trent Williams pulling to the other side. The play broke wide-open for the touchdown.
1. RG3's mobility. It was obvious he wasn't 100% and we saw it early. He seemed uncomfortable on an early read-option run and later on a 4th and 2 bootleg miss.
2. A near-disaster in pass coverage at the end. Madieu Williams did a nice job on a safety blitz but was seemingly out of position (which isn't a first) and very lucky on a pass into the end zone for a wide open Maclin on the final drive.
1. Skins got lucky at the end when #86 dropped a wide-open slant for a touchdown.
2. I think Andy Reid may have gone for 2 and the win if they had scored at the end. He was in a risk-taking mode all day with nothing to lose.
3. The challenge by Shanahan on the RG3 lateral to Moss that lost 17 yards was a bit of a waste.
4. Eagle fans have complained about Reid's clock managment for years and it's easy to see why. He called quick timeouts with still over a minute left in the first half potentially leaving plenty of time for the Skins to score before the end of the half. It didn't hurt him this time but the strategy was wrong.
Skins' Playoff situation:
To Win the NFC East- Beat Dallas. They could also win the NFC East with a tie against Dallas if the Giants lose once. The Skins CAN'T win the NFC East with a loss to Dallas. A 9-7 final record would lose out to either a 10-6 Giants or a 9-7 Cowboys (common opponents).
Wildcard- If they lose to Dallas, they could still qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard but would need 3 of the following 4 things to happen. 1-the Giants to lose once (vs Balt or Philly); 2-the Vikings to lose to the Packers; 3-the Bears to lose once (vs Cards or Lions); 4-Seattle to lose twice (vs SF and STL).
One of the biggest wins in recent memory for the Skins. The good, bad, and more.
1. RG3. He was brilliant in the first half in particular. Everything they tried worked and everything they asked of him was executed to near-perfection. There was a drop by Logan Paulson and a missed block by Paulson that led to a sack on the first two drives of the game but the first-half otherwise was a gem. He ran it well, threw it well, avoided pressure well. He's damn good and getting better.
2. The offensive scheme and Kyle Shanahan's playcalling. I've said this before and I'll keep saying it until all of the people I care about are worshiping at the same altar. The Shanahans know what they're doing with their scheme. RG3 as a run-threat out of the pistol and/or spread isn't a "college offense" about to be figured out , it's a "pro offense" that leverages the unique skills of its quarterback which might be easy to figure out but will never be easy to stop as long as RG3 is running it. I loved the playcalling today and it stayed aggressive even at the end of the half when last week they played for a field goal. I loved the aggressiveness on the drive after Dallas got it to within 28-13 when they took it down the field and scored on a gutsy 3rd and 1 TD pass to Niles Paul. Even better was the drive after the Cowboys closed to 35-28. 12 plays, great mix, field goal range, nothing stupid, field goal attempted, field goal made, game over.
3. Pierre Garcon. He IS a difference-maker.
4. Alfred Morris. He is also a difference-maker. He benefits greatly by the scheme that features RG3 as a consitent run-threat but he'd be good in any system.
5. The defensive scheme. For the 2nd straight week, Haslett had them ready to play. Yes a lot of yards and points given up by the time we got to the end of the game but the first half was a gem. Dallas had it five times in the first half and scored 3 points. The Skins were in position to make plays and made them more often than not.
6. Kai Forbath. A huge field goal to ice the game. He is 10 for 10 on the season.
7. Penalty improvement. After double-digit penalties the last few weeks, just 5 for 41 yards today.
1. 2nd half defensive execution. Too many people open althought the Cowboys made some very good plays after the catch.
2. Brandon Banks as a returner. I actually think Banks is helping offensively but his decision to field that punt in the end zone cost them significant yards.
1. I thought Cedric Griffin was pretty good in the first half.
2. The Skins' clock-management at the end of the first half was exceptional. The play call when they were down to no timeouts to roll RG# and throw to Moss where it's either a TD or an incomplete with no chance for sack was perfect.
