By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2007
The irony of the situation wasn't lost on Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. At a time when the coaching staff has shown signs of opening up the game plan offensively, the Redskins are running out of wide receivers.
Top receiver Santana Moss has been sidelined recently because of a bruised heel; James Thrash has a high-ankle sprain; Antwaan Randle El has remained in the lineup despite a hamstring injury; and Brandon Lloyd broke his collarbone in practice this week, ending his season. It's difficult to play a wide-open style on offense without healthy wide receivers, Campbell said, and the Redskins' unit is in bad shape.
"How do you think it makes me feel as a quarterback?" Campbell said after practice at Redskins Park yesterday. "Right when we start to do some different things as far as a passing standpoint goes, all your guys are getting hurt. It's like a bug going around. And to have them going out with one of the biggest games of the year coming up, and we're already short-handed, it makes it tough."
As the Redskins (5-4) complete preparations today to face the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (8-1) on Sunday in Irving, Tex., the state of the receiving corps is high on Coach Joe Gibbs's list of concerns. Gibbs and Al Saunders, associate head coach-offense, expanded the use of the no-huddle offense in last week's 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Campbell and the wide receivers were productive in the up-tempo scheme.
Randle El is on track to play Sunday. Keenan McCardell had a touchdown reception while playing a bigger role against the Eagles, and the little-used Reche Caldwell could become more involved in the game plan. The Redskins also signed wide receiver Jimmy Farris after Lloyd was injured.
But with so many questions about the health of the unit, are the Redskins capable of playing a fast-paced style against the Cowboys?
"We have confidence in all our guys, and there are definitely things we feel like we're capable of as an offense, passing or running the ball," Campbell said. "No matter who's in there, we feel like we can be successful as long as we execute and follow the game plan. But you'd rather have all your guys, especially when you're playing an exceptional team like Dallas. If you don't have everybody, it's like you're fighting an uphill battle."
Moss bruised his heel in a 23-20 victory in overtime over the New York Jets on Nov. 4. After sitting out the entire week of practice before the game against Philadelphia and the first two practices this week, Moss plans to "do a little something" today, he said. But Moss, also inactive for an Oct. 7 game against Detroit because of a groin injury, cautioned that he still wasn't sure about his status for the upcoming game.
Moss said he would try to practice today and then determine whether he will be able to play in the game.
Lloyd's injury was another blow to the unit. It occurred when he landed on his shoulder on the final play of practice Wednesday, Gibbs said. The Redskins, who have seven games remaining on their schedule, expect Lloyd to miss six weeks, so they put him on injured reserve.
Although Lloyd has only two catches for 14 yards, and was prohibited from accompanying the team to face the Jets at Giants Stadium because he missed a meeting, he had an increased role last week because Moss was out. With Lloyd's season finished, the Redskins brought back Farris, who played for them in 2005 and was one of the team's final cuts in 2006. Farris, who spent this preseason with Jacksonville, is considered one of few free agents who could step in with an immediate grasp of Washington's offense and contribute quickly.
"It really is kind of weird right now," Randle El said. "The coaches opened it up a little more and now everyone is going down."
Randle El was limited in practice last week because of a recurring hamstring problem, which only bothered him "late in the game" against Philadelphia, he said. He expects to be in the lineup Sunday.
Thrash is not expected to play. He had a big game against the Eagles while starting in place of Moss, catching five passes for a team-high 85 yards and two touchdowns. (Thrash's first in the second quarter was the first touchdown reception by a Washington wide receiver in 2007.)
But Thrash, who also made another strong contribution on special teams, sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and was on crutches after the game. He left Redskins Park yesterday without the assistance of crutches, but his leg still was in a protective boot. Thrash said he did not miss any games when he had the same injury while with Philadelphia, but Redskins medical personnel all but ruled him out this week.
"It could have been a lot worse," Thrash said. "Every day, I'll just try to get better. I'm not looking to one week, two weeks [to return]. I don't put a limit on it."
McCardell, 37, caught a six-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, his first touchdown reception since 2005. McCardell will be ready to go against the Cowboys, he said.
"When you get in you've got to make plays," he said. "As a receiver that's your job. You've just to go out and continue to make the plays when you get the chance."
Washington must make the most of its opportunities, Randle El said.
"It's scary right now, but that's this game," he said. "That's why we brought in Keenan, Reche and all those guys. Other guys are going to have to step up and play, and we know that's going to happen."