SPORTS

John Beck starting for Redskins against Carolina Panthers

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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Most of the intriguing personal stuff about Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck was learned during those time-killing days of the NFL lockout. He's an Eagle scout. He spent two years as Mormon missionary in Portugal. He loves to hunt.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Oh, he really loves to hunt. His eyes lit up last week when some wild turkeys wandered out of the woods next to Redskins Park while the team was practicing.

"He's like a big kid," tight end Logan Paulsen said. "He's always telling stories. He's talking a lot, telling jokes, loves to hunt. Loves life. Good dude. He's got a great demeanor in the huddle. Like he's calm, he's confident, because he knows what's going on. He's got a big smile on his face. He's serious about what he does, but you can tell he enjoys it."

Now it's time to find out what the 30-year-old former BYU standout is really like as an NFL quarterback. He's making his first start in four years when the Redskins visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

"A lot of people thought he was going to be the starter from the start (of the season), so it's no sense of panic or concern that John's back there under center," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "We feel confident with him out there. We've seen him pick us apart in practice, but game speed is a little different, things move a little bit faster, there's no repeats, so hopefully he'll go out there, he'll feel pretty confident and he'll get us a win. We need it."

It's hard to judge Beck on his four previous NFL starts, which came as a rookie for a 2007 Miami team that went 1-15. He's obviously older, wiser and better prepared this time around.

Last weekend, he was thrown into a difficult situation, entering in the fourth quarter with the Redskins trailing Philadelphia by two touchdowns after Rex Grossman was benched. Anyone looking for the obvious difference between Beck and Grossman saw it right away: Beck was nimble on his feet and eventually scored on a 2-yard quarterback draw, the type of play that no one would expect from Grossman.

The Redskins plan to take advantage of that mobility when they can.

"I'm not giving away a secret that Beck is faster than Rex," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "But he's not faster than all those guys on the defense. You can do a little bit more with his legs, but you can't totally depend on it."

Beck might be on the run more than he'd like. Because of injuries, the offensive line will have two new starters. The result will be a tackle-guard-center combination that is so unexpected that the threesome didn't even work together during training camp.

Sean Locklear gets the call at left tackle in place of Trent Williams, whose sprained right ankle is expected to sideline the former first-round pick for two to three weeks. Will Montgomery moves from center to left guard to replace Kory Lichtensteiger, out for the season with torn knee ligaments. First-year player Erik Cook is at center, making his first NFL start.

What helps is that the threesome played together for most of the Eagles games, leaving after the early injuries to Williams and Lichtensteiger. Cook made his NFL debut despite straining a calf muscle during warmups.

"I was a little hesitant, but when I got out there, it felt good and I played to the best of my ability," said Cook, a seventh-round draft pick out of New Mexico last year.

Locklear is an eight-year veteran with 78 NFL starts. He said he was disappointed he couldn't find a starting gig this season and decided to sign with the Redskins because he likes coach Mike Shanahan's zone blocking system, calling it "one of the easiest schemes to play."

"We got a chance to play about three quarters last week," Locklear said, "so we all know what we're doing."

But the focus, of course, will be on Beck. A week ago, the Redskins were preparing for one of their biggest regular season games in a decade, with a chance to put the Eagles away in the NFC East. They failed in so many ways: They lost the game, they benched their quarterback, and a pair of linemen went down. The decision to stay with Beck is seen by some players as evidence that the coach is determined not to let the season slip away.

"When you make a quarterback change like that, a standard is set," running back Tim Hightower said, "and I think it sends a very loud message to the rest of the guys on offense that, 'Hey, get your stuff together, we need guys to make plays, and it's not later, it's now.'"

Notes: There might also be a new starter on defense. S Oshiomogho Atogwe injured his knee in the first half against the Eagles. Although he finished the game, he sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday. ... CB Byron Westbrook also couldn't practice Thursday because of an ailing hamstring. He was injured during Wednesday's practice.

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