3. Why they picked up the flag on the late hit on RG3 out of bounds I'll never know. He was clearly out of bounds when he got pushed to the turf.
Four games, four nailbiters, this one shouldn't have been. The good, bad, and more.
RG3. I know it's only four games but it's official....he's the real deal. His two runs in the redzone in the first half are a perfect example of why the Redskins are so different offensively this year. They can score touchdowns. I know he fumbled on the first QB draw but did you see his acceleration and toughness! It's his arm, legs, smarts, toughness, it's everything. He's already the best player they've had here since....?? Now, was that penalty on Mark Barron in the first half for unnecessary roughness a BS call...for sure. It was almost like he was getting NBA superstar treatment on that play. His command and confidence are growing. The hardcount cadence drew at least one offsides penalty, may have been two. The final drive was poised and flawless...seemed that it was never in doubt. Finally, after a long wait, the Redskins have a quarterback and leader.
The offense. 474 total yards. Not nearly the total points they could've or should've had but that was a result of missed field goals and penalties. They are so hard to defend right now. RG3 threatens a defense in so many ways that preparation for the Redskins must be a bitch. Alfred Morris is a perfect fit and then some. He's a perfect zone-stretch runner. He's a perfect spread/zone-read runner. He's a perfect triple option fullback. Not bad for a 6th rounder. Thank goodness Skins' brass didn't succomb to the "do the right thing and let Donovan go" crowd. That 6th rounder back from Minnesota for McNabb is Alfred Morris. Additionally, the Skins finally have receivers who draw P.I. penalties and run after the catch. It's nice to see additional yards after a catch instead of the "catch and immediately fall down" move of recent vintage. BTW, it helped today that Trent Williams was back. He's easily a top 3-4 must-have player on this team and he led the offensive line to a very good day against a pretty good front 4.
The fullback and tight ends. Darrell Young has been and is currently a very underrated player on this team. He's a very good blocker. He can catch passes and make yards after the catch. He can run it too even though we haven't seen much of that this year. The tight ends (Davis and Paulson) have been very good the last two weeks. Paulson is a big-time blocker and Davis is catching everything and making big plays after the catch.
Ryan Kerrigan. Multiple pass deflections and a sack. Plus, a huge third-down stop on a screen late in the game with the Skins holding a 21-19 lead. He's very good, getting better, and has become a fixture on this list.
Billy Cundiff. He missed three kicks before barely making the game-winner. He looked like he was either going to cry or vomit on that final drive and actually looked terrified right before the final kick yet somehow he managed to get it through that left upright. I'd cut him and re-sign Rackers or Gano tomorrow. He can lead the league in touchbacks till the cows come home but his field goal kicking is going to cost them a game or two. The missed 57-yarder at the end of the first half really makes wonder what Shanahan was thinking in St. Louis. I know it's indoors versus outdoors but he was 3-5 yards short on that one today. His missed 31-yarder was brutal, the 41-yarder wasn't close, and I still can't for the life of me figure out why they signed him and cut Rackers and Gano.
Penalties. Too many big ones that resulted in drive killers. The clip on Montgomery killed the first drive of the 2nd half. The 15-yarder on Garcon killed the 2nd drive of the 2nd half. They got bailed out by some big calls against Tampa so things were evened out a bit but still, an offense that was humming stopped itself a few times in the 2nd half and missed opportunities to make this a no-sweat win.
3rd down conversions. They made 2 of 11and one of the two was the razzle-dazzle Banks-to RG3-to Niles Paul play. What's interesting is that it didn't really hurt them. They rolled up 27 more first downs for the game and are now near the conference lead with 98 first downs in 4 games.
1. Good clock mgt/questionable clock mgt. They did a nice job at the end of the first half being aggressive and using their last timeout to get the ball back. It gave them a chance on a long field goal attempt. With that said, they looked confused on the final play before the game-winning Cundiff kick. After the spike stopped the clock with 18 seconds left, Shanahan carried on a conversation with RG3 on the sideline as if he was in timeout mode. It cost them a frantic false start penalty and five yards. That five yards could've been the difference between win and loss. The next play was a 7-yard completion to Moss after which there seemed to be some confusion on the Skins sideline as to what to do next. They should've let the clock tick down to 3 seconds and made the field goal the final play of the game. Instead, they kicked it with 7 seconds leaving time for a potential miracle kickoff return.
