- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jim Zorn would have loved to spend Monday gushing about Jason Campbell’s strong play, the improvement of his second-year receivers, Brian Orakpo’s four-sack tour de force and the overall impressiveness of the Washington Redskins’ play the past five weeks.

But as is always the case when a team wins for just the fourth time in 13 games, there is a postscript.

“The win-loss is a critical issue when it comes to NFL standards,” Zorn said at Redskin Park. “It’s not up to where we would like to be.”

Even with a recent 2-3 spurt and the struggles of the Dallas Cowboys (0-2 this month) and New York Giants (2-6 in their past eight games), the Redskins remain at the bottom of the NFC East, making a glass-is-half-full attitude tough to accept.

But something’s changed around Redskin Park the past month. The circus-like atmosphere that made the Redskins a national punch line in the season’s first half has been replaced by respect from around the NFL for playing so hard and relatively well since halftime of a Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“The only way I can assess it is our players are getting it,” Zorn said. “I talked about how the execution of our plans at the beginning of the year was lacking in some areas, and now the plans are being executed in a way that we’re being successful.”

Veteran players defended Zorn and his staff throughout the season, faith that has been affirmed by their on-field performance.

Zorn remains a long shot to keep his job next season, but the obvious development of the young players could give ownership pause before it disbands the entire staff.

“I commend our players and coaches for working together and trying to put our best foot forward,” Zorn said.

Zorn said the game plans haven’t changed from early in the year - a debatable claim considering the absence of so many notable players forced the offensive coaches in particular to use different formations.

The Redskins team that will host the reeling Giants on Monday night will have a far different look than the one that lost 23-17 in New York in Week 1.

Many key players who started that game in the Meadowlands - Clinton Portis, Chris Samuels, Chris Cooley, Randy Thomas and Chris Horton - now are on injured reserve. Three others - DeAngelo Hall, Albert Haynesworth and Mike Sellers - might not be able to play in the rematch.

“We miss the guys that aren’t here; we would love to have those 10 guys [on IR] on this club,” Zorn said. “The thing that’s been remarkable is how reliable the other players have been stepping into battle. That’s what we’ve been most proud of. The players have been significant because they’ve got their shot and they’ve actually worked into a position where they’ve created value for themselves on our football team.”

In addition to the personnel department unearthing some gems, the coaching staff has mixed and matched players and altered its game plans to fit their skill sets.

Safety Reed Doughty said the players and coaches are on audition every week, be it for the likely new Redskins regime or another team.

“We’re all playing for our jobs every week,” he said. “We’re going out to execute and show other teams and show our own team that we’re a valuable commodity. The coaches are doing the same thing.”

The next two auditions will come on the prime-time stage. The Redskins will try to avenge road losses to the Giants and Dallas. Both teams are in wild-card contention.

“It’s clear that our division games are the most important, not so much what we can do to the other teams, but we just really want to go out and win,” Zorn said. “We want to continue to put wins together. We have one win in this quarter [of the season] - we want No. 2. That’s what I’ll stress, not what the ramifications and formulas are for [the opponents].”

Orakpo probably spoke for the players when he revealed his approach.

“I would love to be the Grinch on their Christmas,” he said. “That’s what we’re aiming for. Obviously, we’re not making the playoffs, but we would love to ruin some other people’s seasons.”

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