Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Al Saunders knows what Washington Redskins fans want to see from his passing offense — yards, first downs and points. But Saunders, the team’s associate head coach, has been in the NFL since 1983 and knows what he wants to see — progress.

Translation: Sure, he would like to see more production from the starting offense during the preseason, but more important is their performance beginning with the Sept. 11 opener.

“The thing we try to keep in perspective is that everybody — players, coaches, fans — wants to win, but the most important part of the preseason games is that it’s another practice to develop consistency and technique,” Saunders said before practice yesterday at Redskin Park. “A lot of guys improved from the week before, which was encouraging.”

The Redskins’ first-team offense has played 26 snaps in two games and has yet to score. Its snaps have been limited to prevent injuries, and the game plan has been as plain as possible.

“Most of what we do from a preparation and play-calling standpoint is designed for us to get an evaluation of players doing specific things,” Saunders said. “We devised some plays for Mike Sellers so we could see him lead block and see him run the ball, and we did the same for Antwaan Randle El to put him on the perimeter. We were pleased with some of the individual phases of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The starters will play more against New England on Saturday night.

“There are things we can fix and things we’re looking forward to getting better at the next couple weeks,” Saunders said.

Interested in Duckett?

According to published reports in Atlanta, the Redskins are one of four teams pursuing Falcons running back T.J. Duckett.

Duckett (6-foot, 254 pounds) is in the final year of his rookie contract and has 552 career carries for 2,175 yards and 31 touchdowns. He averaged 4.9 yards a carry in 2004 but only 3.1 last year.

Following practice yesterday, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs wouldn’t comment on any specific trade talks.

“Right now, literally, we’ve had 10 phone calls in the last week about our players asking us if we’ll do this or that,” Gibbs said. “It’s rampant in the league right now. … People are now saying, ‘We need this, we need that.’ This is when it really heats up because teams have a couple of weeks to train guys.”

The Redskins had a scout at Saturday’s Falcons-Green Bay game.

The deal would make sense because Duckett would give the Redskins a proven commodity if Clinton Portis has season-long shoulder problems.

Portis update

Portis has shed his sling eight days after dislocating his left shoulder. He took the field yesterday during individual drills, doing agility and footwork drills with the running backs, but he was not in pads.

“I’m in recovery,” he said. “It takes three, four weeks for my injury to heal, and I have to let it heal. I’m rehabbing now, but it’s nothing spectacular. If I’m ready come Sept. 11, I don’t want to be out of shape.”

Injury report

Seven players who sat out the Jets game returned to practice yesterday: Receivers Brandon Lloyd, Richard Smith and Ataveus Cash, defensive backs Curry Burns, Ade Jimoh and Aric Williams and defensive lineman Nic Clemons.

Sitting out were Portis, cornerback Shawn Springs (abdominal surgery), linebackers Khary Campbell (knee) and Kevin Simon (hamstring), offensive tackle Jim Molinaro (knee), tight end Robert Johnson (ankle) and defensive linemen Cornelius Griffin (knee) and Phillip Daniels (back).

Molinaro rode the stationary bike during the early portion of practice.

Not-so special

The Redskins spent the first 30 minutes of practice with hard-hitting special teams work. Against the Jets, they allowed kickoff returns of 87 (a touchdown) and 47 yards and a 21-yard punt return.

“[Special teams coach] Danny [Smith] was kind of ticked off because we didn’t come up with our best performance,” running back Nehemiah Broughton said. “It wasn’t what we’re capable of and what we’re coached to do. It was minor stuff — some guys used the wrong technique and weren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

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