2. The five yard penalty against Tampa on their 2-pt conversion was huge. It was the difference between a Skins' win and overtime.
3. It seems obvious to say that the pass coverage was bad in the 2nd half because of the numbers but I didn't think it was as bad as the last two weeks. Unlike the last two weeks, Skins' defenders were closer to making plays with the exception of that first long one to Williams that got Freeman going. I thought Freeman and Jackson in particular made some really good throws and catches.
4. Sav Rocca and the punt coverage team had a pretty good day.
5. The Redskins got bailed out of that horrible field position on their 2nd drive of the 2nd half by two huge plays. The first was the play that nearly ended in safety and the second was the next play which resulted in a late-hit on RG3 in the back of the end zone.
6. The 3rd and 9 stop before the go-ahead Bucs field goal by Wilson on Underwood was huge. Without it, the Bucs go-ahead field goal would've been a game-winning field goal.
7. RG3 needed to stick that ball out in front of the first-down marker on that key 3rd down with 3:45 left. Shanahan's challenge on that play was questionable.
8. Merriweather and Robinson getting hurt before the game....are you kidding me!
9. The Skins have won the turnover battle in all four games. They have just 2 turnovers on the season, tied for the best in the NFL.
A few things upon further review of the Skins-Bengals game.
1. RG3 took 14 legitimate hits in the game but most of them were on "called passing plays" rather than "called running plays". Here are the #'s and I'm counting only the plays where he got legitimately hit, not brushed or lightly pushed.
Hits Taken By RG3 on Called Passing Plays--11
Hits Taken By RG3 on Called Running Plays-- 3
Note- Just 2 of the 11 hits on called passing plays were outside the pocket on scramble plays. 9 of the 11 were inside the pocket where he took the significant majority of big hits on the day. It's also important to note that just 2 of the 14 hits taken by RG3 on the day were on "option" style plays. The other running play where he got hit was a QB draw. With that said, arguably the biggest hit he took all day was on an option pitch to Banks where he got nailed by Lawson after the pitch. Banks picked up 8 yards on the play.
2. The "option" style plays worked. They ran 16 "option" plays either in pistol/triple option form or spread/zone-read form. These plays were much less-risk than most thought (at least in this game) with 14 of the 16 resulting in no hit to RG3. Additionally, they worked. The 16 "option" plays produced 96 yards or 6.0 per play and were the key to their two second half touchdown drives that tied the game. It's also important to note that they didn't go exclusively to these plays. They were mixed in with their typical zone-stretch running plays, bootlegs, drop-backs, screens and QB draws/sweeps.
3. The biggest risk with "option" plays is fumbling. They put the ball on the ground twice, losing one of them. If you watch Navy, Air Force, Ga Tech among others, they fumble it a lot running the triple option.
4. Santana Moss should've been penalized 15 yards for a post-play slap to PacMan Jones' head. After getting nailed by Jones on a quick bubble screen, Moss got up and slapped Jones in the head. The ref was right there and didn't call it. Jones went ballistic. It would've knocked the Skins out of field goal range right before the half if it had been called.
5. Richard Crawford had a tough day. The entire secondary was riddled but nobody looked as lost in key moments than the rookie. He got beat on the Hawkins touchdown in the 4th quarter badly and he appeared to be completely lost on a couple of plays that Dalton didn't take advantage of including a potential TD pass before the Bengals kicked a FG in the first half. Additionally, he was lucky he wasn't flagged for a late hit out of bounds in the first half.
