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TE LOGAN PAULSEN: Paulsen didn’t make a major impact on the game, but he played his role well. He isn’t known for having good hands, but he caught two passes for 48 yards, 25 of which came after the catch.

He turned out LB James Anderson in opening a hole for the first of two 17-yard runs by RB Tim Hightower in the first half. He slanted left off the snap, got his hands inside Anderson’s and kept his feet moving to turn Anderson out of the play. With TE Chris Cooley out for the season, we should see more of Paulsen in the coming weeks. If he can continue to contribute in the passing game, he would minimize any dropoff caused by Cooley’s absence.

K GRAHAM GANO: Gano made two more field goals, including one from 49 yards. If he keeps making them, he’ll keep getting his name on this list.


WR JABAR GAFFNEY: The reliable veteran committed some uncharacteristic miscues. He lost a fumble at the Redskins‘ 35-yard line with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Instead of helping advance the Redskins into field goal range or, at worst, escape to intermission tied, 6-6, the Panthers kicked a field goal that kept Washington at a safe distance for most of the second half. Gaffney didn’t appear to be particularly careless with the ball on the play, but he didn’t secure it. S Captain Munnerlyn jabbed the ball out from behind as Gaffney fought for extra yards.

Gaffney also dropped two potential catches. He failed to control a slant in the fourth quarter, and he also didn’t catch a long back-shoulder pass on the play before he fumbled before halftime. In his defense, the defensive back contested the back-shoulder throw. But Carolina WR Steve Smith caught several passes that Washington’s defensive backs made plays on. The Redskins will need Gaffney to be much sharper without WR Santana Moss on the field for at least the next five games.

C ERIK COOK: Cook’s play typified that of the entire line: Not entirely bad, but enough breakdowns to significantly stifle the offense. His worst play was the sack on fourth-and-2 on the opening series of the second half. The Redskins adjusted their protections several times during the game, but Carolina got the best of them on this play. Nose tackle Ronald Fields lined up over Cook and faked a pass rush before dropping into coverage. That fooled Cook, who didn’t recover in time for LB James Anderson to blitz past him and sack QB John Beck. The Panthers took over on downs, scored a touchdown two plays later to take a 10-point lead and controlled the game from there.

Cook was pushed back more often than Will Montgomery was when Montgomery played center. On one second-quarter run, DT Sione Fua got under Cook’s pads and drove him backwards into RB Tim Hightower’s path, and the play resulted in only a 1-yard gain.

RT JAMMAL BROWN: One negative play by Brown outweighs the positives. He surrendered a first-quarter sack/fumble to DE Antwan Applewhite after the Redskins had crossed midfield. Applewhite lined up very wide and Brown didn’t set far enough outside to protect the edge. He is susceptible to speed rushes because his feet aren’t as quick as, say, LT Trent Williams’. Applewhite turned the corner by breaking down Brown’s hands, and he stripped Beck. Beck held the ball for only 3.0 seconds and was in the act of throwing when he got hit.

On the positive side, Brown did protect well after halftime when the Redskins had to abandon the running game. On the offensive line, though, one mistake is all it takes to change a game.

LT SEAN LOCKLEAR: Locklear surrendered a sack to Pro Bowl DE Charles Johnson and was flagged twice for holding. Once he held a defensive end that also was penalized for jumping offside. Seems like an unfair rule to me, but I don’t make them up. The Redskins had to replay third-and-3 and were stopped (but bailed out by a Carolina penalty after the play). Johnson beat him with a spin move for a fourth-quarter sack. Locklear set wide and Johnson’s quickness caught him off balance. Locklear never really got his hands on Johnson.

One running play caught my attention: RB Tim Hightower’s 7-yard gain on the first play of Washington’s third series. The Redskins had it completely blocked except for CB Darius Butler on the right side of the defense. TE Fred Davis released to the linebacker before Locklear released. But instead of kicking out to Butler, Locklear followed Davis to the linebacker, and Butler and made the play. We can’t be sure whose responsibility Butler was, but the play might’ve gone for an 80-yard touchdown if he were accounted for.

WR LEONARD HANKERSON: Sorry, John Beck. Mike Shanahan’s postgame declaration that the interception intended for Hankerson should have been a back-shoulder fade told us who broke down on that play. Hankerson ran a go route instead. It was an inauspicious first play of his NFL career. The receiver position is one of the most difficult for rookies to grasp because of numerous route combinations that must be mastered. That play would indicate that Hankerson has much more growing ahead of him. I’m eager to see if Shanahan gives him another chance by activating him this week.


• Carolina didn’t challenge QB John Beck or the Redskins‘ patchwork offensive line with many blitzes. The Panthers rushed four or fewer defenders on 33 dropbacks and five or more on only nine.

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