Taylor Will Miss Game vs. Cowboys

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

With Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor sidelined for at least a week after having emergency surgery yesterday to drain a pocket of blood from his left calf, the Washington Redskins must shuffle the defensive line for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Tex.

Injured when he was inadvertently kicked in his calf Sunday in Washington's 24-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Taylor underwent a 20-minute procedure early yesterday morning at a Northern Virginia hospital, Coach Jim Zorn said, in an effort to avert potential nerve damage. Taylor was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon.

"They went in and cut open that portion where the blood was pooling and released that pressure. As soon as it released the muscle went back down to normal," Zorn said. "They closed it back up, and he's going to be fine. Our problem is he's going to be out for this Dallas game for sure. I can't tell you beyond that."

Taylor, who deflected three of quarterback Kurt Warner's passes at the line of scrimmage against Arizona, had his calf wrapped and played the rest of the game after being kicked. "Later on that night it started getting more sore," Zorn said. "He started feeling a little bit [of numbness] in his ankle."

Special teams standout Khary Campbell sat out the 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 after he had blood drained from his thigh with a needle. Taylor's recovery could take more than a week because "they had to open it up" with surgery, Zorn said.

The loss of Taylor -- who has started in 133 consecutive regular season games and has not missed a game since 1999 -- could prompt defensive coordinator Greg Blache to make major changes up front.

"I couldn't tell you who the exact starter" will be in place of Taylor, Zorn said. "We'll know at some point during the week. I don't think it'll be a game-time deal, but I don't want to tell anybody yet because I don't know."

Blache and Zorn will discuss their options at left end in place of Taylor, Zorn said, and how the Redskins (2-1) could best compensate for the absence of Taylor against the Cowboys (3-0), who lead the NFL in total offense with an average of 440 yards per game.

"It hurts us because he's our starting defensive end," Zorn said. But "it's an opportunity now for the next guy to come in and shore up, show up, with Erasmus [James], with Chris Wilson, with Demetric [Evans] all getting snaps. They have a chance to show a little bit more."

Blache probably plans to lean more heavily on the versatile Evans, who plays on the interior and the edge. Evans is an integral part of the Redskins' pass defense, lining up inside next to defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander in nickel situations. Evans could start opposite right end Andre Carter, but Blache has preferred to have Evans in more of a utility role because he has been equally effective at tackle and end.

After Taylor sprained his right knee Aug. 23 in a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Evans prepared to start the season opener against the New York Giants, but Taylor was in the lineup for the 16-7 loss. As of yesterday afternoon, "no one has talked about how the rotation is going to go, who's starting and who's not," Evans said. "Right now, the coaches are just trying to get the game plan on point," and he said he expects roles to be defined when the team begins preparations tomorrow for Dallas.

If Evans, who is considered particularly effective against the run at defensive end, started for Taylor, Blache could have Alexander and Anthony Montgomery split time at one tackle spot in the nickel package, move Evans inside often as well and utilize strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington as a rush end.

In previous seasons, Washington had a major role in rushing the passer on third downs. During the 2005 season, Washington had 7 1/2 sacks, his highest total with the Redskins. He had five sacks last season despite sitting out four full games, and parts of others, because of recurring hamstring problems.

Washington's role as a pass-rushing end was expected to decrease with the arrival of Taylor, and he missed the game against the Saints because of a hamstring injury. Washington, however, might be needed in his former job to help the Redskins apply pressure from the outside against Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo has completed 67.4 percent of his passes and ranks seventh in the league with a 103.2 passer rating. Wide receiver Terrell Owens has a 19.3-yard average on 10 receptions, including three touchdowns.

During the Cowboys' 28-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 11 last season, Owens had eight receptions for 173 yards and four touchdowns. In the second half, Owens scored on 31-, 46- and 52-yard passes. The Redskins sacked Romo once, and "pass rush is always important," Evans said. "Especially in this league, because the quarterback is the premier position."

Without Taylor opposite him, right end Carter could face more double-teams than in the first three games. James, who had serious knee problems in his first three seasons in the league, still is "getting back into the swing of things," Zorn said. "I look at him much like I look at some of the other guys who have these long rehabs. He hasn't been where he wants to be, where we want him to be."

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