By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 24, 2008
CHARLOTTE, Aug. 23 -- As Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor lay in pain on a training table Saturday night with his right knee the focus of attention, the Washington Redskins continued to appear listless on the field. Whether it was frustration about Taylor's potentially serious injury, their embarrassing performance in a dress rehearsal for the season opener or a combination of concerns, it seems the Redskins have reason to worry.
On a night when Taylor suffered what initially appeared to be a severe injury, the Carolina Panthers routed Washington, 47-3, after racing to a 41-0 lead at Bank of America Stadium.
Taylor suffered a sprained right knee after getting tangled up on a play in the second quarter, according to Coach Jim Zorn. X-rays were negative, Zorn said, and Taylor is scheduled for an MRI exam today.
"When he flipped over and they pulled down his sock, that's a very bad sign," Zorn said. "It was a tough situation, but I think we're going to come out of it okay. Our initial evaluation is that I think we'll come out of this one okay."
But judging by his teammates' overt acts of concern when Taylor was forced to leave the game, it seems he might be sidelined for significant time, at the very least.
Washington obtained Taylor last month in a trade from the Miami Dolphins after it lost for the season two defensive ends to injury on the first day of training camp. Apart from starter Andre Carter, the next most experienced every-down end should Taylor be unavailable is Erasmus James, who has a history of injury issues.
As for the Redskins' performance, they were ineffective on offense, defense and special teams in a game in which Zorn played the starters the entire first half in attempt to gauge the team's progress. The answers the Redskins provided were troubling for Zorn.
"We didn't protect well up front," Zorn said. Quarterback Jason Campbell "held on to the ball too long. We also had costly turnovers and sacks that stalled drives. We struggled on both sides of the ball. We didn't win the individual battles."
Campbell, who was 6 of 10 for 39 yards and was sacked four times, was under pressure from the outset. On the Redskins' second possession, Campbell was sacked on consecutive plays, and the second sack nearly resulted in a safety.
Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson beat right tackle Jon Jansen (who suffered a sprained right foot) and wrestled Campbell to the ground in the end zone. (Left tackle Chris Samuels later was bullied by end Julius Peppers for another sack.) Television replays appeared to indicate Johnson had Campbell in his grasp in the end zone, but officials gave Campbell forward progress to the 1-yard line.
The Redskins gave up 228 yards rushing in the game, including 185 yards in the first half. Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams had nine rushes for 101 yards and scored on a 60-yard run in the second quarter. Running back Jonathan Stewart had 100 yards on 10 carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run about three minutes before Williams scored. The Redskins allowed touchdowns of 20 or more yards on four consecutive drives to close the half.
Taylor's injury occurred during a pileup with about 8 minutes 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Linebacker Khary Campbell stopped Williams for a three-yard gain, and Taylor's right leg became entangled outside the pile.
Taylor, 33, grabbed his right knee as he fell backward, and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery, standing near Taylor, quickly motioned to the sideline for help from the medical staff. Taylor -- who has started in 130 straight regular season games and has not missed a game since 1999 -- appeared to be writhing in pain on the field as the trainers tended to him and teammates encircled the perennial Pro Bowl player.
"I was running to the ball, and I saw him," Montgomery said. "It looked like somebody was laying on his leg. I could see the pain in his face, so I just wanted to get the trainers out there as fast as possible. It gave me a scare."
Middle linebacker London Fletcher and Carter continued to move closer to Taylor while appearing to bow their heads in prayer. Taylor eventually stood and put his arms around Redskins staff members for support before slowly walking off the field with a noticeable limp while favoring his right leg.
"We were just praying for him that, hopefully, the injury that he had wasn't something serious," Carter said. "He's just got to take time as far as his recovery."
After maneuvering through concerned teammates milling about on the sideline, Taylor, with help, climbed atop a training table as the Redskins' medical team resumed its evaluation of Taylor's damaged right knee. Taylor shook his head repeatedly as a throng of Redskins officials spoke with him. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin made his way to the table and dropped his head while Taylor waited for the cart that eventually took him to the locker room.
Seeing Taylor, beginning his 12th season in the NFL, taken off the field on a cart stirred bad memories for the Redskins. On the first day of training camp, starting defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury, and reserve Alex Buzbee's season also ended because of ruptured Achilles' tendon.
The loss of Daniels prompted owner Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, to acquire Taylor from the Dolphins. The Redskins sent a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth-round pick in 2010 to the Dolphins on exchange for Taylor -- the 2006 NFL defensive player of the year. With Taylor, who has 117 career sacks, and Carter, the Redskins envisioned having one of the league's best edge-rushing tandems.
Since Taylor made his preseason debut in a 17-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 9 at FedEx Field, defensive coordinator Greg Blache has tinkered with how he would use the accomplished pass rushers, flipping Carter and Taylor between left and right end.
Taylor had been slowed in practice recently because of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue running across the bottom of the foot. But Taylor had the injury on both feet that last two seasons, he said, and did not miss a game.
The entire first-team offense started for the second time this preseason (the group also was together to open the victory over Buffalo). Washington's defense, however, was missing two projected starters -- strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington and free safety LaRon Landry.
Slowed in practice last week because of a hip injury, Washington met with a specialist who determined he had no structural damage, according to Zorn. Exercising caution, the Redskins gave Washington the night off. As for Landry, he has not played in the preseason after injuring his hamstring early in training camp. (Emerging cornerback Matteral Richardson left with a strained groin, as well)