Monday, November 13, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Gibbs loves players from the University of Miami.

One of his first moves upon returning to the Redskins in 2004 was trading franchise cornerback Champ Bailey for ex-Hurricanes running back Clinton Portis.

Seven weeks later, Gibbs chose Hurricanes safety Sean Taylor fifth overall in the draft.

The Redskins’ renaissance began last season with the acquisition of former Hurricane Santana Moss from the Jets for disgruntled fellow receiver Laveranues Coles.

And bereft of a first-round pick this April, Gibbs traded up in the second round to take linebacker Rocky McIntosh from — drum roll, please — Miami.

“It’s important where you play,” Gibbs said at the press conference welcoming McIntosh to Washington. “We have outstanding players from down there. Football is a big deal at Miami. They play a tremendous schedule. If they can play at Miami and be a leader, then chances are [they are] going to be very successful up here, too.”

That Hurricanes-heavy formula worked well last season.

Portis set a franchise record by rushing for 1,516 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Taylor played a role in six interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries. He finished third on the ninth-ranked defense with 80 tackles, sealed the team’s first playoff berth in six years with a fumble return for a touchdown and repeated that play for the winning score in the postseason opener against the Buccaneers.

Moss was even better, stunning the Cowboys with two fourth-quarter touchdown bombs, starting in the Pro Bowl, catching 84 passes for 1,483 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.

That this season hasn’t been nearly as productive for the men from “The U” was never more obvious than yesterday in rainy Philadelphia as the Redskins were throttled 27-3 by the Eagles.

Portis accounted for just 31 yards on seven touches before leaving in the first quarter with a broken right hand. He exited the locker room before it was open to the media.

It’s the third significant injury in three months for the usually durable Portis, who has never rushed for fewer than 1,315 yards in a season but has only 522 this year with seven games left. And according to Bubba Tyer, the Redskins’ director of sports medicine, Portis could miss up to four of those games because of the broken hand.

Taylor blew several tackles. He bit badly on an inside fake, allowing Donte Stallworth to get past him for an 84-yard touchdown that made the score 10-0 in the first quarter. And he handed the Eagles 15 more yards with a hit out of bounds on running back Brian Westbrook.

Though he’s on pace for a career high in tackles, Taylor is struggling along with the rest of a defense that has sunk to the bottom of the NFL rankings. And the Redskins have recovered only one of the fumbles Taylor forced.

That left Moss, who missed last week’s game because of a strained left hamstring. He started yesterday but had as many drops — one — as he did catches (for only 4 yards) and penalties while the game was still in doubt. Moss wound up with just three catches for 17 yards, the least productive game of his 26 in a Redskins uniform.

“I made it through warmups and had that burst, but I kind of had it in the back of my mind that my leg was going to get tired — I just didn’t know when,” Moss said. “When it gets tired, you don’t have a push behind it.”

So when Sheldon Brown swiped a pass to Moss in the right flat in the third quarter, Moss couldn’t begin to chase the Eagles’ cornerback on his 70-yard dash to the end zone that closed out the scoring.

All told, Moss has caught only 31 passes for 452 yards and three touchdowns, and all of those scores came in an Oct. 1 victory over Jacksonville.

“It’s tough to beat somebody when you’re at their home and you have a lot of miscues,” Moss said. “It just wasn’t our day. You can count us out, but we aren’t. All we can do is keep slugging every game. Our job is to play these last games out and see what happens.”

But this season it’s just not happening for the Redskins’ Miami Mafia.

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