Redskins' passing game and poor play of Clark are catching Gibbs' attention PRO FOOTBALL

November 03, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Reading between the lines, coach Joe Gibbs appeared to send a subtle message to Gary Clark yesterday: no practice, no play.

In the wake of the Washington Redskins' 24-7 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night, he singled out the passing game "as the area we're most disappointed in."

Gibbs also said one of the things hurting the Redskins is that they have several injured starters who can't practice.

"We had some guys who missed practice last week, and they didn't play well. That's going to happen if you don't practice," Gibbs said.

As far as actually benching any starters, he said, "We'll have to try and make a decision probably on an individual basis to give some guys a chance to get healed up. That may mean we play some other guys and give them an opportunity."

When you add all these items together, Clark seems to be the most likely target.

The two starting outside linebackers, Wilber Marshall and Andre Collins, didn't practice last week, but nobody is suggesting they're going to be benched.

"As a coach, do you say, 'Hey, Wilber, you're not going to play,' " Gibbs said as he chuckled. Marshall is having his best season.

Clark is a different story. He often skips practice because of his sore hamstrings, and he's not playing well right now. He caught 22 passes in the first four games and 12 in the past four.

The Redskins have a player who can step in for Clark: Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard.

Except for the series when Art Monk set the reception record against the Denver Broncos, Howard -- who has yet to catch a pass -- has been limited to duty on the special teams where he is playing well. Wayne Sevier, the special teams coach, said Howard made a "great block" on Brian Mitchell's 84-yard punt return for a touchdown.

It's not Gibbs' style, though, to publicly suggest a rookie is going to replace a veteran.

That's why it wasn't surprising that when he was asked about

playing Howard, he said it would be difficult to replace a member of the Posse.

"I think we'd like to get him in on offense. It's a tough thing to do when you've got three good receivers [Clark, Monk and Ricky Sanders] and try and get him involved over there. We'll try and get him in as much as we can," Gibbs said.

The next move is up to Clark, who wasn't available for comment yesterday. The Redskins start practicing tomorrow for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

If Clark practices all week, it's not likely that Gibbs would bench him.

But if Clark doesn't practice, that could give Gibbs an excuse to get Howard into the game.

Gibbs, though, wouldn't single out any players for the problems in the passing game, although quarterback Mark Rypien is the lowest rated passer in the NFC at 68.8. The Redskins haven't scored an offensive touchdown in 11 quarters and have scored fewer offensive touchdowns (11) than 23 other teams.

"We're just a little bit off in the whole passing game," he said. "One time, it's a little bit of a step here [pass protection], one time it's the receiver, the next time the throw is off a tad. I think it's a little bit out of sync."

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