WASHINGTON – That's some backup plan the Washington Redskins have at quarterback and running back. Now it's a matter of getting those rookies in the secondary up to scratch.
The Redskins' first preseason game reinforced what was evident late last year and throughout the first couple of weeks of this year's training camp: Kirk Cousins is a confident, able No. 2 behind Robert Griffin III.
"He's been impressive from the time he got here," coach Mike Shanahan said.
Granted, Cousins is no Griffin. Not yet, anyway. But if last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year has a setback in his return from reconstructive knee surgery, or has to miss a game or two for some other reason, his fellow second-year QB has the poise and talent to keep up the pace, just as he did when he led victories over the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns a year ago.
Cousins completed 6 of 7 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown in two series in Thursday night's 22-21 win over the Tennessee Titans. The one incompletion was a drop.
"Hopefully, year three, four, five — if I get to play that long or beyond — I'll be even more comfortable," Cousins said. "It's a constant learning process. I'm constantly toughening myself in practice so that hopefully games can be easier."
Griffin, who has been pushing for more work in practice, went through a full pregame workout and dressed in full uniform for the game even though he wasn't going to play. He switched from a helmet to a floppy white bucket hat on the sideline once the game was underway.
It was a not-so-subtle message of: "I'm ready to play, Coach." Shanahan, though, voiced no objection.
"I said if you'd like to go through during pregame warmups you're welcome to, as I said to a number of players," Shanahan said. "Every guy had the right to go out there and get a little bit more of a workout, and Robert wanted to get some more work done. It was good to see him out there."
Roy Helu ran for 57 yards on 13 carries starting in place of Alfred Morris, the unquestioned No. 1 back who got the night off after setting the franchise rushing record as a rookie last year.
Helu provides a nice change-of-pace to Morris, especially on passing downs, and has the inside track on the No. 2 job if healthy. Helu had two sore Achilles during training camp last year and missed most of the regular season with a foot injury.
The Redskins started three rookies in the defensive backfield, with mixed results. Safety Bacarri Rambo learned a lesson in open-field tackling when he was embarrassed by Chris Johnson on a 58-yard touchdown run. Safety Phillip Thomas left the game with a sprained left foot. Cornerback David Amerson had the best night of three and nearly had an interception in the first quarter.
Barring injuries, the Redskins won't be starting all three in Week 1 of the regular season — DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are the first-team cornerbacks, and Brandon Meriweather is pegged to start at one safety spot.
For Rambo, who had looked impressive throughout camp, it was a bright-lights reality check about the speed of play in the pros.
"The first time I go to make a tackle in the NFL, I came up against one of the greatest backs in the league, and I should have tried to put a better shot on him instead of just throwing my body into him," Rambo said. "He cut back and it was a good move. He made a good play."
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org/poll
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP