Plugging Away: Defensive Players Fill In Where Needed

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 16 -- Rocky McIntosh became the latest Washington Redskins defensive starter to go out with an injury Sunday night, leaving early in the first quarter with a left knee problem that will be reevaluated later in the week. But to measure just how comfortable the Redskins' defense has become with its reserves, ask Demetric Evans to judge the two players who replaced McIntosh.

"Really, I didn't even know Rocky was out," Evans said after Washington's 22-10 win over the New York Giants.

For the record, McIntosh was replaced by rookie H.B. Blades and veteran Khary Campbell, who combined to make nine tackles.

"I thought they played well. I thought they played really well," London Fletcher said. "Everybody knows if they're up, they've got to be ready to go into the game."

For another measure of this defense's depth, consider starting defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who left early in the game with a hand injury, was prepared to play in the second half. But with the line playing so well without him and the Redskins in the lead, Griffin never reentered, leaving the Washington defense without four of its presumed opening day starters. Griffin said he would be fine for next week's trip to Minnesota.

"I was up," he said. "They did a good job; that's why I didn't go back in."

This has been something of a cliche in recent weeks, when the Redskins at times have been without cornerbacks Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot and Carlos Rogers, and who are still dealing with the death of starting safety Sean Taylor. Still, Washington has kept four straight opponents from reaching 20 points and has yielded two touchdowns in its last 15 quarters.

This time, it was with two linebackers who have played primarily on special teams in Blades and Campbell; the former played in most regular packages Sunday and the latter on third downs and in passing situations.

Blades, a sixth-round pick and the son of longtime NFL safety Bennie Blades, said he was unable to judge his performance and would wait until watching it on film. But Campbell, a sixth-year veteran, had high praise for the rookie with whom he shared time.

"He flew to the ball; he made some nice hits," Campbell said. "He has a low center of gravity, he's stout, and he's a good tackler. And I'm proud of him; being a rookie and stepping in a hostile environment in this weather situation, on short notice, and he had to do his special teams duty to the fullest. I'm definitely proud of him."

Blades said he wasn't sure how many defensive snaps he had logged this season, but this was by far the most extensive playing time of his brief NFL career.

"It was amazing," he said. "I was like a kid in a candy store. To have an opportunity to play in the NFL, on Sunday night football, with all of America watching, the playoffs on the line, our season on the line? You just go out there and just do your best; you can't help but be excited."

The fact that the defense had a fourth straight solid showing, despite more injuries, should not have been surprising, players said.

"We never even thought about it," end Phillip Daniels said. "We just knew we had 11 guys out there. We trust all our guys to make plays. It didn't faze us at all."

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