- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

They’re in Jim Zorn’s corner and don’t believe some of his decision-making should place him under fire.

They’re not in finger-point mode at an offense that can’t score touchdowns or a defense that can’t make third-down stops.

And they’re in full agreement that a disappointing 1-2 start can be turned around starting Sunday against Tampa Bay.

The message conveyed in the Washington Redskins’ locker room Monday morning in the aftermath of their 19-14 defeat to the Detroit Lions was one of optimism.

But it came with a caveat: The Redskins’ quality of play the last two games can’t continue.

“Seriously, this is the lowest note we’ve been on in a long time,” center Casey Rabach said. “Everybody has a sense of urgency, and things need to get fixed and need to get fixed in a hurry.”

Coach Jim Zorn continues to point at “small things” that are hurting the Redskins, but he appears to be on the cusp of denial when it comes to just how flawed his team is just three games into the season.

Whereas observers see a 1-2 team that has one non-garbage-time offensive touchdown and a defense that is allowing opponents to convert 51 percent of their third-down chances, Zorn sees something else.

“In the big picture, things are progressing - we’re getting better,” he said. “We’re continuing to press on and take care of those details. … We have tremendous talent on this football team. As coaches we have to make sure we’re putting our guys in the right spots and giving them an opportunity and when they have that opportunity, they have to go out and make a play.

“We’re doing it at times and we’ve been doing less than that at times.”

Uneven play has plagued the Redskins. They make stops on first and second downs but then give up a third-and-long play. They get back in the game with a 57-yard touchdown pass and respond with a turnover and three punts.

“We’re just not consistent enough throughout the game,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “We show the ability to make big plays, we show the ability to make normal plays. Our problem is that we don’t execute every time and put ourselves in bad situations like penalties, sacks, runs for negative yards. Those are plays that really hurt us offensively.”

Offensively, the playcalling has come into question, but the players said Zorn isn’t the problem. And Zorn isn’t involved with a defense that couldn’t disrupt rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford with any regularity.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers said a coaching change wouldn’t do any good.

“What’s that going to do? Make the team better?” he said. “He has a lot of stuff on his plate to worry about and then control the team. A lot of us are still here for him, I think.”

But Rogers does see a problem.

“We don’t have an identity,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to be on offense. I don’t know what we’re going to be on defense. Until we establish ourselves as a whole group, that’s when things will work out better for everybody.”

Countered Zorn: “We lost a game and after a big loss like that, I can imagine there are a lot of things that go through guys’ minds. And it is a thought. I don’t have that thought.”

Zorn also scoffed at cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s assertion the Redskins lack the fight they displayed throughout last year.

“I don’t have any problem with him saying that, but I don’t have a comeback for him,” Zorn said.

Despite those two disagreements, Zorn was adamant that he hasn’t lost the locker room.

“I would be really surprised” if that was the case, he said. “I think we have excellent men in that locker room. I think our captains are doing a wonderful job of keeping our guys together and really [taking] positive things from the game and trying to alleviate the negative plays.”

One of those leaders, defensive co-captain London Fletcher, will be on alert this week to ensure the focus remains high and a losing streak doesn’t begin against the winless Buccaneers.

“You try to get guys to stay together and understand that it’s the third game of the season and we’re still early,” Fletcher said. “But we can’t allow a snowball effect to take place when one loss turns into two losses and three losses and everything gets out of control. We can’t allow any negativity to creep in amongst us. If you see it, you need to definitely nip it in the bud.”

Said defensive end Andre Carter: “You can only say so much. I already know what’s expected of myself, and I know what’s expected out of the other [veterans]. Talking can do great things but it can only go so far. This is a veteran team. We’re responsible enough as individuals to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

But if a veteran or captain is compelled to speak up, it has to be the right time and with the right player. If it’s the wrong time with the wrong player for the wrong reasons, it’s just noise and only creates more chaos. And that could invite finger-pointing.

“I’m sure in any locker room there’s going to be some finger-pointing but definitely not from this guy,” Rabach said. “Everybody needs to look at the film and if you weren’t perfect on every play, you’re part of the problem and not the solution.”

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