6. The Bengals clock management was pretty bad too. For some odd reason, they let the Skins run the clock down to 36 seconds before kicking a the field goal that made it 24-10 at the end of the first half. They could've easily called a timeout and gotten the ball back with roughly 1:10 or so with still one timeout left before halftime. Instead, they took a knee after the kickoff. Additionally, on their final drive of the game, they could've burned another 10 seconds of the clock on 2nd and third down before they punted. The Skins would've had 1:37 when they started from their own 2 instead of 1:47.
7. The Bengals were on the ropes at the end and were bailed out by Carlos Dunlap. The Skins had first and 10 at the Cincy 19 with 29 seconds left. They had scored on their previous drive and were in the midst of a potential game-tying drive that started at their own 2. RG3 was brilliant on the final two drives completing 11 of 13 while scrambling for another 34 yards. They were on the verge of tying the game and forcing overtime (or maybe Shanahan would've gone for 2) when Dunlap made the play of the game forcing Rg3 from the pocket and sacking him for a loss of 15. The play wasn't easy as he first flushed RG3 from the pocket and then reached out and got him to stumble to the ground. It was a great play and for all intents and purposes, ended the game.
8. The 4th and 1 decision to punt still bothers me especially after seeing what Pittsburgh and Kansas City did. The Steelers went for 4th and 1 from their own 29 in a tie game with 3+ minutes left. The Chiefs went for 4th and 1 at the Saint 43 in OT with the game tied. Both teams converted and in Kansas City's case, it led to a winning field goal. Also, while not the same situation, Shanahan said he would've gone for the 4th and 1 in St. Louis on the Josh Morgan penalty play but didn't yesterday.
WASHINGTON (AP) Joshua Morgan came home Wednesday. As a bonus, got to hang out with Pierre Garcon.
Morgan and Garcon signed their contracts with the Washington Redskins, adding fresh talent to the receiving corps even as the team continued to search for other ways to upgrade on the second day of NFL free agency.
"We've got a great idea of what the coaches expect from us and what they want us to do. We're just ready to come in there and go to work," Morgan said in an interview after meeting with coach Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and other coaches. "The sky's the limit for us. I agree with the coaches: They said that the offense matches me and Pierre's talents."
Washington took care of some other paperwork Wednesday, formally completing the trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up to the No. 2 spot in the NFL draft. Meanwhile, they continued to court receiver Eddie Royal and were preparing to host cornerback Aaron Ross on Thursday. Safety Brandon Meriweather was also scheduled for a visit, according to The Washington Post.
Morgan goes from West Coast to East, leaving the San Francisco 49ers for $12 million over two years with $7.5 million guaranteed. He said he's almost fully recovered after breaking his right leg Oct. 9 against Tampa Bay. He had surgery to have screws inserted and was placed on season-ending injured reserve just five games into the season.
"Just still trying to work on that explosion, get that explosion all the way back," he said. "But everything's good."
D.C. born and bred, Morgan also said the prospect of returning home - he played for Woodson High in Washington and then at Virginia Tech - had "a whole lot to do" with his choice of teams. He said his entire family still lives in the area, including the two grandmothers who prefer that he be called "Joshua" instead of "Josh" because it's true to the spirit of the Biblical names many of his relatives have.
"I'm happy for Josh. I wish we could have had him, but he's getting to play at home and getting paid some money," 49ers running back Frank Gore said. "Coming off the injury, I think he's going to all right. He's going to help the Redskins a lot."
Garcon, Morgan and possibly Royal would make for a crowded receiver competition with incumbents Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson if all are on the roster at training camp. The Redskins need more playmakers at the position: Moss averaged just 4.4 yards after the catch last year, while Gaffney averaged only 2.9.
But neither Garcon, Morgan nor Royal have had a 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL. Garcon hit 947 last season as the Colts' No. 2 receiver next to Reggie Wayne, but he received No. 1 money from the Redskins. Morgan's high point has been 698 yards in 2010.
Garcon wasn't available for comment - the Redskins, usually known for making the most out of big free agent signings, uncharacteristically opted not to hold news conferences for either player - but Morgan feels he'll be able to adjust to Washington's offense without much difficulty.
"It just like the 49ers offense," Morgan said. "Same West Coast style, same terminology, same route combinations."
