Redskins take stock, take hope from loss

Effort, upcoming game brighten team outlook

October 09, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - It was another correction session yesterday at Redskin Park after another double-digit loss the day before, but the Washington Redskins seemed collectively more chipper than in previous weeks.

Maybe the happier tone was caused by the fact that the Redskins played the New York Giants fairly evenly for 3 1/2 quarters of Sunday's 23-9 loss, or because, with the equally hapless Dallas Cowboys next on the schedule, there's a ray of hope for the season's first win.

Whatever the reason for the optimism, things appeared to be downright gleeful, compared to the first three Mondays following games.

"I think we're coming together more right now, especially since we've gone through a lot these last couple of games, with everybody down on us and we knew that all we had was ourselves. I think that brought us together," said middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell.

Indeed, tucked within the folds of a two-touchdown loss are pockets for hopefulness, as in a defense that played well against New York, surrendering only a touchdown, three field goals and 309 total yards.

"The whole thing about this game that I saw more than the previous three games was even when a guy made a mistake, they had guys to cover them," said defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson. "In our first couple of games, if a guy made a mistake, it showed really badly. This time, guys would have a breakdown here or there, but guys would cover for them. That was just a bigger sense of determination of getting to the ball."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer saw the same commitment to help that Wilkinson did, and was pleased, in relative terms.

"In this business, there are no moral victories. What is positive is I saw progress being made defensively on the front line relative to the run defense. We were getting guys fitting into gaps that they belonged in. We were getting plays made and, if the guy made his block and was not in position, somebody covered up for him and made a play," Schottenheimer said.

That progress might be slowed Monday in Dallas, following the beating Washington defenders took Sunday in New York.

Defensive lineman Bruce Smith's right shoulder dislocation has been added to a list that includes linebacker Shawn Barber, who is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and fellow end Marco Coleman, who has missed the last two games with an elbow ailment.

Smith was given a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday, the results of which showed no structural damage to the shoulder. But Schottenheimer said Smith will not practice this week, and the lineman declared himself out for two to three weeks after the Giants game.

Smith's absence will force the Redskins to shuffle a bit, moving Kenard Lang back to end at times, with linebacker LaVar Arrington even getting some time at end in nickel packages.

Meanwhile, the phrase of the week for the offense, which failed for a third time in four losses to get into the end zone, is third-down efficiency. The Redskins were a paltry 1-for-13 on third down Sunday, which effectively crippled what little attack they could muster.

Their third-down failures hurt running back Stephen Davis most. The NFC's second-leading rusher last season only carried the ball 12 times for 39 yards, and ran the ball only twice in the second half for no gain.

Quarterback Tony Banks didn't throw it particularly well either, completing only 13 of 31 attempts for 151 yards - 52 on one completion.

"It was good all-around effort, but it wasn't good all-around execution. You need both of those to be successful in this league," Banks said. "There was some improvement from last week, so if we keep improving, hopefully, we'll be able to show the world the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. What better time to get it going?"

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