Gibbs Voices Concerns

There's no escaping that quarterback Mark Brunell and the offense need to play better in the final preseason games.
There's no escaping that quarterback Mark Brunell and the offense need to play better in the final preseason games. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 21, 2006

The raw emotion that engulfed Coach Joe Gibbs after Saturday night's lopsided loss to the New York Jets had subsided by yesterday afternoon, but the content of his message was unchanged. Gibbs reiterated his concerns with all aspects of the Redskins' play after two ugly preseason defeats, and he will demand a much better effort in the final two preseason games.

The Redskins, who lost, 27-14, to the Jets at FedEx Field and have been outscored 46-17 in the preseason, have slumped on offense, defense and special teams, leaving Gibbs arguably more perturbed Saturday night than at any point since he returned to coaching in 2004. Gibbs was terse and direct in his responses to questions after the defeat, and during his news conference yesterday he provided more depth and context to his remarks but voiced the same disappointment.

"I thought we would get a great effort and play extremely hard," Gibbs said in explaining his anger Saturday night. "We're coming home and I talked about it, and we play a game like that. So it does a number of things to you. You get upset about it and you get concerned about it, too, because there's no reason why you shouldn't play well there."

As Gibbs lashed out at the team on Saturday night, he seemed to be sending a reminder to anyone on the club who might presume success this season after last season's trip to the playoffs. Gibbs has guarded against inflated expectations throughout this training camp, urging his players to make no Super Bowl predictions, while realizing that hopes are high after an offseason investment of millions of dollars on the coaching staff and roster. He has adopted a mantra with players and media alike about the difficulty of playing in the NFC East, the strength of Washington's schedule and the volatile nature of the league, with teams dropping and rising unexpectedly every year.

"If you think the past buys you something, or expectations buy you something, I think you're headed for a fall," Gibbs said. "Up here, very close football games are going to be played, and certainly you can't play the way we played in the first two games. I think that [high expectations are] something you've got to live with up here. You've got to realize what the NFL's like. . . . You see it played out every year."

The timing of the team's uninspired play has not gone unnoticed, either. Coaches rewarded players by having them report to camp on the last day possible, conducting just three two-a-day sessions, moving practices back because of heat and curtailing the amount of contact in drills.

In addition, the offense is still learning associate head coach Al Saunders's new timing scheme and has failed to move the ball with any regularity.

The three quarterbacks -- Mark Brunell, Todd Collins and Jason Campbell -- have combined for a 50.2 passer rating, with one touchdown pass and five interceptions. The defense, meantime, has yet to produce a fumble or interception, resulting in a 0 to 6 turnover margin. The coaches have focused on this tendency for the entirety of their tenure here, with the team turning it around only during its stretch run to the playoffs last season.

"We did not make the plays that we wanted to make," Brunell said. "We wanted to progress from the first preseason game to the next. We need more consistency on offense and to score some more points, obviously."

Washington's run defense, remarkably strong the last two seasons, lagged against the Jets, a team with no recognizable NFL running back on its roster Saturday. New York repeatedly rushed directly into the heart of the field and came away with quality gains against the first-team defense, rushing for 216 yards overall to the Redskins' 84. The starters also surrendered a 61-yard touchdown on a reverse, while the special teams crumbled amid penalties and shoddy coverage -- allowing an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and another 47-yard return. Punter Derrick Frost was erratic again as well, and came up short handling kickoff duties for kicker John Hall.

"All three -- special teams, defense, offense -- all of us have a long ways to go," Gibbs said. "We were all disappointed."

The positive news is that preseason is generally a weak indicator of success in the regular season, and the Redskins' starters have essentially played one half of football. They are likely to play more Saturday in New England -- particularly the offense, given its adjustment to a new scheme -- and a few good quarters of football would erase memories of much of the last two weeks.

"It was a reality check," fullback Mike Sellers said of Saturday's loss. "Everyone knows how successful the season went last year. We need to come with the same energy and focus on each snap."

Redskins Notes: Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who left Saturday's game with a sprained knee, might be held out of the upcoming game as a precaution, said Bubba Tyer, director of sports medicine. The sprain is mild, Tyer said, and Griffin might practice this week.

Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (hamstring) sat out the weekend as a precaution, and is questionable to return to practice today, Tyer said. Tight end Robert Johnson, who sprained his ankle in the game, is day-to-day. Offensive lineman Jim Molinaro is back from minor knee surgery and should be ready to face the Patriots, while cornerback Ade Jimoh (sternum), defensive back Curry Burns (hamstring) and defensive lineman Nic Clemons (knee) should practice today, according to Tyer.

Linebacker Khary Campbell bruised his knee Saturday and is day-to-day, rookie linebacker Rocky McIntosh has a swollen knee and starting center Casey Rabach has a mild shoulder sprain, but none of the injuries is serious, Tyer said.

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