Redskins Polish Up, But Issues Remain

joe gibbs - washington redskins
The preseason running game, which was forced to proceed without injured left tackle Chris Samuels and a hobbled Clinton Portis, troubled Coach Joe Gibbs. (The Post)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Washington Redskins' offense will be trying to make up for lost time Sunday in the season opener against Miami, with several key players coming off lingering injuries and the starting unit unable to take a snap together in the preseason.

The entire offense practiced together yesterday for the first time, with tackle Chris Samuels the last starter to take full duty, while one issue -- backup quarterback -- remains unresolved.

Coach Joe Gibbs said he has made his decision whether Todd Collins, 35, has passed Mark Brunell, 36, for the No. 2 quarterback job, but declined to reveal his choice until he has had an opportunity to speak to them individually. Gibbs said there is no rush to clarify the situation now "with two veteran guys there," but there is a pressing need to get the offense untracked as quickly as possible.

Brunell worked primarily with the scout team in yesterday's practice, players said, which is normally a strong indication of third-string status. It is conceivable, however, Gibbs plans to alternate Brunell and Collins, who took a few scout team snaps yesterday, in that role this week.

The preseason running game troubled Gibbs -- although the absence of Samuels and starting tailback Clinton Portis surely played a part in that -- and Washington has lacked a sustained deep passing game since this staff was put together in 2004.

Portis, who missed all four exhibition games with knee tendinitis, practiced yesterday for the second time in more than a month, but remains Sunday's starter, Gibbs said. Samuels will also start and starting left guard Pete Kendall, acquired from the New York Jets late in camp, practiced with Samuels yesterday for the first time. He and Samuels must bond quickly to protect quarterback Jason Campbell's blind side against Miami's quick and physical defense, which ranked fourth overall last year.

The scenario is not ideal, but Gibbs is heartened by the fact that none of the injuries suffered by the offense ruled a key player out for a stretch of the regular season. To expect them to play at peak form Sunday may be unfair, however, given their extended absences. Portis in particular could have his workload closely monitored with backup Ladell Betts coming off a big season, and teams generally struggle to run the ball against Miami.

"I think we did the right thing," Gibbs said of Portis's layoff. "The medical team felt like if we were going to get that thing calmed down, now was the time to do it. Is that what you like? No. I didn't particularly like the fact that that's what we had to do, but we felt like that was the best thing to do to try to get him healthy.

"We'll just have to work our way through this. It's not ideal, it's certainly not what you wanted, but it's what we're faced with and we thought that was the best way for us to go."

As for how Sunday's rotation will work between the tailbacks, the tenor of the game, Portis's comfort, stamina and effectiveness will all be factors. Portis will "start off, and he and Ladell will take the load," Gibbs said.

"We'll just see how it goes." Some around the league believe Portis will need several weeks to get into form, so Betts, coming off a 1,000-yard season, seems likely to be used frequently.

"I'm ready to go," Betts said. "I'm in shape. I've been through the whole training camp and preseason, so I'm ready to go."

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