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Question of the Day
LANDOVER, MD. (AP) - Donovan McNabb needed one series to shake off the newness of his surroundings. Mike Shanahan pronounced himself pleased with his Washington Redskins debut. And Albert Haynesworth played second-string nose tackle, then actually talked about it.
McNabb went 5 for 8 for 58 yards in two series Friday night and hit first-year player Anthony Armstrong for a 4-yard touchdown in the Redskins‘ 42-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills. It was a first-glimpse preseason game that shows Shanahan is quite a bit further along in his rebuilding project than counterpart Chan Gailey.
“It was a good first game,” Shanahan said, “and hopefully we can build from here.”
The new-look Bills, meanwhile, looked like the same old Bills, making lots of mistakes and adding two running backs to their already lengthy injury list. Fred Jackson will miss the rest of the preseason with a hand injury, and Marshawn Lynch has an ankle problem that new coach Gailey hopes is “more short-term than it is long-term.”
“Thank goodness it’s preseason,” Gailey said. “When we get to early September, it’s going to be 0-0 on the win-loss column and thank goodness for that. But we’ve got to find who can do what in these next three ballgames and get ourselves ready for that first one.”
It’s been four months since the Easter Sunday trade that brought McNabb to the Redskins, and it’s still a jarring sight to see No. 5 in something other than a Philadelphia Eagles uniform. After a couple of wayward throws on his first series, he went 4 for 5 for 47 yards on his second drive and showed he still has some speed in his 33-year-old legs by scrambling to convert a third-and-1.
“When you play your first game, obviously, with a new ballclub, it takes you back to the first game you played,” McNabb said. “Your adrenaline is high, and you have to settle down a little bit. The second time we went out, after our first drive, it led to us putting up some points.”
McNabb’s favorite target was tight end Chris Cooley, who caught three passes for 33 yards - a surefire harbinger of the regular season, especially with the Redskins still trying to figure out their receiver corps. McNabb’s last throw was the TD to Armstrong, who has made a surprisingly strong case for a roster spot.
Clinton Portis, with more competition than usual at camp, got more than his usual work for a first preseason game, carrying six times for 22 yards. Brandon Banks, an undrafted rookie receiver from Kansas State listed at 5-foot-7, made some look-at-me noise with a dynamic 77-yard punt return down the right sideline for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Haynesworth, who ended up on the short end of a monthslong showdown with Shanahan, skipped offseason workouts because he wanted a trade to keep from playing in a 3-4 defense. He wasn’t allowed to practice at camp until passing a conditioning test. When he finally aced the test on the 10th day of camp, he was told he’ll have to play with the reserves until he earns a spot back in the starting lineup.
Haynesworth played two series Friday, both with the second unit in the second quarter, and he drew plenty of attention. Buffalo’s offensive line committed two false starts while he was in the game, and he did exactly what a nose tackle is supposed to do - occupy multiple bodies - while rookie Perry Riley blitzed unencumbered and forced Trent Edwards to rush a throw.
Haynesworth was the last player to head to the locker room at halftime, walking slowly behind his teammates. After the game, he took questions from reporters for the first time since last season. He said he has grown to like the Redskins‘ version of the 3-4 and is confident he can be a playmaker in the defense.
“I know I’m a good player,” he said, “and eventually I’ll be with the first team.”
“He’s the head coach. I’m a player,” Haynesworth said. “That’s what it is.”
Buffalo had a horrible preseason a year ago - the starting offense scored just three points over 15 series in five games - and Gailey and his players are hoping to use this August to get it right.
They’re not off to a good start.
The Bills scratched 13 players due to injuries, including five linebackers and four offensive linemen. Then Jackson and Lynch both went down on the offense’s opening drive. Buffalo also committed three morale-sapping third-down penalties.: holding on tight end Jonathan Stupar that killed a drive; roughing the passer on linebacker Aaron Maybin that kept one Redskins‘ touchdown drive alive; and illegal contact against Andra Davis that led to another Washington touchdown.
“We have a lot of work to do. A lot of work,” Davis said. “We’re still learning this defense. We’ll learn from this.”
Edwards, in a three-way competition for the starting job, completed 6 of 12 passes for 58 yards and had an interception returned 33 yards by DeAngelo Hall, setting up a Redskins score. Another mistake for the lowlight reel: Ellis Lankster muffed a punt for a turnover in the third quarter.
Buffalo trailed 35-3 before Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 5-yard pass to rookie David Nelson late in the third quarter. First-round pick C.J. Spiller debuted with four carries for 16 yards.
The Redskins scored their most points in a preseason game since 1988.
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