Meriweather and Ross are on the Redskins' list because the team has decisions to make all along the back line. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was cut this week after one disappointing season in Washington, and injured-plagued safety LaRon Landry became an unrestricted free agent. DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty, projected to be backups, were the starters by the end of last year. Cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are under contract to return, but they combined for just five interceptions in 2011.
Meriweather spent last season with the Chicago Bears but was benched in October after making four starts. He previously played four years with the New England Patriots and had 12 interceptions.
Ross played four years with the New York Giants but was deemed expendable with the return of Terrell Thomas from injury. Thomas re-signed with the Giants this month and figures to joins Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara in the cornerback rotation for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Washington agreed last week to give three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Rams, putting the Redskins into position to draft Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at No. 2. Under NFL rules, the trade couldn't be completed until the new league year began with the start of free agency.
Looking ahead, the Redskins need to decide on a veteran quarterback to help guide Griffin through a rookie season. One of the options was taken off the table Wednesday when Kyle Orton agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys.
Also still on the open market is linebacker and defensive captain London Fletcher, whom the Redskins would like to re-sign. Defensive end Adam Carriker, who re-signed on Wednesday, added to the lobbying effort for Fletcher to return.
"Hey man, I'm standing at the front door of Redskin Park," Carriker asked Fletcher on Twitter, "WHERE YOU AT?!"
Fletcher didn't answer.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) From healthy, first-place surprise to battered and struggling, the Washington Redskins had their fortunes take another dive Monday when running back Tim Hightower was declared out for the season with a torn knee ligament and receiver Santana Moss underwent hand surgery that is expected to sideline him for 5-7 weeks.
That makes five starters lost to significant injuries over the last two weeks, coinciding with a two-game losing streak and a quarterback switch.
The Redskins (3-3), sitting so pretty after winning three of their first four, are on their heels. Little seems to be going right, and some of the misfortune is truly out of the norm. London Fletcher - who has never missed a game in his 14-year NFL career - has a hamstring injury that might finally get him off the field, and demoted quarterback Rex Grossman is in the hospital with pneumonia.
"We've got a lot of young players," coach Mike Shanahan said. "We're going to get a chance to see how much talent they do (have), and how quickly they can improve.
"And, hopefully, it's quick."
Hightower is the team's leading rusher. Moss is the top wideout. With the injury-induced shuffling along the offensive line, there are now only four offensive starters - tight end Fred Davis, receiver Jabar Gaffney, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Jammal Brown - still manning their same positions from the beginning of the season.
"I felt like coming into the season we had a chance to be a good football team; I still feel like that," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "We're a little banged up, though, there's no doubt about that. ... (But) this is a different group. This isn't a group that's going to hang their heads and feel sorry for themselves. We're going to bounce back."
Hightower and Moss were hurt in Sunday's 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Hightower's left knee buckled when he tried to make a cut during a 4-yard carry in the third quarter, ending his season with 321 yards on 84 carries.
Ryan Torain and rookie fourth-round draft pick Roy Helu will try to take up the slack, although neither has Hightower's locker room leadership or ability to pick up a blitz. Torain had a 135-yard game in relief three weeks ago, but since then he has 12 carries for 17 yards. Helu's last 16 attempts have netted only 55 yards.
Hightower gave an emotional speech to his teammates after the game, encouraging them to soldier on.
"It's always tough to lose a player like that," Shanahan said, "who leads both on and off the football field."
Moss has 25 catches for 301 yards, second in receptions on the team behind tight end Davis. Moss broke his left hand in the first half against Carolina and had three pins inserted into the area around his index finger on Monday.
That leaves Gaffney, who has a team-high 361 yards, and either Anthony Armstrong or fifth-round rookie Niles Paul as the starting tandem for this week's game against the Buffalo Bills (4-2) at Toronto.
Fletcher, the heart and soul of the defense, left the Panthers loss early. His streak of 214 straight games might be in danger.
"I don't think it's that serious," Shanahan said. "But we'll find out more on Wednesday."
