Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache says fellow assistant Dale Lindsey is one of the most candid people he has met.
"Don't ever ask him a question unless you want a brutally honest answer," Blache said. "And I emphasize the word 'brutal.' "
Blache isn't one to sugarcoat either, and his target this week has been the defensive line, which he coaches. Asked whether he was satisfied with the line's progress halfway through the preseason, Blache didn't hesitate.
"We have a long way to go, a long, long way to go," he said. "I'm disappointed with our technique. It's not as sharp as it should be at this point of camp. And our production has been erratic at best. We have a lot of ground to cover, and we have two games to go and I haven't seen a lot of things I was hoping to see out of this group."
Said defensive tackle Joe Salave'a: "[Compared] to this time last year, we're behind. It's fixable, but we're behind. There's a little urgency to get better."
Carolina and Cincinnati combined for 14 rushing first downs, 51.6 third-down efficiency and -- most alarming -- 115.5 rushing yards a game.
"I was hoping to see us step up and have big improvement," Blache said. "The improvements have been marginal, and in a couple cases, some guys have -- I don't want to say regressed -- but haven't progressed at all. Right now I'm not really thrilled."
The unofficial depth chart lists the same starters as last year: ends Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels and tackles Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin. Tackle Brandon Noble returns this week from an injury and second-year player Ryan Boschetti has impressed. Ron Warner, who played in 14 games last year, has fallen to third string at left end behind Wynn and Nic Clemons.
Against Pittsburgh tomorrow night, the first defense will play into the third quarter in its final major tune-up for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Chicago.
"That's the bad news," Blache said. "The good news is we have two more weeks. Friday night will be a big test for us because we'll play the first group for a long time and see what they can do against a team that was 15-1 last year. The Steelers have manhandled people on the field [this preseason]. This will be a big test for us."
Noble ready to go
Brandon Noble, who missed the first two preseason games because of a staph infection in a leg, confirmed he will play tomorrow night.
Noble said the preseason is about whether "both my knees can withstand what they're going to have to withstand. I have to believe it. Right now it's about getting back into the flow of things and seeing things. It will take me a couple of weeks, but I would like to get this game and the next game under my belt."
Noble has not been told how much he will play.
"There's no plan, but I've been working for the last two weeks, and I'd like to get out there and play a little bit," he said.
Kicker John Hall was absent from practice, sent home earlier in the day after running a fever. Punter Tom Tupa (back) will miss his second straight preseason game.
"He's still sore," coach Joe Gibbs said of Tupa. "We're getting all the treatment that we can hoping that he will bounce back."
Rookie Andy Groom will handle punting duties against the Steelers. He averaged 44.8 yards against Cincinnati.
"Andy's got a strong leg, but like most young guys he's got to show that he has a total game," special teams coach Danny Smith said. "You can't just bang the ball. You've got to be able to pooch. You've got to be able to directional. You've got to be able get out of the end zone."
Others not practicing were safety Ryan Clark (knee), tight end Robert Royal (shoulder), cornerback Walt Harris (calf) and receiver Taylor Jacobs (toe). All are unlikely to play tomorrow.