CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Washington’s embarrassing 47-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night - the second-worst in the franchise’s last 48 preseasons - didn’t matter.
What did was defensive end Jason Taylor spraining his right knee.
Coach Jim Zorn feared the worst when Taylor lay face down on the field and when the medical staff rolled the defensive end over and pulled down his sock, but he was greatly relieved when the initial X-rays were negative. However, Taylor will have an MRI on Sunday to firm up the extent of the damage.
Starting offensive tackle Jon Jansen also was injured Saturday, spraining his right foot. He will have his foot examined.
“I think we came out of it OK,” Zorn said, putting the best face on the situation.
Taylor, acquired from the Miami Dolphins on July 20, has played in 130 consecutive games. The Redskins traded for him the day after Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending torn ACL on the first day of training camp.
Rookie free agent cornerback Matterral Richardson strained his groin in the second half, hurting his chances of making the roster.
The Redskins open the season Sept. 4 at the New York Giants and also visit their other NFC East rivals - the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles - during the following 31 days.
Even if Taylor is sidelined just six weeks, he’ll miss a critical part of the season. Career backup Demetric Evans, who will start as long as Taylor’s out, said that he’s ready if given his first extensive shot at starting.
Stephon Heyer, who filled in capably down the stretch as a rookie in 2007 when Jansen was sidelined with a broken right leg and ankle, will take over at right tackle again. Heyer only got in for a couple of plays on Saturday after missing the previous two weeks with a mild sprained knee.
Taylor, whose right leg got caught under a pile on a running play in the second quarter, opened the game by combining with fellow end Andre Carter to sack Jake Delhomme, who had stepped up in the pocket to avoid tackle Cornelius Griffin. Terrific pass coverage on third down then forced Delhomme to throw the ball away.
After their defense had held twice in the red zone, the Redskins trailed just 6-0 when Taylor was hurt, but losing him might have hurt their play.
On the next play, Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams burst through the Washington defense. He fumbled at the 8-yard-line when hit by rookie safety Kareem Moore, but receiver Steve Smith grabbed the ball and took it in for a score.
Two plays after the Panthers got the ball back, rookie running back Jonathan Stewart blew past Moore (who had ended two earlier Carolina possessions with an interception and another with a pass breakup in the end zone), linebacker Rocky McIntosh and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery en route to a 50-yard touchdown jaunt around left end.
The Redskins again went nowhere, and this time the Panthers needed three plays to score.
Williams left Moore, safety Reed Doughty and cornerback Shawn Springs en route to a 60-yard dash to the end zone. The Panthers’ third touchdown in just 5:41 made it 27-0. Dante Rosario’s 24-yard touchdown catch against Doughty 1:37 later was just added humiliation.
Williams and Stewart combined to shred the Redskins for 185 yards on 15 carries in the half.
While Taylor’s injury and the ensuing defensive collapse was the focal point of the Redskins’ total turnaround from a 3-0 start to the preseason, their offense was equally awful with or without Jansen. Washington managed a first down on just one of its eight first-half possessions, and that series ended with a fumble.
The line allowed four sacks as the Panthers outgained the Redskins 303-49 in the first half.
“I guess it will be a teaching tool, but you don’t want to learn that lesson,” said Zorn, who’s considering playing his starters more than the quarter they figured to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Jacksonville. “A lot of other teams will look at this video and they’ll go, ‘We love this.’
“We didn’t protect well up front. Jason [Campbell] held onto the ball too long. We also had costly turnovers and sacks that stalled drives. We struggled on both sides of the ball. We didn’t win the individual battles.”
The only positive in the ugly first half was veteran punter Derrick Frost, who made a major statement in his battle with draft pick Durant Brooks by averaging 51.2 yards with a long of 65 on his five punts.
Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers terrorized the Redskins.
His teammates already had sacked Campbell twice when Peppers threw five-time Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels into the back of the quarterback, who fumbled. Peppers recovered at the Washington 19.
Evans knocked down a third-down pass, and John Kasay kicked a 26-yarder to make it 6-0 on the second play of the second quarter. Peppers took the ball away again on the next series, recovering a fumble by running back Ladell Betts that was caused by linebacker Jon Beason at the Carolina 43.