WASHINGTON – Robert Griffin III: three sacks, no touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins: three touchdowns, no sacks.
If preseason stats could be taken at face value, one could have fun cobbling together yet another Washington Redskins quarterback controversy, this one involving a pair of rookies.
For one thing, fourth-rounder Cousins from Michigan State is naturally more comfortable in the pocket than No. 2 overall pick Griffin, who didn't get a chance to learn the nuances of a pro-style offense at Baylor.
Of course, there is no such QB competition. Griffin played with and against starters during the first half of Saturday night's 33-31 loss to the Chicago Bears, while Cousins was on the field in the second half with quite a few players who will soon be looking for work. Griffin would have to be inept or injured not to remain the No. 1 guy when the regular season opens, and so far he's been neither.
But he did get his first taste of NFL pressure after a relatively smooth quarter of work in the preseason opener the week before. He lost a fumble deep in Redskins territory on one of the sacks and completed 5 of 8 passes for only 49 yards.
"We never really got into a rhythm," Griffin said. "I think everyone on the (first-string) wanted to go back in the second half."
Growing pains aside, Griffin can't flourish if he's always on the run. The game reinforced an ongoing concern about an offensive line that was missing three projected starters — Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Jammal Brown.
The Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) are reasonably hopeful that Lichtensteiger and Chester will be healthy when the regular season starts Sept. 9.
And Griffin is also going to need more help from the starting defense, which gave up big plays and lost two starters — two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and strong safety Brandon Meriweather — to injuries in the first quarter.
Orakpo and Meriweather were both scheduled for MRIs on Sunday, with coach Mike Shanahan expected to divulge the results when the team reconvenes for practice on Monday.
Orakpo reinjured his left shoulder trying to tackle Bears receiver Devin Hester; it's the same shoulder that required surgery after the linebacker tore a pectoral muscle in the final game of last season.
Meriweather, a significant offseason free agent signing, hurt his left knee when a player fell on him during a touchdown run by Michael Bush.
In addition, linebacker London Fletcher added more intrigue to his recent spate of missed practice work by sitting out the game. Shanahan said Fletcher was "not feeling right" and declined to give any more details.
The Redskins can't afford to lose any of those players for long — because the defense is expected to keep games competitive while Griffin deals with the inevitable ups and downs of his rookie season.
Not that Griffin appeared rattled by his uneven night. Shanahan's best compliment about the rookie's performance had nothing to do with a particular throw.
"I liked the way he handled himself," the coach said. "He is very poised. He is cool, calm, collected. He never seems to lose his composure."
About to take the field with the Redskins trailing 20-10 at halftime, Cousins said he told his fellow second-teamers: "Let's go down swinging." He went on to complete 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and a 154.1 rating, leading a comeback that actually made the waning minutes of the fourth quarter somewhat interesting.
While he's no threat to overtake Griffin anytime soon, Cousins could make a strong challenge to Rex Grossman for the No. 2 job.
"There were a lot of plays that I liked, and a lot of where I'm still learning and needing to grow and get better from," Cousins said. "There were some rookie mistakes, but a good preseason game and a lot to build off of."
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