As if that weren't enough, Grossman spent Sunday's game in the locker room fighting pneumonia and a fever. Shanahan said Grossman would have come out to play if needed, but the coach also had receiver Terrence Austin taking snaps as an emergency quarterback during pregame warmups. Grossman is now being treated in a hospital for at least the next 48 hours.
Among those already on the sideline: Tight end Chris Cooley, left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, all hurt in the previous week's loss to Philadelphia. Lichtensteiger is out for the season with torn knee ligaments, Cooley is sidelined indefinitely with a broken finger and is having his balky knee re-examined, and Williams is week-to-week with a sprained ankle.
The injury news overshadowed mixed results from John Beck, who completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in his first start in four years.
Those numbers aren't bad, especially given the injuries, but Beck stood out in a different way Monday. It's been years since Redskins quarterbacks held regular day-after-game chats with reporters, but Beck made an appearance in the locker room and wrapped it up making a point to defend rookie receiver Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson, making his NFL debut, took a wrong turn on the first pass intended for him, leading to the only interception thrown by Beck.
"Hey, listen, the play with Hankerson, it's on me," Beck said. "I'm the guy that has got the ball in my hand, and I'm the guy that makes the decision where that ball goes, and we're very excited to have Hankerson be a part of this football team. He's going to be a great asset to this football team. Nothing goes on Hankerson. It all goes on me. You got that?"
Notes: Hall said he was "disappointed" that he wasn't the primary cover man on Steve Smith, who had 143 yards receiving. Shanahan said CB Josh Wilson got the bulk of the duty on Smith because Wilson had been playing well. ... S Kareem Moore, on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, will return to practice this week.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) John Beck showed the mobility to keep plays alive and get the Redskins into the end zone. He just couldn't help his team keep up with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the second half.
Beck threw for 279 yards in his first start in four years in a 33-20 loss Sunday, including a TD run on a short keeper in the third quarter. But he couldn't lead the Redskins (3-3) to another touchdown until after the Panthers (2-5) had built a 17-point lead in the final period on the way to matching their win total for all of last year.
"It's hard to say, because winning is the only thing that matters," Beck said of his performance. "That's the only thing I wanted to do out there. I wasn't going out there trying to be too perfect; my ultimate goal was to walk away having won the game. This is obviously not the feeling we wanted to have."
Beck earned the starting job after Rex Grossman threw four interceptions in last week's ugly home loss to Philadelphia. It was his first start since December 2007 with the Miami Dolphins - he remains winless in all five career starts.
He had a late touchdown throw and interception after the Panthers had taken their big lead.
"I think John overall played very well the first time out," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's always going to have some growing pains. That's the nature of the business when you just start playing, but I think you could see his athleticism, his quick release. It seems like he was poised in there throughout the game."
It didn't help that Beck lost top receiver Santana Moss and tailback Tim Hightower to injuries, either.
Moss broke a bone in his left hand in the first half and spent the rest of the half watching from the sideline with a bulky wrap on the hand. Hightower - who got the start and had run for 88 yards on 17 carries - hurt his left knee when it buckled on a carry in the third quarter. He was helped off the field and eventually carted to the locker room from the sideline. Shanahan said Moss will miss next week's game at Buffalo, while the severity of Hightower's injury is unclear.
For Carolina, Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the second half, while Jonathan Stewart also ran for a third-quarter touchdown.
Newton threw for 256 yards and ran for 59 more. He ran for his seventh touchdown on a 16-yard keeper in the third quarter, tying a record for most TDs rushing by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
In the fourth, he had an easy touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell to blow the game open.
The past month had followed a familiar pattern for Newton and the Panthers: trail late in close games only and repeatedly fall short. Probably the worst moment came here two weeks ago, when the Panthers gave up the go-ahead touchdown to Drew Brees and the Saints with 50 seconds left in a loss that left Newton growing more frustrated by the day.
But this time, Newton got the chance to keep the pressure on the Redskins instead of trying to pull off his own desperate comeback. The No. 1 overall draft pick responded to that challenge, coolly leading Carolina to three straight touchdown drives after entering the second half with a 9-6 lead.
