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John Beck preparing to compete for Redskins' starting QB job

January 6, 2011 - 11:10 AM
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Quarterback John Beck began preparing as if he would compete for the Redskins' starting job for the 2011 season soon after the team acquired him in August. (Photo: Associated Press)

As Mike Shanahan and his staff evaluate their quarterbacks and try to come to a decision regarding which player is the best option under center next season, John Beck knows that Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman’s names will be thrown around a lot. But the fourth-year pro hopes that he receives strong consideration as well.

McNabb appears to be on his way out, and Grossman wants to return but isn’t under contract for next year. Mike Shanahan has said the position is basically wide open. And so in Beck’s mind, he’s just as deserving of a crack at the starting job as anybody.

“That’s what I’m hoping for, that’s what I’m working for,” Beck says confidently. “When I go into this offseason, that’s what I’m preparing for. I want to compete to start.”

Mike and Kyle Shanahan have been intrigued by the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Beck since his days at BYU where he started three-and-a-half seasons and as a senior passed for 3,885 yards, 32 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Washington traded for him late in training camp to get a closer look at him, and despite limited showcase opportunities, he had to have done something right. At one point during the preseason, Mike Shanhan said it was rare for him to carry three quarterbacks on a roster, but in the final week of the preseason, he signed Beck to a two-year contract extension.

When Shanahan benched McNabb with three games left in the season, he also announced that for the final two weeks, Beck -- who hasn't played since his rookie year in Miami when he started four of five games and completed 60 of 107 passes for 559 yards a touchdown and three interceptions while getting sacked 10 times -- would be promoted to second-string quarterback so coaches could see him run the Redskins’ offense. (As third-string quarterback, Beck ran the opposing team’s offense on the scout team for the defense each week. The first-string quarterback gets the bulk of the snaps in his team’s offense in practice, and the second-string quarterback rotates in and out with the second unit, and occasionally takes some first-team snaps).

The unlikelihood of him ever getting into a game even early this past season never discouraged Beck. Instead, although no one could’ve envisioned McNabb flaming out after just one season in D.C., something drove Beck even back in August and September to position himself to battle for a promotion this offseason.

“For not having been in this offense, every day was something to build on for me,” Beck explains. “I had those first four weeks that I was able to run our offense in practices and for the next 16 weeks, I sat and watched Rex and Donovan run our plays. It was good to be around somebody like Rex that had run this offense before and had been around Kyle on Houston. And a lot of my off days were spent watching a lot of Houston tape, watching a lot of the things that he’s done, watching other guys in the league who run a similar offense and seeing how they do it. That’s how I’ll spend a lot of my offseason, just trying to master this offense as best I can for the next football season.”

Kyle Shanahan couldn’t predict Beck’s chances of ascending up the depth chart, but he admitted that he gets an encouraging vibe from the quarterback.

“It was just good to hear him get some reps with the [starters]. where he’s calling our offense and not just doing [scout team plays] and stuff,” the offensive coordinator said. “And in meetings, now that he’s running some of our plays, it was good to engage in more conversation with him and those things. To see him prepare and be ready, I’m excited about him from a mental standpoint.”

Beck believes that had he been called upon at any point during the last two games of the season, he would’ve been able to perform at a high level.

“There definitely was a lot that felt comfortable with,” Beck said. “I told Kyle before [the Giants] game, ‘Hey, if I get out there, these are the plays that I feel second nature with, so if I do get out there, lets stick with these.’ So, now the key is, in the offseason when you don’t get to practice, what can you do to best master those things without being in practice? That’s what I’ll be working on.”

Beck says that for the next two weeks, he will watch every offensive snap that the Redskins took this past season, breaking down how McNabb and Grossman directed the offense, how they read the defenses, what worked, what didn’t work and what should have happened instead. His aim is that when the Redskins report for offseason workouts, he’ll take the field displaying a strong command of the offense and impress coaches regardless of who he is competing against for the job. And he believes that the head-start he got late this season will prove beneficial in many areas, even details that might seem insignificant to most.

“No question, it was good of getting those three weeks of running plays with our first-team guys,” Beck says. “Just even taking a snap from Casey [Rabach]. I’d never taken a snap from him, and that might seem like something simple to a man on the outside, but when you’ve been running plays with a different center for three-and-a-half months, and now you get up under somebody different, it feels different. So it was good just to get out there with Casey, with those backs, with the receivers. Running an option route with [Santana Moss], I’d never thrown to him before, so it helps now to have that.”

Going from being on another roster at the start of training camp, to third-string for 15 weeks to starter in 2011 may sound like an improbable quest. But if the last season has shown anything, the NFL -- and especially the Washington Redskins -- is anything but predictable. And so, John Beck’s mindset is, if he continues to work like he has, anything is possible.

“It’s crazy, you never know,” the quarterback says. “So my goal this offseason is just to become the best I can be until we report. Because you can get better without practices.”

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