By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Cornelius Griffin is the anchor of the Washington Redskins' defensive line and, when healthy, is one of the more effective tackles in the NFC. But injuries have derailed each of his last three seasons to some degree, and even a cautious preseason could not prevent another quirky injury this fall.
Griffin suffered back spasms during warmups for Sunday's game against the New York Jets and was able to participate in only two plays -- the first of the game and one goal-line formation. Griffin said hopes to be able to play against Philadelphia on Sunday and expects more of himself in the second half of the season. He is being asked to attack the passer more this season, help collapse the pocket from the interior and prevent quarterbacks from stepping up to elude pressure.
"I've got to step my game up," he said. "I've got to get more pressure on the quarterback and be more dominant against the run. We've got eight games left, and to help the team out I've got to play better."
The defensive line was not upgraded in the offseason, with coaches believing that improving the secondary would create more time for the four linemen to rush the passer. But after a strong start, the impact of the line has waned in recent weeks, and the Redskins may need to blitz more often to generate pressure.
Washington had a franchise-low 19 sacks last season and has 20 this season, but 13 came in the first four games.
"The ball has been coming out really fast," Griffin said. "And we've seen a lot of play-action pass, and you've got to play the run first and then react to what you see. But we've got to get better each week and we've always got to get pressure on the quarterback. If you give him all day, then it's seven-on-seven [in the passing game] and they'll always pick you apart."Family Time
The legal problems of two of Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid's sons has put the grueling work schedules of NFL's coaches back in the news. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, while not commenting on Reid's situation, explained the tradeoffs inherent in the job.
"One of the toughest things is you feel like, 'Did I let somebody down?' " Gibbs said. "One of things I'll always, for me, second-guess is all the time I missed with [his sons] J.D. and Coy. There was pluses, obviously . . . but I missed a lot. I got to see J.D. play maybe five times in college, six times, and I know someday later on I'm certainly not going to say, 'I should have worked more.' I'm going to say, 'I should have been there more.' "Rock on Special Teams
Rock Cartwright was a standout again Sunday, recovering an onside kick that helped swing the game and returning one kick 31 yards. He is having a career year in the return game, but said the pulled quadriceps that kept him out of the loss to New England was still troubling him.
"I'm probably around 80, 85 percent," he said. "It's getting better each week, but I'm not exactly where I want to be just yet." . . .
Punt returner Antwaan Randle El has been battling a groin injury and is averaging just 6.8 yards per return, 15th overall in the NFC.Getting the Ball
The Redskins have 13 takeaways at the midpoint of the season after setting a modern NFL record with just 12 all of last season. . . . The Redskins had six passes of 30 yards or more through the first 14 quarters of the season, but have none in 18 quarters since. . . .
Cornerback Shawn Springs, whose father Ron has been in a coma in Dallas, again was excused for Monday and Tuesday. Springs has been traveling to Texas and dealing with family matters in the Tidewater area, where he was born. "Anything he feels like he needs to do he's free to do it," Gibbs said. . . . Shaun Suisham, who kicked five field goals on Sunday, including the game-winner in overtime, was named NFC special teams player of the week.