After Monday's night of interceptions, mistakes and continual second-half embarrassment, the Washington Redskins' passing game this week went back to the basics.
It seems there are three R's in wide receiving, too: reading, releasing and running (routes).
Two days before the Houston game Sunday at 1 p.m. at RFK Stadium, the wide receivers hung around after practice for a few extra deep passes from Joe Theismann.
There have been more meetings than usual, which says a lot, because even in average weeks, they meet for several hours each day. Coach Joe Gibbs calls this "a special emphasis thing."
And Malcolm Barnwell, who was acquired last month in a trade with the Los Angeles Raiders, even took some films home overnight for extra study.
"It's not regression," Theismann said yesterday. "We're just re-establishing communication with new people. It's especially important when you have it as critical as we do, considering that three of our four receivers are new."
Theismann says a quarterback may "take things for granted" with a group of familiar receivers.
"When Charlie (Brown) was here, when Virgil (Seay) and Alvin (Garrett) and Art (Monk) all were here together, it took us 2-3-4 years to hone our system.
"Now, with Calvin (Muhammad) still being new and with (newcomers) Malcolm and Gary Clark, we're still establishing, we're still building . . . Sometimes I get mad at myself because we don't communicate as much as we should. I figure, 'What the heck, he knows what I'm going to do on a play.'
"Well, that's the biggest mistake you can make."
There are as many explanations as there were interceptions in the 44-14 Monday night loss to Dallas: missed communication between quarterback and receiver, ill-advised passes, poorly run routes, mis-read defenses by a receiver, new receivers and a seemingly easy preseason that lulled the Redskins into a false sense of security.
"Any time you don't perform the way you'd like to, you stress things (the following week)," Gibbs said. "The receivers, quarterbacks and coaches are together all the time. We talk about how we've got to be the closest unit of any part of the team, how we've got to try and get in the groove."
Theismann accepted some blame for the five interceptions he threw and passed some along to the receivers. Gibbs did the same thing.
"A couple things were busted on (Theismann)," he said. "The receiver adjustments that we'd like to have, we didn't get."
One mistake was by Muhammad, who joined the team last October in a trade with the Raiders and became a starting receiver with Monk when Brown was traded to Atlanta last month.
In the third quarter, he was supposed to run a fade route outside to clear some room for tight end Don Warren in the middle. But he cut in, clogging the middle with defenders. One was cornerback Ron Fellows, who intercepted the pass.
"That was a mistake, just a mis-read," Muhammad said yesterday. "It's just a mental letdown. That happens sometimes. I'll try to concentrate a little harder."
Wide receivers coach Charley Taylor was ready to forgive and forget.
"Sometimes it happens in the heat of the battle," he said with a shrug. "Sometimes, as a receiver, you think you see things that are not there. But we've got a great group of wideouts. We expect big things out of them. I think they expect big things out of themselves.
"We made a couple mistakes that hurt us a little bit, but I think we're back where we should be."
Tight end Clint Didier, who caught five passes to tie Monk for the team lead, said he was surprised by the way the passing game undid itself.
"We got taken out of our game plan when we got behind and made some mistakes and didn't run some routes right, which I myself was guilty of," he said. "We're just going to have to be more disciplined this week."
Didier said he "sensed everybody was ready" for the game. "But it takes a while for a receiver and a quarterback to get their timing down."
Barnwell said it's been "a little more difficult" getting used to the Redskins system than he anticipated.
"And, normally, I'm a fast learner."
Barnwell, who was not used to as much movement on offense in Los Angeles as he has found here, said he was the intended receiver on the final interception, Jay Schroeder's pass that was returned for a 21-yard touchdown by Dennis Thurman.
"The mistakes were kind of mind-boggling," Barnwell said. "We can't live like that, making mistakes like that. We were in the right area, but we were using the wrong techniques."
Theismann says that will change.
"We have fully opened the lines of communication," he said. "Something I'm doing is to let the guys know that I want to hear if there's something they're not comfortable with. I tell them, 'Don't assume I know it and don't be afraid to say it.' "
Other than that, nothing really is new. Subtle, not substantive, change has taken place. At this point, it's talk, not action.
Said Taylor: "Really, the only change we made was that we are going to make everything work this week."
Gibbs said running back John Riggins, who strained his right hamstring diving for a touchdown at Dallas, will start against Houston.
"As long as he can go, he's the starter," Gibbs said . . .
Guard Russ Grimm (back spasms) practiced for the first time yesterday and "seems to be okay," Gibbs said. Grimm said he expects to start Sunday . . . Linebackers Monte Coleman and Pete Cronan, who both have hamstring strains, also practiced and are expected to play.