NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marcus Mason’s late 1-yard plunge and Byron Westbrook’s subsequent fumble recovery for a touchdown may have given the Washington Redskins a 14-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans in their preseason opener last night. Photo Gallery: Redskins vs Titans
However, the touchdowns in the final 74 seconds by the former Georgetown Prep and DeMatha stars couldn’t erase the offensive starters being blanked for the fifth straight preseason game and their second season in associate head coach Al Saunders’ system even though coach Joe Gibbs changed his long-established first preseason game policy and played most of them for the entire first half.
“We wanted to play our guys more than what we did last year,” Gibbs said. “We wanted to get into more of a groove. Had we roared down the field two or three times, we would’ve gotten them out of there, but that certainly wasn’t the case. We were struggling like mad.”
In his first preseason start, third-year quarterback Jason Campbell completed six of 14 passes for 104 yards and lost two fumbles while playing six series. The running game, minus injured No. 1 back Clinton Portis, managed just 34 yards on 15 first-half carries. The Redskins allowed four sacks, two by the starters.
“All the mistakes we made tonight are very correctable,” Campbell said. “We were able to move the ball pretty well, and that was without Clinton and Ladell [Betts] out there and that allowed us to work on our passing game.”
Said Gibbs: “It was a rough start for Jason. Last year, he did a great job protecting the ball. Today it got away from us twice. That’s huge. You certainly don’t want pressure back there. That’s … a concern. I was disappointed with our [running game]. They blitzed the safety quite a bit and that gave us trouble.”
The starting defense minus resting tackle Cornelius Griffin held the Titans to four first downs and 92 yards in four series.
“We probably had some individuals who played real well and also a group,” Gibbs said.
The Redskins, with rookie free agent Stephon Heyer filling in for injured left tackle Chris Samuels, opened the game at their own 18-yard line.
After Betts gained just two yards on two carries, Campbell hit Santana Moss with a short pass which the receiver turned into nine yards and a first down. Betts ran for seven on second down before Campbell lofted a pretty pass to Antwaan Randle El, who whipped Nick Harper for 20 yards. But Betts lost two and then Vincent Fuller raced in untouched on a corner blitz and jarred the ball from Campbell’s grasp. Sean Conover recovered for the Titans at the Washington 45.
Assistant head coach Gregg Williams started top draft choice LaRon Landry at strong safety on a defense otherwise filled with veterans including new middle linebacker London Fletcher.
Kerry Collins, starting at quarterback for Tennessee in place of Vince Young — benched for violating a team rule — found Bo Scaife for a 13-yard catch against Springs. However, Collins dropped a snap on third-and-8 at the Washington 27 and Craig Hentrich punted.
Three plays later, Tony Brown beat right tackle Jon Jansen on a stunt and sacked Campbell, who fumbled again. Tight end Chris Cooley recovered. Cortland Finnegan fielded Derrick Frost’s punt and dashed 37 yards before being dragged down by Reed Doughty at the Washington 28.
Landry blitzed Collins on third down, forcing the Titans to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
On the subsequent third-and-3, Moss whipped Finnegan on a fly pattern for 39 yards to the Tennessee 34. The Redskins managed just three yards on the next three plays before Shaun Suisham hit the left upright on a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Tennessee took over at its 37 and drove all the way to the Washington, 9 thanks to two completions from Collins to Brandon Jones.
However, cornerback Shawn Springs and Rocky McIntosh, a first-year starter at weakside linebacker, caused an incompletion on third-and-seven.
Rookie John Vaughn’s 27-yard field goal try was wide right, keeping the score at 3-0.
Washington’s starting offense minus Betts and Moss came back out for its fourth series but couldn’t generate a first down. The starting defense minus Taylor and the front four then held the Titans without a first down on its fourth and final series with help from the officials missing a facemask penalty on McIntosh.
Former starter Mark Brunell relieved Campbell to start the second half but produced just four first downs in four series.
Reserve defensive end Jamaal Green injured his left shoulder tackling running back Chris Henry with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
Third-string quarterback Tim Rattay drove the Titans 75 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Vaughn’s 39-yarder that made it 6-0.
Gibbs kept Brunell in the lineup on the field until the final 4:16 when veteran Todd Collins received the first shot in the battle with rookie Jordan Palmer for the No. 3 quarterback job. Collins connected with tight end Eric Edwards on two passes to move the Redskins to the Tennessee 16 with 2:04 left. A toss to rookie fullback Pete Schmitt put the ball at the 1, setting up Mason’s touchdown.