Redskins aim to kick costly turnover habit

Gibbs wants improvement against Steelers tonight

Pro Football

August 26, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Now that they've turned it on, the Washington Redskins have to prevent turning it over.

The Redskins' beleaguered offense provided a glimpse of its revamped style against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, accumulating 392 yards - 291 via passing - in its first positive showing of the preseason.

But Washington committed three turnovers in the game and suffered a 24-17 loss, falling to 0-2 in the preseason. Afterward, coach Joe Gibbs brimmed with anger at his team's inability to protect the football, and the point of emphasis this week has been cutting out turnovers.

"We all know that the turnovers cost us some points," said quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who threw two interceptions that ended promising drives into Bengals territory and has thrown three interceptions this preseason. "If we're going to move the ball that successfully, we have to put the ball in the end zone."

Not hanging onto the football has become a yearly epidemic in Washington. Since 1999 - the last time the Redskins qualified for the playoffs - the team has averaged 31.2 turnovers a year.

Last season, Washington coughed up the ball 27 times, its lowest total since surrendering the ball 25 times in 1999. But in two preseason games this year, the Redskins have committed seven turnovers.

"They're pretty much the reason why we've lost the last couple of games," said offensive tackle Jon Jansen. "We need to come out and eliminate the turnovers, and we need to eliminate mistakes."

So far, Gibbs isn't fining players who fail to protect the ball in practice, a tactic that former coach Steve Spurrier applied in 2002 as Washington stumbled its way to 40 turnovers.

But Gibbs hasn't exactly hidden his feelings, according to wide receiver David Patten.

"It was something he was very upset over," he said. "There aren't too many things that upset Coach, but he knows that turnovers are so hard on a team, and he knows that we can't afford them, either."

So what can players do to protect the ball? Patten said the focus has been on fundamentals.

"Take care of the little things," he said. "You've got to practice every detail and aspect of your game. Many times you think about running the right, precise route or making the right cut, and many times it's just taking care of the ball. That's something we didn't do."

Ramsey, who threw the ball on 20 of the Redskins' 28 first-half plays against Cincinnati, will likely get help from the return of running back Clinton Portis, who missed last week's game with an inflamed elbow. And the defense, which has recorded just one takeaway thus far, will welcome back from knee problems linebacker LaVar Arrington and defensive tackle Brandon Noble.

Retaining the football will be key in tonight's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field. The Steelers' defense ranked first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed last season, and the unit finished in the top half with 32 takeaways.

"Our guys are smart," Gibbs said. "We've got to understand that ... if you make a lot of yards and you turn the ball over, you don't score points. That's a tough lesson to learn. Maybe I'm looking at the good side of it. Maybe it's good that we're getting the lesson now."

Redskins tonight

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

Time: 8

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

Line: Steelers by 2 1/2

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