Redskins Want Fast Start on Tough Slate
Three NFC East Road Games Among First Five on Schedule

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Washington Redskins will begin the 2008 season with three road games against NFC East opponents in a five-week span, will host the New Orleans Saints in the home opener at FedEx Field and new head coach Jim Zorn will return to Seattle, where he formerly served as the Seahawks' quarterbacks coach, for a Nov. 23 game.

But those early NFC East road games were the ones that got the attention of players at Redskins Park when the NFL announced the schedule yesterday.

"Our first three NFC East games, all on the road, that's just wild," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "When I saw that earlier in the day, I was kind of surprised. I don't know if I've ever seen that before. To have our first three [division games] start out like that . . . we've got a tough schedule."

After kicking off with a nationally televised game against the New York Giants on Sept. 4 at Giants Stadium -- Zorn's regular season debut -- the Redskins will face the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 28 at Texas Stadium and the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 5 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Saints come to FedEx Field on Sept. 14, and the Seahawks and Redskins meet on Nov. 23 at Qwest Field in a rematch of last season's NFC first-round playoff game won by Seattle.

In a marquee nonconference matchup, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went 10-6 last season and won the AFC North, play at FedEx Field on Nov. 3, and then Redskins begin their bye week. Washington resumes its schedule Nov. 16 against the Cowboys at FedEx Field. Last season, Washington's bye week came after the third game and it played 13 consecutive weeks to finish the season.

Washington and the Baltimore Ravens meet in a nonconference game on Dec. 7 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Cleveland Browns, one of the surprising teams in the 2007 season with a 10-6 record, visit FedEx Field on Oct. 19 in another nonconference matchup. The Redskins conclude their schedule against the 49ers in San Francisco on Dec. 28.

Said left tackle Chris Samuels: "With our first three division games away, you've got to win early. We'll get 'em all at home later, but we've got to come out fast."

Zorn, who was in draft meetings yesterday at the complex and unavailable to speak with reporters, views the schedule as "a tremendous challenge before us," according to a statement released by the team. "We open with the defending Super Bowl-champion New York Giants. Three of our first five games are against division rivals, which will be a tough task in the best division in football.

"I know the fans will be thrilled for our first home game at FedEx Field against the New Orleans Saints. I am very excited to hear our fans and the atmosphere in support of this team. The league gave me an extra bonus in returning to Seattle to coach against my former team and great Coach Mike Holmgren in late November."

The Redskins won their final four games last season, finished 9-7 and advanced to the postseason for the second time in three seasons. There they lost to the Seahawks, 35-14. Seattle also eliminated Washington during the playoffs after the 2005 season. Of the Redskins' 2008 opponents, the Saints, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and 49ers all finished below .500 last season.

"No matter what anybody did last year, you can't look at that and think it's going to be easy next year," defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said. "Everybody in the NFL gets paid and everybody can play. Look at what the Browns did last year. Nobody expected that, so you've got to bring your 'A' game no matter who you're playing." Participating in the league's first game of the season and facing a difficult stretch against division opponents early on, the Redskins have no time to waste, players said.

"As the year goes on, teams usually say, 'Now we've got to turn it on,' but we've got to turn it on from the start," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "We're starting with the Super Bowl champs and we got three straight on the road against the NFC East. If that don't put you in the right frame of mind, nothing will."

Redskins Note: Because of a groin injury, wide receiver Santana Moss did not participate in workouts during the previous offseason. And then Moss was slowed because of groin and heel problems during the 2007 season. But Moss, who has taken more time off from training than he has in the past, appeared sharp while catching passes from Campbell and backup Todd Collins yesterday, Campbell said.

"Santana took a different approach to the offseason," Campbell said. "He is such a fast athlete, and whenever you run as many routes as he runs, you tend to put more wear and tear on your legs. This year, we told him to take more time off to get his legs back healthy. Last year, he was fighting so many problems.

"Today, Santana came out and caught passes with us and he looked smooth. He looked like he was right back in the thick of things again. We just told him not to overdo it. The worst thing would be for him to overdo it right now and it affects him later on in the year. Everybody knows how important Santana is to this team."

Although encouraged about how his legs responded, Moss doesn't want to "look too far down the road," he said. "I don't like to get ahead of myself and think about what's going on way before it's time. That's just the type of guy I am. As players we just have to wait until it's time, and then you just have to go play the games."

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