- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Yes, it’s just preseason, but halfway though the NFL’s not-for-real games, the hype about the Washington Redskins being a serious Super Bowl contender is looking overblown.

The Redskins’ starting offense has yet to score. The starting defense, after a fine showing last week at Cincinnati, was burned last night by a New York Jets’ rookie for a 61-yard touchdown on a reverse. And the special teams, among the NFL’s best at covering kicks in 2005, allowed a 47-yard return on the opening kickoff and a deflating 87-yard touchdown immediately after Rock Cartwright had tied the game 7-7 with a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter.

Yes, it’s just preseason, but last night’s 27-14 loss to the Jets was uglier in two major aspects than the loss to the Bengals.

First, the starters acquitted themselves well in Cincinnati. It was the backups, some of whom won’t make the team who faltered. Second, the Bengals are the defending AFC North champions and were at home. The Jets, last in the AFC East in 2005, are still adjusting to a rookie coach younger than Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell and were playing on the road for the second straight week.

Preseason is supposed to be about the backups, especially for a team with no starting jobs up for grabs. However, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams was apparently so furious with his starters for giving up Brad Smith’s 61-yard touchdown dash that he played them for the entire first half. The regulars then surrendered a 23-yard scamper by third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger that set up Mike Nugent’s field goal to make it 17-7 just before halftime.

Other than the continued excellence of linebacker Marcus Washington, the bright spot was provided by safety Adam Archuleta, a high-profile free agent pickup who was invisible in Cincinnati.

Archuleta ended New York’s second series by sacking former Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey for a 5-yard loss, that with a subsequent delay of game penalty, knocked the Jets out of field goal range.

But with starting left tackle Cornelius Griffin leaving with a sprained right knee in the first quarter, Williams is fortunate that he didn’t lose another starter to add to a list that already includes cornerback Shawn Springs and end Phillip Daniels.

While Al Saunders did pull his starters on schedule, the associate head coach-offense couldn’t be pleased with their play except for two nifty catches by new receiver Antwaan Randle El for 42 yards. Brunell completed only one of his other four passes for 3 yards. Ladell Betts, subbing for injured running back Clinton Portis, averaged just 3 yards a carry. Jets end Bryan Thomas hurdled right tackle Jon Jansen to sack Brunell. Even Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss dropped a pass.

All told, the regulars aren’t exactly ready for the start of the season against Minnesota in 22 days. And except for a six-play, 52-yard touchdown drive during which quarterback of the future Jason Campbell rifled completions to David Patten and James Thrash, none of the backups made much of a statement either, until Todd Collins found rookie Buck Ortega for a 30-yard garbage-time touchdown toss.

Reserve fullback Nehemiah Broughton lost a fumble. Campbell was just 6-for-13 passing for 83 yards and an ugly interception. The second-string defense surrendered a 23-play drive that consumed 11:58 of the third quarter before the Jets settled for a field goal.

It promises to be a rough week ahead at Redskin Park as coach Joe Gibbs and Co. prepare for the likely last extensive preseason test for the starters Saturday at still-formidable New England.

However, Gibbs and the Redskins can take heart from history.

The Hall of Fame coach’s teams are usually better off not winning in August. The Redskins only made the playoffs once (1990) following any of their six winning preseasons under Gibbs.

In contrast, the Redskins followed all seven of his previous .500 or worse preseasons with a postseason appearance including Super Bowl titles in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons. So if history holds, the team that looks so shaky in August will be playing in January.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide