Redskins' outlook for Pack up in air

Green Bay run defense is suspect, but Washington is uneven offensively

NFL Week 7

October 20, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Brett Favre can empathize with Patrick Ramsey.

Like the Washington Redskins' quarterback, Favre was a virtual unknown who took over for an injured Don Majkowski in the fourth game of the 1992 season and threw two touchdowns and zero interceptions to guide the Green Bay Packers to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Favre, who was in his second year, promptly lost his next three starts - tossing just two touchdowns against two interceptions and eight sacks.

So when asked how he would counsel Ramsey after the Redskins' rookie followed a two-touchdown, zero-interception debut in a victory over the Tennessee Titans with a four-interception, seven-sack outing in a 43-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, Favre wasted no time in preaching patience.

"In time, everything will slow down, and it will become easier," said the three-time Most Valuable Player. "The unfortunate thing is that along the way, you have to suffer a lot of bad times, and that's the only way you learn. I knew it when I was coming out. [Ramsey] probably knows it, but it still doesn't make it easier on Mondays."

While Ramsey's indoctrination to the NFL continues with today's 4:15 p.m. clash between the 2-3 Redskins and the 5-1 Packers at Lambeau Field, so too does the development of an offense that has mixed flashes of brilliance with clouded snapshots of inconsistency.

Which offense will Washington fans see today? The unit that turned the football over on its first four possessions last Sunday and found itself in a 20-0 hole? Or the offense that scored 27 points and gained 317 yards in the final three quarters against the Saints?

No one is really sure, but the Redskins' offense will face a Green Bay defensive unit that is battling the injury bug and some spotty play.

Defensive end Joe Johnson (torn triceps muscle) will miss the rest of the season. Strong safety Antuan Edwards (broken arm) and defensive end Vonnie Holliday (torn pectoral muscle) are doubtful for today's game; cornerback Mike McKenzie (strained groin muscle) and free safety Darren Sharper (pulled hamstring) are questionable; and defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt (foot) is probable.

The Packers' defense is ranked 16th in the NFL, allowing opponents 333.8 yards a contest. The run defense is especially suspect, giving up 121.3 yards a game.

That would seem to play into Washington's strength with Stephen Davis - the NFC's seventh-leading rusher with 357 yards and four touchdowns - in the backfield. But Davis carried just 14 times as the Redskins went to the air 43 times against New Orleans.

"That was a product of us always being behind by more than a touchdown," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Not many teams plan on throwing the ball 45 or 50 times. We don't plan on it, [but] we got way behind early, and we ended up throwing it."

Spurrier, who questioned his team's effort after last week's loss, has enforced his pledge to tinker with his starting lineup. He promoted wide receivers Derrius Thompson and Chris Doering over last week's starters, Rod Gardner and Kevin Lockett.

Gardner, who leads the team with 21 receptions for 331 yards, would start if Washington opens the game - as it usually has - in a three-receiver set.

David Loverne likely will return to his starting left guard position after a bruised thigh prevented him from playing last week. Wilbert Brown, who filled in for Loverne, is the front-runner to replace Brenden Stai (patella tendinitis) at right guard.

Whether the position shuffling will invigorate a Redskins offense ranked 21st in the league is up in the air. But Doering said the unit is optimistic about its chances.

"I think we can throw it and certainly with Stephen there, we can run the ball," he said. "As long as we don't fall into a hole like we did last week and have to resort to throwing it on almost every down, it gives us a much better chance to be successful."

Redskins today

Opponent:Green Bay Packers

Site:Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

Time:4:15 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line:Packers by 7 1/2

THREE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Protect the ball

Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey and the offense must do a better job of avoiding turnovers. One way to accomplish that is to give Ramsey more protection in the pocket. Either keep a running back in the backfield or line up a tight end as a blocker.

2. Make Stephen Davis a threat

The running back leads the team in touchdowns with four, but has carried only 83 times for 357 yards. Davis is a physical back who can pound a defense into submission. He has rushed 18 times or more in a game just twice this season, and both were victories. Coincidence?

3. Contain Brett Favre

Easier said than done, but football's version of Superman isn't invulnerable. Since the start of last season, Favre has tossed 11 touchdowns against 15 interceptions in the team's six losses. In the 18 wins over that span, Favre has registered 39 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

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