- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

The numbers confirm why Ryan Clark said the Washington Redskins’ performance last week at Tampa Bay “set defensive football back 20 years.” Five completions of 20-plus yards. Three touchdown passes and 279 passing yards allowed. Zero interceptions or sacks in 29 pass attempts.

The Redskins were first against the pass two weeks ago, but foundation cracks have developed in a win over Philadelphia and last-minute loss at Tampa Bay.

It doesn’t get any easier today for the Redskins (5-4), who face a gotta-have-it game against an Oakland Raiders offense that features the league’s sixth-best passing attack and standout receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.

The run defense has held up without tackle Cornelius Griffin. Now it’s the entire defense’s task to start getting sacks and interceptions and preventing the coverage breakdowns that have led to field-flipping completions.

“We have to try and unsettle [Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins] as much as we can,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “He has arguably one of the most talented receiving corps in the NFL as his weapons.”

Williams’ challenge this week has been to figure out who to put on Moss, Porter, third receiver Doug Gabriel and, when he leaves the backfield, running back LaMont Jordan.

Overshadowed by former Redskins coach Norv Turner’s return to FedEx Field is Moss’ own journey back. In last year’s regular season finale at FedEx, Moss caught five passes for 66 yards and one touchdown but created waves when he left the Minnesota Vikings sideline with a second remaining and his team losing 21-18. His mooning gesture to Green Bay fans the next week further accelerated his trade to Oakland.

Moss, despite an assortment of injuries — this week’s report lists groin, rib and pelvis injuries — has made an impact with a team-high 629 receiving yards and five touchdown catches.

“Guys who are marquee playmakers, they show the leadership to answer the bell,” Williams said. “The top guys in this league are accountable and available every week.”

Moss caught a season-high six passes last week against Denver.

“They use him very effectively, and they don’t let you get a read on where he is so you can put one coverage in and say we’ll run it to this side or to that formation every time,” Clark said.

As of late, the Redskins have played a variety of zone defenses, so that lessens the chances of seeing cornerback Shawn Springs assigned exclusively to Moss.

The Redskins’ general defensive belief is not to engage in one-on-one matchups, keeping Springs on the left side and Walt Harris on the right. Rookie Carlos Rogers will be the nickel cornerback. As a Redskin, Springs said the only game-long, one-on-one matchup he has played was against Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson last year. Johnson made six catches for 89 yards in a 17-10 Bengals victory.

“Coach Williams doesn’t believe in that — he’s about each guy doing his job,” Springs said. “He believes in you playing your side of the field. I line up on the left side and see what happens.

“It’s hard to do in the league because teams have more than one option and they move them around — they can always find ways to get you off a guy if they want to.”

Said cornerbacks coach DeWayne Walker: “We’re going to stay with what we do. We’re fortunate to have three pretty good guys, so we’re able to leave guys at home and play. I’ve been at places where you have one good corner and one average one and you try to scheme things up to give your lesser guy some help and keep the better guy in a one-on-one situation.”

Williams said he doesn’t rule out assigning corners to specific receivers for a handful of plays.

“We’ve played matchups this year where we’ve assigned guys coming out of the huddle,” he said. “It depends on where we think the matchup is best, and it also depends on throwing the other team off guard. We don’t do it regularly, but we want to surprise teams when we do it.”

Where the Redskins face their biggest issue is after Moss. Porter has 41 catches and three touchdowns, third receiver Gabriel has 20 catches and Jordan leads Oakland with 47 catches.

“Trouble is, they come at you in waves,” Clark said. “It’s tough to go in saying, ‘We’ll try and stop them this way.’”

Containing Porter is just as important as limiting Moss because No.2-type receivers who aren’t as good as Porter have burned the Redskins. Eagles rookie Reggie Brown had five catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, and Tampa Bay’s Edell Shepherd made three catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

The return of Taylor from a right ankle injury helps the Redskins because he’s better in coverage and can patrol the middle of the field better than his replacement last week, Pierson Prioleau.

“We’re liable to see it all,” Walker said. “We better be ready to roll.”

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