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Zorn Stays on Course Despite Offensive Woes

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coach Jim Zorn said he is not planning to alter his approach or strategy after the Washington Redskins finished the preseason with two straight lopsided losses and has confidence in his offensive system.

His first-string offense sputtered twice in a five-day span (the team was outscored 71-6), and Zorn, calling plays in the NFL for the first time, says the repeated three-and-outs have not discouraged him with the regular season opener Thursday at New York.

"I think the hardest part for me is calling the plays and not being able to sustain [drives] for many reasons," Zorn said after reviewing the film of Thursday's 24-3 loss to Jacksonville. "It hasn't been the same reasons. If I was calling plays and I felt like I just kept running into a brick wall every time I called a play, then I'd feel really kind of nervous about me and the stuff that I'm calling. But when you see it on video, there's an answer, and there are correctable answers."

Injury Concerns

Zorn is trying to be optimistic about the health of the team ahead of the season opener, with starting defensive end Jason Taylor and starting safety LaRon Landry among the biggest concerns.

Taylor sprained his right knee a week ago and could miss the opener, while Landry missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. Although Landry is slated to practice, he may not be 100 percent fit. The expectation is that Landry will play, and he continues to say as much, but Zorn said his progress in practice could influence his playing time after such a prolonged absence.

"We hope to get him in there," Zorn said.

The estimate for Taylor's recovery was upward of two weeks of rest, and Zorn said the sack specialist is "coming right along" but may need to sit out in order to be ready to face New Orleans in Week 2. Taylor and Landry are expected to be dynamic playmakers for a defense that struggled to rush the quarterback and produce turnovers in recent years.

Zorn expects veteran reserve tackle Todd Wade, who has missed much of the preseason with a high ankle sprain, to return to practice this week. Zorn is awaiting further updates on the status of rookie safety Kareem Moore's hamstring. Linebacker Khary Campbell (thigh) is on the mend as well, while Zorn said he is very pleased with the progress being shown by end Erasmus James, who missed most of the preseason recovering from knee surgery.

McMullen Steps Up

When the Redskins drafted two wide receivers in the second round of April's draft, few would have expected that many journeymen would have cracked the roster at that position. But Billy McMullen has essentially done just that.

With rookie picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly suffering from injuries and unable to contribute in the offense right away, McMullen, a Virginia product, has shined, and Zorn intimated that he will be on the 53-man roster when it is announced today. McMullen was signed in January after spending time with Minnesota and Philadelphia.

McMullen, 28, is in his fifth year and played high school football in Richmond. He led the Redskins with 20 catches for 277 yards, nine more receptions than any other player. He produced in every outing, even while spending most of his time with the reserves, and had four catches for 30 yards in Thursday's loss against Jacksonville.

"He's really in the mix and forces his way in," Zorn said. "He's just really made a statement that he is going to do things right and be at the right place."

Linebacker Alfred Fincher, who was re-signed midway through camp, has also likely pushed his way onto the team, Zorn said, after another strong performance against the Jaguars.

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