Redskins' Clinton Portis sprains ankle vs. New York Jets, joining cast of injured starters

The Redskins prove up to the task against a formidable Jets' defense and use a late touchdown from Larry Johnson to score a preseason victory at New Meadowlands Stadium.
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2010; 1:01 AM

One by one, the Washington Redskins' offensive weapons have been holstered. The quarterback. The fullback. And now the running back.

Clinton Portis, the Redskins' top running back, saw limited action in Friday's 16-11 win over the New York Jets and returns to Washington with an ankle sprain. It's indicative of an offensive unit that has hobbled its way through the preseason schedule, revealing as many problems as it has strengths.

By the end of Friday's win, Portis limped along the sideline, a bum right ankle slowing his gait. Donovan McNabb's ankle kept him out of the game altogether. He wore street clothes and a protective sleeve on the lower half of his left leg.

Fullback Mike Sellers also sat this one out, due to a knee he hurt a week earlier against Baltimore. Plus, wide receiver Devin Thomas couldn't get off the sideline and Malcolm Kelly, still hampered by his hamstring, couldn't even get out of Washington.

In what is typically considered the most important of the four preseason games, the Redskins' offense was again an inconsistent unit, relying on brief flashes of promises to pull out the team's second preseason win.

"That's why we play the preseason," said wide receiver Santana Moss, "so that we can see these things and go and try to tune them up before Week One comes."

Coaches will review film this weekend to determine what exactly they'll take from the win, but the immediate results weren't all positive. Mike Shanahan said he wasn't sure how severe Portis's sprain is - it was not wrapped and Portis was able to stand throughout the second half - but the head coach didn't think it would be too serious. Statistically, it was a second straight rough outing for the first-string unit.

"I thought we did some good things in the first half," Shanahan said. "Still want to get that running game a little bit better."

A staple of Shanahan's offenses for years, the Redskins' ground game has been a particular problem area the past two weeks. After the Baltimore Ravens held Washington to only 25 rushing yards, the Redskins struggled to mount much of an attack against the Jets. They finished with 82 rushing yards, but the first string offense had only 22 in its two full quarters.

Running back Willie Parker, who had just one carry in the team's first two preseason games, entered Friday night with an opportunity to impress coaches and prove that he's worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. But he finished the night with only 16 yards on eight carries.

Behind the starting offensive line, no one else fared much better: Portis had just three yards on his lone carry and rookie Keiland Williams had three yards on two carries.

Larry Johnson, coming off the bench in the second half, rebounded from his performances against the Ravens (eight carries, four yards) to lead the Redskins with 42 yards on nine carries. His 15-yard touchdown catch in the game's final minutes gave Washington the win.

But until Johnson reached the end zone with barely two minutes remaining, the Redskins were on the verge of being held without a touchdown for a second straight week. They finished the night 1-for-4 in the red zone.

With McNabb nursing an ankle sprain suffered against the Ravens, Rex Grossman got the start at quarterback and while he looked serviceable at times, he also mishandled a shotgun snap, and with the ball bouncing in the end zone, he booted it out of bounds and gave the Jets a safety.

Still, Grossman showed a strong arm - Moss dropped one deep pass that appeared to be on target - and finished the game 8 of 16 for 111 yards, with a quarterback rating of 72.7.

"I feel great right now," Grossman said. "Obviously Donovan's going to be the starter. But if they need me to play, I feel extremely comfortable knowing what [offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan] wants and in my abilities to run this offense."

What the team really needs is for its players to execute the offense. With the exception of McNabb, who will likely sit out the game, the starters aren't expected to play more than a series or two in the preseason finale Thursday at Arizona.

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