He completed 18 of 23 passes in an efficient performance, with Steve Smith hauling in seven for 143 yards. More importantly, Newton didn't commit a turnover after throwing three interceptions in last week's loss at Atlanta.
It was clear how much Newton enjoyed finally getting his second win. When it was over, he ran to the front row of fans and gave high-fives on his way to the locker-room tunnel.
After Beck answered Newton's TD run with one of his own, Newton twice found Smith downfield on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Stewart's 2-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 23-13.
Then, after the Panthers forced a three-and-out, Newton found Smith downfield again with a perfectly thrown deep ball that Smith hauled in at the 1 for a 36-yard gain. Three plays later, Newton connected with LaFell to make it 30-13 with 8:13 left.
Notes: Newton's keeper tied the record set by Vince Young with Tennessee in 2006. He celebrated by giving the ball to a kid in the front row of the stands. ... Redskins linebacker London Fletcher left in the second half with a hamstring injury. ... Panthers kicker Olindo Mare had four field goals, including a 45-yarder just before halftime for the 9-6 lead. ... Carolina's 30-13 lead in the fourth was its biggest in any game since the end of the 2009 season.
**PA on first left out of off-set I with Cooley who cuts down backside defender so Rex can complete first down to Santana.
**Rex gets hit on a deep attempt incompletion, then under pressure from Trent on 3rd down incompletion. Ran a boot for 2 yards.
**2nd series -- first down, Rex throws off back foot with moderate pressure, terrible mechanics but should be completion to TH25 goes through hands.
**Great 3rd down clear vision, pocket strike to Gaffney on 3rd/8 for 20 . Same route right to left on the post cross that they love to run. Chester did good job pushing rusher out of way to clear lane.
**Touchdown to Moss out of 4 WR/RB set, with TH25 flanked wide left, Santana in left slot. They criss cross on the corner route and perfect throw, timing and footwork. Moss had right foot down, was dragging toes on left foot barely. Had blitzer leap in his face, and knock him down.
**Rex first throw, of 2nd Q, 1st down - knocked down on quick seam route to Davis. Tight INC but no seperation out of clustered bunch to left set.
**Rex with clean pocket (TH25/O-Line) and delivers strike to Moss on 3rd/6.
**One play after killing clock time off and taking first timeout with :40 left, because they did not want to take chance, Rex throws a near horrible pick right to the Rams safety, but again he can't catch it.
**Had the drop thru hands on 1st on 2nd series. 2 yard stretch left. Stretch run left, w/ pretty good blocks by Davis, Cooley, Trent for + 5. Then stretch Right blown up because JB got pushed back a bit into path of cutback, and play blew up.
**Great pass pro on Gaffney 3rd down comp + good lower the boom run on 1st + 6, off RT with great blocking by Fred/Cooley on right edge. JB & CC were looking for guys to seal block.
**Another big pass pro on 3rd/6 - hurling body at blitzer for completion to Moss.
*1st carry of year, lowers shoulder and bops safety in open field, with very good lead block and holes created by Trent, Cooley & Fred.
**Next play, Torain 20-yard TD run with great hole by Trent & Cooley - Kory Lichtensteiger also had key hook block to open hole moving lateral.
**Nice cut back run through middle, with Niles Paul a nice backside cut, gaping hole. Redskins had everyone blocked except # 32 saved a big TD.
**Helu + 5 up middle, hard agressive run + very good blitz pickup on 3rd down INC.
**Great footwork drag out of left slot on the TD rub route to corner route with Hightower.
**Big 3rd/6 out route completion, to right.
**Left flat reception for 4 yards. Lines up at FB, fakes PA left, angles right...Open but nobody picked up the blitz boot.
**Huge 3rd/8 catch + 20 on 2nd series on cross post sliding down. 2nd 3rd/7 catch on drive, from 'X" -- a little sitdown route in zone. Great blitz pickup by TH 25.
