- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Traveling to Dallas and Philadelphia the next two weeks, the Washington Redskins hope to carry the momentum of a two-game winning streak, the improved play of their quarterback and an opportunistic defense that has five takeaways this season.

One player they won’t have is defensive end Jason Taylor.

The week got off to inauspicious start when Redskins coach Jim Zorn announced Taylor was kicked in the left calf in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over Arizona, an injury that worsened throughout the night and required a 20-minute procedure to drain blood from the leg Monday morning at a local hospital.

The Redskins will be without Taylor against the league’s top-rated offense, and his absence could stretch to the game at Philadelphia on Oct. 5. The Eagles are ranked sixth in yards and tied with Dallas for the fourth-best passing offense.

“It hurts us, but it’s an opportunity now for the next guy to come in and show up,” Zorn said.

Taylor, whose streak of 133 consecutive starts will end, returned to the Arizona game and was a part of an effort that limited the Cardinals to 18 fourth-quarter yards. Once he returned home, Zorn said, Taylor’s calf swelled, pinching a nerve and causing the soreness to increase. When numbness developed, he called team doctors and went to the hospital.

After doctors evaluated the calf and the nerve remained a problem, Taylor underwent the necessary procedure - which included an incision - around 7 a.m. and remained at the hospital for observation until 3:30 p.m.

“Once they cut open that portion where the blood was pooling and released that pressure, the muscle was back down to normal,” Zorn said. “He’s going to be fine.”

Taylor was not available for comment.

The Redskins will rely on Demetric Evans, Chris Wilson and Erasmus James in Taylor’s absence.

“All those guys are getting snaps, but now they have a chance to really show a little bit more, and we’re hoping that happens,” Zorn said.

Said Evans: “It’s definitely a setback because we brought in Jason to be one of the top, premier pass rushers in the league and to help this team get pressure on the quarterback. … Hopefully he can get back soon.”

Taylor was limited during the final two weeks of training camp with a sprained knee and was rounding into top condition before this latest injury.

With Taylor, the Redskins used primarily a four-man rush against Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. Taylor had one tackle, one quarterback hit and three batted passes.

Without Taylor, the task of stopping Dallas’ offense becomes even more daunting. The Cowboys are averaging 440 yards and 32 points a game.

The Redskins’ offense, though, had success last year against Dallas, totaling 50 points and 777 yards in two games.

“We’re trying to focus on this year and get used to the things we’re doing in this offense,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “We played there last year, and I could feel the rivalry during the game. It was a back-and-forth shootout. We have to play with a tempo and attitude and mind-set that we have to do everything possible and everything right because a team like that will capitalize on any mistakes.”

Cornerback Fred Smoot was more blunt about the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.

“We can go 2-14 as long as we beat the right team, and it’s been that way since I’ve been in Washington,” he said. “If you’re hurt, don’t matter. Throw it out the window and get ready to play four quarters of football.”

At 2-1, the Redskins have positioned themselves to withstand two division road defeats, but it would be a bonus if they could manage to get a split out of the next two weeks.

“It would be a huge confidence builder, obviously, especially with the way this division is stacked,” center Casey Rabach said.

Linebacker London Fletcher laughed and then scoffed when asked whether a win in Dallas or Philadelphia should be considered a “bonus.”

“You’re focused on winning all of your games regardless of who you’re playing,” he said. “The fact it’s Dallas and a division game, it obviously holds more weight in terms of trying to win the NFC East. You go into games like this with the mentality that it’s going to be tough but do whatever it takes.”

Following the Dallas and Philadelphia trips, the Redskins’ schedule eases up: Their next three games are against St. Louis, Cleveland and at Detroit - each team is 0-3.

The Redskins went 2-1 in NFC East road games last year.

“It’s a huge game,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “We talked about it [Sunday]: Winning at home will get you in the playoffs. Winning on the road will make you a great team and give you an opportunity to continue [in the playoffs].”

Added Zorn: “We’re hanging in there pretty good. We’re progressing. We’re learning. I would say [the last two weeks] proves we can stay in there and win and push and not give up when we’re behind. What it’s showing us is that we need to continue to practice and get better.”

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