- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Washington Redskins have lost four straight games, matching their worst stretch since the 0-5 start of 2001. And the Redskins keep losing starters.

The latest to go down is strong safety Chris Horton, who may need surgery to repair a ligament under his left big toe injured late in Sunday’s 31-17 loss at Atlanta. Horton, who has been sharing playing time with Reed Doughty, will miss a minimum of four to six weeks and is a strong candidate for injured reserve since just eight weeks remain in the lost season. If the ligament is torn, Horton could be out four to six months.

Doughty, who bruised his right knee against the Falcons, will start this week against Denver. Kareem Moore becomes the third safety.

Fred Smoot could shift from little-used reserve cornerback to fourth safety. Coach Jim Zorn said the Redskins also could add a safety. Rookie Lendy Holmes is on the practice squad.

Mike Williams, who started Week 5 at right guard (in place of the injured Randy Thomas) and the past three games at right tackle, is out two to four weeks with a badly sprained ankle. Stephon Heyer, who started against the Falcons with a sprained left knee, will shift back from left tackle (where he has been filling in for the injured Chris Samuels) to the right side, where he started the first four games.

“We’re trying to patch,” Zorn said. “The guys that have been in there all year, [left guard Derrick] Dockery and [center] Casey [Rabach], they’re trying to keep that thing knitted together.”

Trying or not, the unraveling 2-6 Redskins will feature a fifth starting line in nine games and third in four games. That group likely will be blocking for a new starting running back. Clinton Portis is doubtful after being knocked out Sunday with a concussion that still left him with a headache Monday.

Ladell Betts, who ran for 70 yards on 15 carries against Atlanta after Portis exited during the first quarter, would start for the first time since the 2006 finale. Betts mildly sprained an ankle against the Falcons, as did Moore and quarterback Jason Campbell. All are expected to be ready for the Broncos.

Zorn said the Redskins might re-sign running back Quinton Ganther, whom they cut Friday to make room for replacement punter Sam Paulescu. Hunter Smith hopes to return to his punting duties against Denver.

Zorn didn’t rule out signing Larry Johnson, the 2005-06 Pro Bowl pick who was cut Monday by Kansas City. But a team source later said the Redskins have no interest in signing the 30-year-old La Plata, Md., native.

Reserve cornerback Byron Westbrook, who had his left knee scoped Oct. 27, expects to return against the Broncos. Tight end Chris Cooley had his injured right ankle re-examined and could begin rehab Tuesday in hopes of returning for Week 12.

Orakpo producing

Linebacker Brian Orakpo’s two sacks in Atlanta gave the first-round draft pick 5.5, 2.5 more than the closest fellow rookie. Orakpo, who lines up at defensive end on passing downs, is tied for 11th in the NFL with the Dolphins’ Jason Taylor and the Bucs’ Jimmy Wilkerson. Orakpo has more sacks than feared pass-rushers DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Osi Umenyiora and John Abraham.

Zorn called him “a real bright spot,” but Orakpo isn’t that excited. After the game, he didn’t even realize he had dropped Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice.

“The reason I didn’t celebrate is that it’s like getting a home run when you’re down 10-3,” said Orakpo, whose second sack Sunday came with a 21-3 deficit. “If we have a lead, I’ll do my ‘Rak’ dance.”

Zorn defends Hall

Zorn said he believes cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s account of his scuffle on the Atlanta sideline. Hall accused two Falcons coaches of grabbing him during the altercation.

“It looked to me on video that’s exactly what happened,” said Zorn, who ran across the field after Hall came to the defense of safety LaRon Landry, who had roused the Falcons with a late hit on quarterback Matt Ryan. “I was proud of DeAngelo for keeping his composure. Fortunately, it didn’t escalate to where there were blows thrown.”

Zorn also praised the officials for their handling of the situation and reserved judgment about joining Hall in complaining to the league about the incident.

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