In 0-2 hole, Portis, Redskins ready to run against Texans

Washington seeks to revive offense against NFL's lowest-ranked defense

September 24, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- Aside from the fact that Charlie Casserly has been the general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, these two NFL franchises share little in the way of history.

The Redskins are one of the league's oldest teams and have won three Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs.

The Texans are the league's newest team and have had four straight losing seasons and two coaches during their brief existence.

But the Redskins and Texans are in the same situation going into today's game at Reliant Stadium: Each is looking for its first win of the 2006 season.

The only difference is that the Redskins (0-2) were picked to be a playoff contender and the Texans (0-2) were supposed to be in their perpetual state of rebuilding under first-year coach Gary Kubiak.

Asked if his team has "gotta" win this game, Gibbs said: "Gotta? I'd sure hope to, but I don't think `gotta.' That's me personally. There've been some wild things happen up here."

Veteran tackle Jon Jansen had a different perspective.

"They're all need-to-win," Jansen said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. Until we get back to .500, we've got to get back on schedule. We've got to get back to where we need to be and then we can talk about possibly being good. Until then, they're all need-to-win games."

With the return of Clinton Portis as their starting - and Gibbs hopes finishing - running back, the Redskins plan on using an old formula in trying to get their new offense playing with more explosiveness than in the losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys.

Pound the ball.

"They can expect a full-throttle Portis," said Portis, who gained 39 yards on 10 carries against the Vikings and scored the team's only offensive touchdown this season before sitting out Sunday's 27-10 loss in Dallas with soreness in his left shoulder. "If they give you the opportunity to carry the team on your back, you want to do it."

Kubiak is certainly prepared for Portis, having been the offensive coordinator when the two were together in Denver.

"I see the same guy," Kubiak said. "He has tremendous speed if he gets in the back end. He can make a big play. The thing that always impressed me about him as a player is that he is a tough player. If he is in there on protection, he will chip an end or help his tackle. He plays the game physical."

Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, who was sacked six times by the Cowboys, is looking forward to having Portis in the backfield.

"We've said it all along: Clinton's strength is when he has the ball, but when he doesn't have the ball, he's blocking for guys, he's getting downfield. He plays with a lot of passion," Brunell said. "He's going to be a great help to us this week."

Said wide receiver Santana Moss: "We need a boost some kind of way from somebody from somewhere. It really doesn't matter who's running or who's doing it; any way we get a boost we'll take it."

That the Texans have given up the most yardage of any NFL team - an average of 478 per game - is partly a byproduct of who they have played. Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns in the opener, and Peyton Manning went for 400 yards and three touchdowns last week.

"The key is that Donovan and Peyton are two very good quarterbacks. They've been in their system for a while and they've had a lot of success, not to mention they're surrounded by a pretty good cast," Brunell said. "They had some big-play opportunities, they took advantage of them. Hopefully we can do those type of things."

Not that the Redskins are overlooking the Texans. After the way things have gone from the start of the preseason - six straight defeats counting the exhibitions, and being outscored 150-53 - the Redskins wouldn't be overlooking the local Boys Club team.

"It's not like we've got something coming to us," Moss said. "I don't think we're thinking like that. We've got to go out and take care of our business regardless of what they're ranked or who we're playing against."

In truth, Gibbs doesn't know what to expect from his team.

"I don't have a clue," he said after practice Friday. "We have smart guys, they're hard-working guys and they're tough guys. It's always tough to go on the road. There's a team that went 3-1 in the preseason and we weren't able to win a game. There's not much as a coach you can tell them. They can figure it out in advance. Hopefully they figured this one out."

Keys to the Game

The quarterbacks

The quarterbacks both wear No. 8, but that's where the similarities end. Washington's Mark Brunell, who turned 36 last Sunday, could be one more loss away from losing his job to Jason Campbell. David Carr, at 27, is showing signs of living up to his No. 1 draft pick status. Carr leads the league in completion percentage (75.5) and is second among starters in passer rating (123.7). Brunell is 25th (67.7).

Portis and Dayne

Much has been made about Clinton Portis reviving Washington's running game, ranked 18th at 98 yards a game, and he should give it a boost if he doesn't reinjure his left shoulder. But the Texans have been even worse -- they're ranked 21st at 89 yards a game -- and the recently signed Ron Dayne has been promoted to the starting lineup.

The defenses

The Texans passed on Reggie Bush and picked Mario Williams to bolster the defense, but the former North Carolina State star has yet to make an impact in the NFL on a unit ranked last in the league. The Redskins are ranked 23rd, allowing an average of 338 yards, and have forced only one fumble.

[ Don Markus]

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