- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

Given the dashed expectations and overall disappointment of last year”s 5-11 record, the Washington Redskins and their fans needed something uplifting to open a new season. Like, say, a victory over the Miami Dolphins.

That was accomplished, a 16-13 overtime win yesterday before 90,163 at sweltering FedEx Field, but it came with a steep price. Right offensive tackle Jon Jansen, a nine-year veteran and a mainstay of the Redskins” offensive line, injured his right ankle early in the second quarter and had to be carted off the field.

It was not known how long Jansen, who missed all of the 2004 season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, would be out. But the injury — a fractured dislocation — was considered serious, and no one is expecting his return any time soon.

“From what we can tell, it”s pretty bad,” said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who otherwise got the fourth year of his second term off to a good start as Shaun Suisham kicked a 39-yard field goal with 9:27 left in the extra period to win it.

Stephon Heyer, a rookie from Maryland who spent the preseason working at left tackle in place of then-injured Chris Samuels, replaced Jansen and did a credible job against what is considered to be one of the NFL“s better defenses.

“I was a little surprised because I hadn”t had any [work] at right tackle,” Heyer said. “None at all. It was a little tough. … It was a little different, but as the game progressed I got more comfortable.”

Third-year quarterback Jason Campbell opened the season for the first time as the starter and did not look comfortable early; his first pass of the game was intercepted. He also threw an interception in the third quarter. But the Dolphins, whose offense sputtered under the direction of new quarterback Trent Green, a former Redskin, could not capitalize on either turnover.

Throwing sparingly, Campbell finished with 12 completions in 21 attempts for 222 yards. The total was slightly misleading because 54 of the yards came on the freakish, final play of regulation. Campbell’s Hail Mary pass into the end zone was batted by a Dolphins defender into the arms of Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle-El, who caught the ball at the 6-yard line and almost scored for what would have been an incredible, game-ending score.

“I didn’t get down on myself,” Campbell said. “I didn’t want to start the opener that way, but as they always say, it’s not how you start but how you finish.”

Campbell has much to prove this year and so, too, in the opinion of many, does running back Clinton Portis. Expected to be an explosive weapon since he was obtained in a 2004 trade for All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey, Portis has had his moments. But he missed the final seven games last season with hand and shoulder injuries and watched from the sidelines as his replacement, Ladell Betts, performed well.

Portis underwent offseason shoulder surgery and suffered from tendinitis during the preseason. His ego was bruised, as well. He heard doubts about both his ability and durability. Vowing to play this year with a “chip on my shoulder” to prove the critics wrong, he went a long way toward achieving that goal yesterday, running for 98 yards on 17 carries.

Portis scored the Redskins’ only touchdown, a 19-yard dash in the third quarter, and carried four times for 34 yards on the drive leading to Suisham’s overtime field goal.

“I’m going to run with a chip on my shoulder from now on,” Portis said. Asked whether his performance meant he was sending anyone a “message,” he replied. “The message is: When I’m on the field, I’m going to give you what I’ve got.”

That was enough to beat the Dolphins, a team rebuilding under a new head coach, former Redskins assistant Cam Cameron. But it is doubtful that any big questions were answered. It was an inartistic game filled with mistakes by both teams. The Redskins, however, will take it.

“Offense made some plays. Obviously, there were some things we missed,” said Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls with the Redskins in his first tenure with the team but whose second coming has produced just a 22-27 record. “Defense would make a play, miss some things. It was just kind of back and forth.”

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