Limping 'Skins aim to put hurt on Cowboys

Washington fights injuries going into tonight's game

Redskins Vs. Cowboys

September 27, 2004|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - It started when right tackle Jon Jansen, who hadn't missed a game in five years as a starter, fell to the turf untouched in the Washington Redskins' opening preseason game with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

The Redskins (1-1) can only wonder if that was a bad omen. Since Jansen went down, the team has suffered a flurry of injuries that has made it difficult to establish continuity.

As the Redskins prepared to host the Dallas Cowboys (1-1) in an important divisional game tonight, they were piecing together a lineup that must account for injuries to Jansen, defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin tear), middle linebacker Mike Barrow (tendinitis) and - perhaps most important of all - linebacker LaVar Arrington. Arrington had surgery Thursday for a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and is expected to miss two to four weeks.

Barrow, a former New York Giant, might play his first game as a Redskin tonight, but Daniels is out at least two weeks. Washington will start Mark Brunell at quarterback despite a sore hamstring that limited him in practice much of the week.

Even kicker John Hall has two strained hamstrings but expects to play. He hurt the second on a kickoff in last week's 20-14 loss to the Giants. Bubba Tyer, who has been Washington's trainer for 32 years, said he's never seen a player pull both hamstrings - but that's the way the team's luck has gone of late.

The injuries have slowed Washington's progress, particularly on offense, and made the task of beating the Cowboys, who have won 12 of the past 13 meetings, more difficult.

Brunell, who limped to the sideline in the third quarter against the Giants, said the team needs to remain upbeat. His injury created another mini-quarterback controversy as the media wondered if backup Patrick Ramsey would need to be summoned. Gibbs named Brunell the starter on Saturday.

"We're not going to look at it as, `What if we lose?' " Brunell said. "We're going into this game optimistic. Obviously, they've got a great offense, a great defense. But we are going to be at home, and our thoughts are to go into this and do whatever we can to win."

Through two games, the Redskins have produced some statistics - particularly regarding turnovers - uncharacteristic of a Joe Gibbs-coached team. Most glaring is that Washington has five more giveaways than takeaways, which is tied for last in the conference.

"We fumbled the ball and turned it over," Gibbs said of the New York game. "The longest drive against us for a touchdown was 37 yards. We have to understand that somehow we have to play so much smarter than that. We have to be willing to punt the ball and take what is there."

As he watches video of Washington's first two games, Dallas coach Bill Parcells said he can't quite recognize the old Gibbs offense that the Redskins employed in the 1980s. Parcells coached the Giants from 1983 through 1990, and was 11-6 against Gibbs.

"There are some similarities [to the old offense] without question," Parcells said. "But I don't think he's got all of what he's going to eventually do. As he grows with the players and learns more about what they can do, I think we'll see different things."

Gibbs hasn't faced a Parcells-coached Dallas team before, but he knows what to expect from his old rival.

"I think they're very disciplined. I think they're very physical. They pride themselves on that," Gibbs said.

With the Redskins battling so many injuries, Gibbs exhorted Washington fans to make their presence known.

"If you're a fan ... what you want to see is a big game, something where there's a lot on the line and there's a lot of history behind it. And certainly this game has all that," Gibbs said.

WATCH FOR

TURNOVERS: The Redskins committed seven last week. If they have three or four tonight, will that be a moral victory?

TESTAVERDE FACTOR: Vinny Testaverde has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his first two games for Dallas, but he also has thrown damaging interceptions.

INJURY FACTOR: Injuries have thrust Redskins reserves into prominent roles. How will LB Lemar Marshall fare in place of LaVar Arrington, and can somebody step up to replace Julius Jones in the Cowboys' struggling running game? Will Redskins QB Mark Brunell be hampered by his sore hamstring?

The game

Matchup: Dallas Cowboys (1-1) vs. Redskins (1-1)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

Time: 9

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Redskins by 1 1/2

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