'Skins defend offense

Dismal preseason numbers show new system isn't game-ready

August 30, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- The most frequently asked question in Washington these days has nothing to do with politics or the economy, which probably makes a certain resident of Pennsylvania Avenue relieved. The same can't be said for a certain Hall of Fame football coach.

The question is being asked on the carpool lines at schools and the sidelines of soccer tournaments, in chat rooms and corporate boardrooms. And, of course, it has been asked at Redskins Park, since this is the epicenter of the debate.

It will certainly be asked today, when the Washington Redskins hold their annual Welcome Home Luncheon at a hotel in Tysons Corner, Va.

What's wrong with the Redskins, particularly the offense?

While the defense looked pitiful in Saturday's 41-0 loss to the New England Patriots in Fox- borough, Mass., and special teams have been hampered by mistakes, the offense has been perplexing throughout the first three preseason games.

It has totaled two touchdowns -- neither by the first team -- and 17 points. Against the Patriots, the Redskins only made it inside the 20-yard line on one drive and gained 154 yards, the puniest output of a putrid preseason.

If you listen to new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, the Redskins are rolling up the yardage where it counts most -- in practice.

"For those of you who see practice, I think you see a totally different football team in terms of the strategy and the tactics that we utilize in a game," Saunders said this week.

"It's a process that we know works, it's a system that we know works and it's a procedure of developing an offensive football team that we've had success with over the years and we continue to do that."

Outside of practice, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs admittedly hasn't unleashed much of the new offense brought in by Saunders, but Gibbs is concerned that simple fundamentals such as protecting the quarterback and making the right reads are missing, too.

"Production-wise, we're disappointed, because I think we're doing enough," Gibbs said as the Redskins prepared for their preseason finale tomorrow night against the Ravens at FedEx Field.

"I don't list it as holding out anything. We're doing solid, sound stuff, and we should be able to perform and move the football with that. I don't look at it as that's the reason that we're not getting things done."

Since running back Clinton Portis partially dislocated his left shoulder making a tackle after an interception on the first series of the opening preseason game -- a 19-3 loss in Cincinnati -- the Redskins have done virtually nothing offensively.

Ladell Betts has rushed 10 times for 34 yards since being named starting running back. In 11 series, quarterback Mark Brunell has completed 14 of 31 passes for 162 yards and has yet to lead the team on a scoring drive.

The offensive line, nearly all coming back from injury, was spotty in the first two games and was a sieve against the Patriots, allowing Brunell to get sacked three times and forced out of the pocket on other occasions.

Saunders, who was brought in to improve a passing game that finished 21st in the league last year, doesn't appear too flustered by all the attention his unit's poor performance has brought in the preseason.

"You've seen a work in progress," Saunders said. "I don't like the zero [points against the Patriots], but there is a process that we're going through and that's taking a patient look at the players we have and putting them in position to see what we need them to do."

Asked if he's unhappy about the first-team offense not scoring, Saunders said: "I'm not happy if we don't score every time in practice. I know what the end product is going to look like, and I feel very confident that the players are developing their skills to be what we need them to be."

Though Gibbs went out of his way in his news conference Sunday to say he is pleased with what he has seen from Brunell, the 35-year-old left-hander has looked uncomfortable in the offense since throwing that early interception against the Bengals that resulted in Portis' injury.

"It's not a matter of what we're doing, it's how we're doing it," said Brunell, who will start against the Ravens. "We should have been better the other night and I really believe we will. I'm still as confident as I've ever been in this offense and in the guys I'm playing with. So I'm looking forward to getting back on the field and doing some good things."

Wide receiver Santana Moss believes that the offense will be productive once the regular season starts Sept. 11 against the Minnesota Vikings, but he admits that the preseason has been a bit wasteful.

"We need to get something out of this," Moss said. "From the outside looking in, you want to see something happen, you want to see the product that everyone is talking about work. That's how we are as players. When we're at practice, you say, `Man, that'll look good.' That's all you can go off of. "

Notes -- Unhappy with the performance of punter Derrick Frost, the Redskins brought in Eddie Johnson, but released him after one practice. ... The Redskins signed safety Vernon Fox. ... Running back Jesse Lumsden and defensive back Dimitri Patterson were cut. ... Moss sat out yesterday's practice with a slight leg strain.


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