- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Teams aren’t scoring on the Washington Redskins defense — only 12.3 points a game, which is tied for fourth in the NFL.

But Seattle’s touchdown drives of 85 and 91 yards last week showcased two areas in which assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams wants to see improvement: third-down efficiency and sacks.

Entering Sunday’s game at Denver, the Redskins are 26th in third-down defense (45.2 percent) and 30th in sacks (four).

Seattle converted six of 12 third downs, including five chances on its touchdown drives, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was sacked only once in 39 drop-backs.

“I would like to see us off the field better on third down,” Williams said yesterday. “We have to get better at that to win close ballgames.”

Williams said the Redskins’ goal in third- and fourth-down situations is limiting opponents to about 30-percent efficiency. Opponents are a combined 20-for-44 on third and fourth down — 45.4 percent. Last season, they were 31.6 percent.

The Redskins had 40 sacks last year, but this season teams have used max-protect schemes — keeping an extra blocker to pass block — to thwart the blitz.

“They’re doing an awful lot of that, and we have to do our job of countering that,” Williams said. “Each team has had a different form of it, and some teams have used it in almost all third-down situations.”

Linebacker Marcus Washington chalked up Seattle’s touchdown drives to “a couple of mental things. A bad half for us.”

Portis on LaVar

Redskins running back Clinton Portis conducted his weekly group interview wearing an oversized pair of retro glasses so “I could feel like a star in front of all these [television] lights.”

“It’s a special opportunity,” he said of returning to Denver on Sunday. “But at the same time, we’re going there to win as a team. It’s not about me. It’s not about Champ [Bailey].”

Portis also was asked about LaVar Arrington’s lack of playing time.

“I wouldn’t say that this team is better served by not having a guy of his caliber on the field. I think we need that guy on the field,” Portis said. “But I’m not the defensive coordinator. As a team, we all know that he has talent. … I can’t go to [Williams] and say, ‘Put him out there right away.’ ”

During yesterday’s practice, Arrington participated in special teams drills.

Legal or illegal?

The blocking techniques of the Denver offensive line have been under scrutiny for years, and opponents have accused the Broncos of dirty plays like cut blocks and leg whips.

“From a defensive point of view, you’re like, ‘It’s a cheap shot because I’m on the ground,’ ” Washington said. “If I’m on the sidelines and the Redskins are blocking that way, I’ll be like, ‘That block is legal.’

“They definitely coach cutting in Denver and how if you don’t get the defensive player the first time to continue to roll and get them with a second effort and maybe the leg whip on the third effort.”

Said safety Ryan Clark: “The size of their offensive linemen mean they can cut block or crack back a little more. We’re definitely [aware] of that.”

Extra points

Cornerback Walt Harris (calf) remains questionable and did not practice yesterday. Kicker John Hall attempted a few kickoffs during the first portion of practice. …

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (hamstring) remains questionable, but he practiced yesterday. …

The Redskins might encounter some bad weather Sunday in Denver. The forecast calls for thunderstorms and a high of 62 degrees.

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