Joe Gibbs and his coaching staff spent much of yesterday locked away in a meeting room, poring over the film from Friday's ugly 28-3 Washington Redskins loss to the Rams in St. Louis and debating which players should depart Redskins Park in the first round of roster cuts. The Redskins will release 14 players today, team officials said, and are expected to begin notifying those who will be leaving in the afternoon.
The group is likely to include surprises, as Gibbs is notorious for having an affinity for players with less-heralded pedigrees and keeping many low draft picks and undrafted free agents. The Redskins gave most of their second- and third-team players significant playing time in Friday's defeat and they were beaten all over the field, as the offense and quarterback Patrick Ramsey struggled and the defense collapsed in allowing 435 yards to the Rams. Gibbs declined to elaborate on the specifics of the defeat in his postgame news conference, looking at it from a total-team perspective, but the staff analyzed every play in detail yesterday and pinpointed many areas of concern.
"We saw some encouragement there with [special] teams," Gibbs said. "But on defense and offense we were together there. On neither side -- defensively or offensively -- did we play our game the way we had in the three games previously to that. We had mistakes. We had penalties. We killed ourselves. It just didn't look like the same performance by both our defense and offense. It was all of us together starting with me and going right down the list. It was disappointing and I thought there was a lot we could learn from it."
The Redskins suffered one significant injury -- left tackle Chris Samuels left the game in the first half because of a sprained ankle and did not return. He fell awkwardly on a running play and twisted his ankle, then running back Rock Cartwright fell on it. The team is calling the injury relatively minor and Samuels was on crutches after the game but getting around with a walking cast yesterday. He said it will be difficult to determine the extent of the injury, and any swelling, until the cast is off, but reiterated his stance of being ready by opening day, Sept. 12.
"I'm not too worried about it," Samuels said upon arriving at Redskins Park yesterday. "I think it will be fine."
Washington can ill-afford playing without another starting offensive lineman with stalwart right tackle Jon Jansen already out for the season because of an Achilles' injury. "You can't afford to lose a football player like that," assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel said of Samuels.
The Redskins will return to practice Monday afternoon -- the players are off today -- and the training staff will be working closely with starting linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee) and Mike Barrow (knee), starting guard Randy Thomas (neck) and starting defensive end Phillip Daniels (abdominal strain) to see if they will be able to participate in Friday's preseason finale against Atlanta at FedEx Field. Gibbs did not receive an update from the training staff yesterday but said he hopes Arrington and Barrow can practice this week ("I think they're both close," Gibbs said), while the other players are considered day-to-day.
The team spent much of yesterday watching tape and learning from myriad mistakes against the Rams. Gibbs also decided to get the team on the field for a while, putting players through a 30-minute workout in the late afternoon after various team meetings were held. Washington was poor in virtually every aspect of play in that game, failing to move the ball by rushing (62 yards) or passing (143 yards), while the defense yielded 289 passing yards (143 to wide receiver Torry Holt alone) and 151 rushing yards (125 to rookie Steven Jackson).
After critiquing the tape, the coaches remained at the training facility well into the evening considering their first major set of roster moves. NFL teams have until Tuesday to cut down to 65 players, although various players are exempt from that number including players who participated in NFL Europe. The Redskins are carrying 90 players and will have to be down to 76 Tuesday because of various exemptions. Teams can carry 53 players at the start of the regular season not including eight players on the practice squad.
"It's not a pleasant thing," Gibbs said of the upcoming cuts, "and we'll decide on that [today]."
There is considerable competition for depth spots at running back, wide receiver and tight end/H-back, and the Redskins could begin to trim those positions today. Gibbs said he expects the team to "go hard" in its final exhibition game and has not determined how long quarterback Mark Brunell and the other starters will play Friday night.