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No help on its way for Redskins

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

For the Washington Redskins, the bye is bleak. They have lost three straight games. Their 2-5 record ranks as the third worst in the conference. And the remaining schedule -- the Redskins play seven of nine games against teams with winning records -- is daunting, to say the least.

There will, however, be few, if any, changes in personnel for the Redskins during this bye week.

Coach Joe Gibbs promised a thorough schematic review of the offense and the defense the next two days. However, there are few moves Gibbs can make -- or, in the case of the quarterback, wants to make.

The talk shows and chat rooms clamor for young quarterback Jason Campbell to replace starter Mark Brunell, but Gibbs doesn't plan to give Campbell, for whom he dealt three draft picks to choose in the first round in 2005, practice reps with the first team.

"We love Jason," Gibbs said. "At some point, his time is going to come. Right now, that's not something that's a focus of mine."

Asked whether the 36-year-old Brunell's arm is strong enough, Gibbs said, "Mark can throw it wherever you want to throw it."

Brunell put up fine numbers in the Redskins' 36-22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns and a 106.4 quarterback rating. The numbers, however, were deceiving. The offense scored only seven points with the game in doubt, picking up a meaningless touchdown in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

The offense ranks seventh in the league in rushing and 13th in total yards in its first year under associate head coach Al Saunders.

The rest of that unit, like the quarterback position, also figures to remain unchanged.

The Redskins gave receiver Brandon Lloyd, the biggest disappointment among the skill position players, a huge contract during the offseason and don't figure to bench him in favor of older receivers David Patten or James Thrash. None of the reserve linemen is considered starter material.

The Redskins' defense, the linchpin of the past two seasons, has slipped badly. The Redskins rank 26th overall, 15th against the run and 29th against the pass.

"I'm embarrassed," defensive tackle Joe Salave'a said. "It's not the coaches. We're not living up to our part of the bargain."

Don't, however, expect much of a shakeup on defense, either.

Assistant head coach Gregg Williams said, as he has all along, that rookie linebacker Rocky McIntosh, the team's top draft choice, isn't ready to play, much less start. Safety Sean Taylor (drafted fifth overall in 2004) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (ninth in 2005) each started by the third game of their rookie years.

"We want Rocky to play more," Gibbs said. "He happens to be with some veteran guys who are playing at linebacker. He's a sharp young guy. We're trying to do everything to get him ready."

Young tackles Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery already play regularly. Vernon Fox, signed in August, and sixth-round pick Reed Doughty are safeties but really are considered special teamers. Reserve lineman Ryan Boschetti is an afterthought.

The Redskins could bench busts Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta, signed as free agents in the offseason, in favor of former starting end Renaldo Wynn and newly signed safety Troy Vincent. Those substitutes, however, would be significantly older than the players they are replacing.

"It has been a tough deal for Arch," Gibbs said of Archuleta, who has struggled badly in his transition from the St. Louis Rams to Williams' complex scheme. "He was thrown into a situation where we do a lot on defense. It's a big adjustment from where he was before. Hopefully, he'll get more and more comfortable."

Carter, who was supposed to energize the Redskins' long-dormant pass rush, has just two sacks almost at the midpoint of the season.

"Andre is certainly doing his part," Gibbs said. "When things aren't going well, there will be a lot of attention on that area."

Punter Derrick Frost ranks just 23rd in net average and is eminently replaceable, but changing punters wouldn't exactly make a significant difference. Nor would dumping Nick Novak, the team's second kicker of the year and its fourth in three seasons. Novak missed both of his field goal tries against the Colts.

The alternatives would have to come off the NFL scrap heap since there isn't a kicker or punter on the practice squad and the trade deadline has passed.

So what you see is what you get with the Redskins.

"It can't get any worse," Salave'a said.

Trouble for the Redskins is Salave'a is wrong.

The Redskins produced their lowly record with an offense that, for the most part, has been healthy. And with the difficult schedule ahead, things certainly could get much worse.