Two top assistants will return in ‘07

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Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday top lieutenants Gregg Williams and Al Saunders will be back next season even though the team has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Williams’ defense has crashed to 23rd in the league after ranking in the top 10 the previous two seasons. The offense is 17th in its first year under Saunders, who guided Kansas City’s NFL-leading offense from 2001 to 2005.

“When you’re 4-9, you’ve got a lot of questions,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got a set plan of what we want to do. We’ve got the people here we want to do it with. We’ve got people here we’ve got confidence in. … It does include Gregg and Al.”

O-line hurting

Casey Rabach had two pins placed in his broken left hand yesterday, but Gibbs is hopeful the center will be able to snap Sunday at New Orleans.

“We’re hoping,” Gibbs said. “It will be interesting to see how sore it is. What he thinks.”

Meanwhile, right tackle Jon Jansen broke his right thumb Sunday and has been playing on a badly strained right calf for a month. Jansen broke both thumbs last September but played the entire season and is confident the latest break will not keep him from playing.

“Our other concern is Jon,” Gibbs said. “He’s probably played three of his best games [since he hurt his calf]. He refuses to come out of there. It’s gotten a little worse each week. [But] we’ll have to see how it goes during the week.”

Rabach has started all 31 games since coming to Washington in 2005. Jansen has started every game during his eight seasons except for 2004, when he was sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon. Although backup center Mike Pucillo and reserve offensive tackle Todd Wade have been NFL starters, Gibbs doesn’t plan to make any changes unless forced to by injuries.

“Everybody who can play is going to play,” Gibbs said. “Each one of these games is critical for us. No experiments.”

Left tackle Chris Samuels didn’t come out Sunday after he sprained his right wrist blocking ex-teammate Jeremiah Trotter.

“I’m fine,” Samuels said. “It’s a little sprain. It’s nothing serious.”

Vincent plans to stay

Troy Vincent is 35, and hamstring injuries have limited him to just four games this season. However, Washington’s strong safety plans to return to the Redskins next season. While it was reported that Vincent signed a one-year deal with the Redskins on Oct. 17, it actually was a three-year contract.

“I’m not the answer, but I can help this defense,” said Vincent, who started last month against Dallas, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay before straining a hamstring against the Buccaneers and missing the next two games. “I can make [free safety] Sean Taylor better. When I’m on the field, there’s a presence that I bring. Last season was a good season in making the transition, but there were some things left on the table. There’s something I want to fulfill at the safety position, some things I want to accomplish, some things I want to prove to myself.”

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