By David Elfin
The Sports Xchange
LANDOVER, Md. - Preseason NFL games have never exactly been prime entertainment, but when all the starters spend the night on the sidelines in baseball caps, the paying customers are treated to a slew of backups, many of whom will soon be former NFL players.
That was the case again last night at FedEx Field as the Washington Redskins completed a 3-1 preseason by thumping fellow 2011 cellar-dweller, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30-3 before a crowd of 56,555.
With Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III watching, fourth-round draft choice Kirk Cousins likely got his last chance to play this year and didn't disappoint. The former Michigan State star didn't have the rousing three-touchdown performance that he delivered 11 days earlier at Chicago, but he still completed 15 of 25 passes for 222 yards before departing midway through the third quarter with a 23-3 lead.
The newest Redskin, kicker Billy Cundiff, made a quick, positive impression as Washington jumped to a 16-0 halftime lead. Cundiff, who was waived Monday by Baltimore before being signed Tuesday to replace Redskins incumbent Graham Gano, booted field goals of 39 and 27 yards and sent three kickoffs through the end zone before the opening quarter was history.
After veteran defensive end Kedric Golston ended the Bucs' next series with a sack of Brett Ratliff, Brandon Banks - battling to keep his job as Washington's return man - brought back a punt 18 yards to his 41. On second and 11, Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong, a 2010 starter who had slipped into near-irrelevancy, got a step on Bucs cornerback Myron Lewis and hauled in Cousins' pretty pass for a 46-yard gain. Evan Royster, locked in a four-way battle to start at running back, then ran right for 13 before taking the ball into the end zone on the next play to make it 13-0 with 10:10 left in the first half.
However, Cundiff also showed why the Ravens waived him as his subsequent 46-yard try was wide right, drawing boos from the modest crowd. But his 22-yarder at the gun raised the margin to 16-0.
Both of Washington's seventh-round selections, safety Jordan Bernstine and cornerback Richard Crawford, picked off Ratliff. Crawford's gorgeous interception of a go route for Tiquan Underwood came on the play after Bucs safety Sam Baker had picked off Cousins.
Roy Helu, competing with fellow 2011 rookie Royster, 2012 rookie Alfred Morris and veteran Tim Hightower, then carried twice for 18 yards. Banks beat double coverage for a diving 47-yard grab before Helu scooted right and leaped at the pylon to make it 23-0. Helu scored again with 3:43 left in the third quarter - after a 43-yard Banks run - en route to finishing with 90 yards on 15 carries and 34 yards on two catches.
Tampa Bay, which ended the shutout on Kai Forbath's 43-yard field goal with 6:49 left in the third quarter, fell to 2-2 as its hapless backups allowed five sacks in the first half alone. And the only time the Bucs got in the red zone, Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl picked off Ratliff's pass at the Washington 6 and returned it 43 yards.