Redskins, Zorn Build Momentum
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The Washington Redskins went back to FedEx Field yesterday, which marked another first-time experience for Jim Zorn. He is growing accustomed to taking new steps in his rookie season as a head coach, and Zorn's on-the-job training continued in Washington's preseason home opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Zorn remained undefeated as the Redskins jumped to an 11-point lead and held on for a 17-14 victory in front of 69,532. Running back Clinton Portis, defensive end Jason Taylor and running back Ladell Betts were among the key veterans who made their preseason debuts as the Redskins improved to 2-0.
"Very impressed with the starting unit," Zorn said of the offense. "I thought Jason Campbell was poised. Very impressed with our run game. I was really excited that Clinton Portis came in. You watch as you see the suddenness of his moves, and his ability to move and then re-accelerate, you can see what kind of a special back he really is."
Navigating the preseason with as few injuries as possible is the top priority on every team's to-do list at this time of the year, and Washington received a scare when wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Anthony Mix went into the locker room for X-rays. The receiving corps is thin because rookies Devin Thomas (hamstring) and Malcolm Kelly (arthroscopic knee surgery) have missed considerable time in training camp. Fortunately for the Redskins, Randle El (right forearm injury) and Mix (bruised ribs) did not break bones, the team announced.
Campbell again was sharp while leading the first-team offense, and the Redskins appeared to continue making progress in Zorn's version of the West Coast offense. After going 5 of 5 for 61 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener against Indianapolis, Campbell completed 7 of 10 passes for 71 yards last night.
He spread the ball around on the two series in which the offensive starters played, finding Santana Moss, Randle El and James Thrash -- currently the top three wide receivers on the depth chart -- for double-digit gains. On the starters' second possession, which ended with the game's first touchdown,, Portis had a nifty 11-yard run through the middle of the defense. Washington scored on a one-yard run by Portis after overcoming a holding penalty on right tackle Jon Jansen and offensive pass interference on Thrash.
"It felt great for us as a team to move the ball that way," Campbell said. "We continued to keep fighting, and we persevered through all those penalties, and I think it shows the character and the focus of this team.
"The guys never lost their focus. They continued to keep pressing, and we were able to continue to drive the ball."
Said Portis: "It felt good. We sustained two good drives as an offense."
The mood on the sideline and in the stands at FedEx yesterday was much lighter than when the Redskins last played host to the Bills on Dec. 2. In Washington's first game after the death of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor in November, the team had an emotional pregame tribute to the slain star. And the tribute continued during the game as the Redskins played with only 10 players on defense on the Bills' first play from scrimmage.
Rian Lindell kicked three fourth-quarter field goals -- including a 36-yarder with only four seconds remaining -- as Buffalo rallied for a 17-16 victory. Former coach Joe Gibbs, who after the game acknowledged he was unsure about the rules regarding the use of timeouts in an attempt to "freeze" a place kicker, called consecutive timeouts that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.
Lindell, who sent the ball through the uprights from 51 yards after Gibbs called a second timeout, then made the shorter kick. The loss was Washington's fourth in a row, but the team won its final four games to clinch a playoff berth.