- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Just call the Redskins “Team Despite.”

Despite having the fifth-worst scoring offense in the NFL, Washington is 3-0.

Despite recording only four sacks — third worst in the league — the Redskins lead the NFC East.

And in the most mind-boggling statistic of the Redskins’ surprising start, they remain undefeated despite being minus-4 in turnover ratio.

“It’s living very dangerously,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “The stats show that you don’t really win in those situations. Basically, we’ve been defying the odds.”

The Redskins are tied for 24th in turnover ratio. Washington was 1-4 when it lost the turnover battle last year, and coach Joe Gibbs knows it will catch up to the Redskins eventually, possibly Sunday at Denver.

“We’re going against all odds,” Gibbs said. “We can’t do that. We have to protect the football, and we have to find some way to get the football.”

The league’s other three unbeaten teams have positive ratios: Cincinnati (plus 13), Tampa Bay and Indianapolis (both plus 3).

Twelve teams have a negative turnover margin, and the Redskins are the only one with a winning record.

“It’s a priority for us every week,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “We would hope that we would produce some bigger plays that way.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team won three straight games while losing the turnover battle was Green Bay last season, so it’s not unprecedented.

“This is a field position game, and if you don’t shorten the field, you won’t score points because everybody in this league punts well,” Gibbs said. “It really concerns me. We have to fix that.”

Unlike a lot of issues last season, this isn’t just an offense-only problem. The Redskins defense ranks fifth in yards allowed but has forced only two turnovers — a Lemar Marshall interception and Cornelius Griffin fumble recovery against Chicago. The Redskins’ six giveaways are tied for 12th in the league, and only Baltimore, Houston and Green Bay have fewer than the Redskins’ two takeaways.

“It’s definitely not how we wanted to start the season,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “Where it starts is a defensive back getting an interception and the defensive line batting balls down and stripping the running backs.

“We’ve had a lot of missed opportunities because we might get a fumble and aren’t able to recover it. If we keep working on it, things will start rolling our way.”

Said Williams: “In a lot of the years I’ve coached, turnovers come in bunches.”

Among the few shortcomings on defense last year for the Redskins were sacks (40) and fumble recoveries (eight). Those two characteristics happen to be a strength of linebacker LaVar Arrington, who has 22.5 career sacks and 11 forced fumbles.

Arrington played two snaps against Seattle.

“He’s doing better; he’s improving,” Williams said. “He has a really good team attitude, and as he improves, he’ll play more. Right now, we’re playing as well as we can play with the people we are playing and the guys who have put the most time in. There could be a chance [Arrington] might spring out this week.”

Williams said Arrington, who worked in special teams drills for the first time yesterday, is seeing a regular amount of work in practice.

“Every day is an opportunity. Every day is an interview,” Williams said. “We’re a pretty old-school coaching staff. You have to do it in practice if you’re going to do it in the game. I’m not going to relent on that. We try to give everybody the reps they’re supposed to have.”

Whether Arrington becomes a factor in the defense remains to be seen. Regardless, the Redskins have to find a way to recover more than one of the seven fumbles by their opponents.

“We’ve had opportunities when the ball has been on the ground, but we haven’t been able to get it,” Gibbs said. “I know it’s a big stress for our defensive coaches. We’ve racked our mind to come up with something different, but so far we haven’t been able to find the answer.”

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