Beck-Grossman race for Redskins' QB job still a dead heat

ASHBURN, Va. -- It's a primary D.C. race that's too close to call.

With just over two weeks to go before the start of the season, there's not much separating John Beck and Rex Grossman as they vie to be the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

And, at least so far, it's not a choice between the lesser of two evils. Both quarterbacks have overcome legitimate doubts about their suitability for the job to prove themselves worthy of serious consideration.

Despite the obvious pressure that comes with such a competition -- and despite an awkward rotation by coach Mike Shanahan that had them alternating every two series -- Beck and Grossman combined to complete 14 of 25 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns with one interception against the always formidable Baltimore Ravens defense in a 34-31 preseason loss Thursday night.

The running tally after three games: Beck has completed 74 percent of his passes with one touchdown, one interception and a 99.0 rating. Grossman has completed 64 percent with two touchdowns, one interception and a 92.3 rating.

Those are just the numbers. Both are showing a rhythm and comfort level in the offense that just wasn't there a year ago when Donovan McNabb was behind center.

While it's true that Shanahan already might have made up his mind, it's hard to fault him for saying he'll wait as long as possible to announce the decision as the Redskins look to the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants. After all, it's a very tight race.

"I believe in both these guys, they can play," Shanahan said. "So whichever direction we go, not only do we have a first-team quarterback, we have a second-team quarterback."

The third preseason game typically is the dress rehearsal for the regular season, and both quarterbacks were trying to prove a lot in a precious few snaps. Questions were raised about Beck's desire or ability to throw downfield after he settled for short completions the previous week against the Indianapolis Colts. He answered them on his first pass against the Ravens -- a nice throw to Anthony Armstrong deep down the right sideline for 33 yards.

Grossman started Thursday and had his first two drives end in punts. That's not a big deal in a normal game, but in a QB competition like this one, it must have seemed like a lifetime before he re-entered in the second quarter. His big moment came when he hit Santana Moss deep for a 24-yard touchdown toss just before halftime.

The Beck-Grossman sweepstakes is so vital to the team's outlook that it's easy to overlook the other dramas taking place. Second-year receiver Terrence Austin is fighting for a roster spot, so the quarterback duel was far from his mind when he caught a screen pass from Beck and ran for a 13-yard score in the third quarter.

"To be honest with you, I didn't really pay attention to that. I don't even know who threw me my touchdown pass," Austin said. "I was just in the game."

One other job that had been up for grabs surely is all but decided. Tim Hightower continued his strong preseason with a 37-yard touchdown run. He's averaging 6.8 yards per carry in a one-sided battle with Ryan Torain, who has yet to play because of a broken hand.

"I felt like I belonged since my first day here," said Hightower, whom the Redskins acquired in a July 31 trade with the Arizona Cardinals. "This team has a good offensive line, and we've made a commitment to running the ball. In some ways, I feel like it was meant to be."

One sour note from the game: Second-round draft pick Jarvis Jenkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter and is done for the season. The defensive end from Clemson had a strong training camp and was slated to be a major part of the Redskins' defensive line rotation -- and possibly challenge Adam Carriker for a starting job.

"Unfortunately it is an ACL tear," Jenkins announced on Twitter. "I'm gonna work harder than I've ever worked to get back."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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