CARLISLE, PA., AUG. 19 -- A partial weekend off ended tonight for the Washington Redskins, who reported back to Dickinson College for meetings and the final week of away-from-home training.
After reviewing films of Friday's 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Coach Joe Gibbs and his staff had no surprises to report. The offense that scored 13 points, turned over the ball four times and gained 305 yards didn't play very well in its 1990 RFK Stadium debut. In fact, Gibbs said it was as poor a performance as he has seen in his 10 years in Washington.
Never mind Mark Rypien's quarterbacking errors, the running game in particular bothered Gibbs. The Redskins have eked out 117 yards on the ground in two games and the lone positive against the Steelers was rookie Brian Mitchell's 45 yards on eight carries. Mitchell gained some of those yards because when holes weren't there he became what he was as a college quarterback -- an improvising option runner.
"He ran the wrong way on one play and gained 10 yards," Gibbs said, "so how do you evaluate that? He has shown great athletic ability and we like him."
Otherwise, Gibbs refused to criticize veteran backs Gerald Riggs, who gained 12 yards on nine carries, and James Wilder, who had four carries for minus-seven yards. He said that in some instances the line had blocked badly and in others the back didn't do as well as he could have.
Gibbs said he was not panicking, but made it clear he's not happy as the Redskins begin preparing for a Saturday night game in Cleveland. A Quarterback No More
When Mitchell was a quarterback at Southwestern Louisiana, his coach told him that someday "you'll have an offense running plays for you and you'll find out it's a different game," Mitchell remembered.
He meant that instead of making up plays as he ran, he'd find it completely different when he lined up seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and watched plays develop for him.
After a summer attempting to convert to running back, he has found all of that to be true. At times he begins scrambling before plays develop and at times he hasn't looked comfortable running between the tackles. But he has also been everything the Redskins could have hoped for and one of their stars of this camp.
His 92-yard kickoff return was a highlight in the opening game and his 45 yards rushing was one of the highlights of the second game.
"I'm doing all right, but I had a fumble that could have cost us a game," he said of his bobble returned for a Steelers touchdown. "That's poor thinking on my part. In that situation, we can take a seven-yard loss. It doesn't matter. But a fumble can take us out of the game."
He said he was feeling "more comfortable with the position. The more I'm out there the more I'm learning. I'm having to learn to hit the hole and bounce outside if it's not there. In college, I was big enough to run over guys. I can't run over many guys up here."
After the fumble, General Manager Charley Casserly walked up to him and asked: "You know where you were carrying the ball?"
Mitchell nodded and said he should have had it on the side away from the defender. "That's not instinct. That's carelessness. I can't let that happen."
It appears the fifth-round draftee has played his way onto the team as an extra running back behind Earnest Byner, Riggs and Wilder, and as a special teams player. The Injury Report
Linebacker Brian Bonner (knee), cornerback Brian Davis (quadriceps) and defensive linemen Tracy Rocker (biceps) and Fred Stokes won't practice Monday. Byner (hip) and tight end Ron Middleton (shoulder) will do some work. Stokes will exercise his injured shoulder, and Davis will begin limited running.