**Big time lunge on DE, misses block with head and body way too over extended, for 2 yard loss on TH 25.
**Bad false start wipes out 4th down conversion.
**Pretty good block on Hightower 7-yard run, with a good wall off.
**Redskins attempt 4th/4 at STL--39, Jammal Brown jumps on false start. Play blown dead pretty quickly, but Santana was wide open on a quick drop for a post route, inside of zone CB/S - could have been at least first down, maybe TD.
**Rex under good pressure up the middle, throws one away. Intentional grounding.
**Redskins squander opportunity and Rams do same as well, to call timeout after 9-yard run to force 3rd/1. At 1:29 left in half, Washington let :39 off clock and STL did not take time as well. Mike Shanahan says they didn't want to take a chance.
**2nd play, Orakpo gets knocked off on pull by backside tackle, Rocky gets pushed back and SJAX goes for 13 yards on ground.
**Haslett on 3rd/12 rushes 4, drops 7 in Cover-2 shell and Washington blows up short screen to SJAX. Good flow & hard tackle by Rocky, from across.
**Team sack on pretty big pressure by Orakpo that flushes Bradford OOB on last play of 1st quarter.
**TE of STL with a drop (Rams 5th) in 3-man zone, crunched around by OJ, LaRon & Hall. DHall banged up on play.
**3rd/1.5 - STL tries hurry-up run to SJAX and Redskins (Bowen) stuff it, along with Cofield. Then allows 4th/1 conversion on a boot roll to right (Pettis).
**Huge slot CB Blitz by Kevin Barnes, to put big heat on Bradford. Kerrigan got around Smith at RT and got a PF facemask called. Carriker batted pass down.
**Big stop on 3rd/1 hurry up run to SJAX
**Monster half-sack with Orakpo split to end first half.
**Good rip-off on run stop on first series, with Carriker shuttling down the line to assist. Great athleticism by DL to slide.
**Rush forces Bradford deep overthrow on 3rd/16.
**Knifes in on run stop of Steven Jackson on first play.
**Pass rush loops around Bradford but eventually pushes through and almost strips/sacks Bradford on nice completion, that beat Josh Wilson.
**1 play after drawing personal foul for facemask on good pass rush, Orakpo drives LT Saffold back, forces Bradford to spin while Kerrigan keeps motoring around and through RT/TE for sack/FF. Recovered by Barry Cofield.
**Had a nice pass knockdown on one throw by Bradford with good push.
**Huge pressure looping around right side of O-Line -- and big belt of Bradford to force INC on 3rd Down.
**Very good run diagnosis, fills hole, patient. Didn't miss tackle on SJAX, 1st down. 2 plays later, gets beat by Kendricks in off line and in zone under for 1st down on 3rd/5.
**Good open field in the middle tackle on SJAX.
**Great run stop racing in off the edge and from behind on 1st down after big completion at end of 1st.
**Assists Rob Jackson with good run stop on SJAX.
**Tight coverage on go route with Sims-Walker but perfect throw in - hands of Sims-Walker, could have been TD. He could not catch it.
**Beaten for 3rd time in zone coverage, this time Rams WR (Gibson) finally holds on.
**Good lunging catch on first punt, near sidelines. Advances a couple of yards, then OOB.
**Fumbles punt return, from mis judging flight of ball. Was lunging.
**Vicious, but clean pop on punt return to shoulder and skim over the shoulder pad with helmet down. (Pettis) along with Riley/Paul.
**Gang tackles, along with Riley and T. Austin the kickoff after Moss TD with minimal gain.
**Personal Foul on 'defenseless receiver" but no fair catch, led with front of helmet to shoulder pad. Head does buckle on impact, but not defenseless if he doesn't want to fair catch. Ball to WASH-45***
**Helmet to helmet hit on "defenseless" Pettis, who again did not call for fair catch. To me, he is not defenseless, it was perfectly timed, but clearly different then the Perry Riley hit.
**55-yard kick, downed without touching. Niles Paul and Byron Westbrook down on it. BW holds off Paul.