Setback isn't total loss for Redskins

Stingy defense, growth of offense encouraging vs. Bengals despite 0-2 record

Pro Football

August 21, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Even the staunchest Washington Redskins fan might be hard-pressed to find anything positive in the team's 0-2 preseason record.

But to some of the players, superseding the turnovers, penalties and erratic play are signs that the defense is still formidable and that the offense appears - however slightly - to be improving.

In the 24-17 loss to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals on Friday night, Washington offered a glimpse of what its offense can do, and the results were somewhat encouraging.

The Redskins posted 210 yards of offense against Cincinnati's first-team defense in the first half. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who threw two poor interceptions, led the unit on two scoring drives. And just imagine if an inflamed elbow hadn't kept running back Clinton Portis on the sideline.

"We were definitely in attack mode," said wide receiver James Thrash, who caught a 25-yard touchdown strike from Ramsey that gave Washington a brief 7-0 lead in the first quarter. "Obviously, there are some small things we need to correct, but I thought we were a lot more aggressive than a week ago, and that's a good sign."

A week ago, the Redskins' first-team offense slogged its way to an uninspired performance against the Carolina Panthers. In charge of leading a passing attack revamped to go deep, Ramsey struggled to an 8-for-12, 77-yard night and didn't complete a pass for more than 20 yards.

On Friday, Ramsey was 9-for-18 for 190 yards. Perhaps more importantly, he connected on three completions of more than 20 yards - passes of 46 and 30 yards to wide receiver David Patten and the touchdown toss to Thrash.

Last season, Washington ranked last in the league in pass plays of 20 yards (27) and 40 yards (four).

"I feel better about the passing game," said Ramsey, who did prematurely end two promising drives with interceptions to Bengals Pro Bowl cornerback Tory James. "I'm not going to say I'm pleased in any way because of what happened. But we had some big plays, and that's something we've been lacking, and that's something we've got to finish on."

It wasn't all rosy for Ramsey, however, who was booed by fans after missing a few open receivers and throwing the interceptions. Backup Mark Brunell stirred up the competition by completing 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards with no interceptions, but coach Joe Gibbs continued to endorse Ramsey as the No. 1 candidate to start against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 11.

"When you play quarterback, there's a chance to make some bad [plays]," Gibbs said. "If we can get rid of those plays and he becomes more consistent, I think that's going to come with playing time. We just need to play him and get him in a groove."

Washington has other areas to worry about, too. The offense has committed seven turnovers and the defense has just earned one takeaway in two games. The team has committed 12 penalties, compared with the combined four of the Panthers and Bengals.

The defense, however, looked solid against Cincinnati. Running back Rudi Johnson, who finished sixth in the race for last year's rushing title, gained just 20 yards on 10 carries, and the Bengals' first-team offense scored its two first-half touchdowns with most of the Redskins' first-team players done for the night.

Next for Redskins

Preseason matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Washington Redskins (0-2)

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 5/1430 AM, 106.7 FM

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