The Washington Redskins expected their linebackers to be one of the team's strengths this season -- and they played quite well in the first two weeks -- but only one of their projected starters was on the field for last night's game against Dallas at FedEx Field.
Mike Barrow, who was signed in the offseason to bolster the inside linebacker spot, was inactive for the third straight game because of what he called a tendon tear in his left knee. Barrow has seen several specialists over the last few weeks. The Redskins had been labeling his injury tendinitis, but Barrow told a radio interviewer over the weekend that he has a tear in his tendon, which he said has prolonged his absence.
Barrow looked as if he might be able to make his debut after showing positive signs in practice, but he has yet to take the field for a game since signing with Washington. Durability has been one of Barrow's strengths. He had missed only five games in his 11 previous NFL seasons and just two games over the last eight seasons. He had not missed more than one game in a season since 1995, when he sat out three games.
Barrow was again replaced last night by Antonio Pierce, who has gone from primarily a special teams player to one of the key components of the defense.
LaVar Arrington, the starting weak-side linebacker, missed his first game after undergoing minor knee surgery last week. Arrington is expected to miss between two to four weeks, and a better timetable for his return should be available after he meets with surgeon James Andrews. Lemar Marshall started his first NFL game in Arrington's place, meaning only strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington was lined up where he was expected to be when the team entered training camp in July.
The absence of Arrington and starting right defensive tackle Phillip Daniels, who is expected to be out at least another week with a groin tear, left the Redskins inexperienced on that side of the field. Ron Warner made his first NFL start, playing in Daniels's position. Warner was backed up by Demetric Evans, who was released by Dallas before signing with Washington in 2004 and has not played regularly since 2001.
The Redskins also relied on inexperienced backups at other defensive positions. Reserve linebackers Khary Campbell and Michael Brown, who was signed as a free agent last week, have limited NFL experience, with Campbell playing primarily for the New York Jets a few years ago.
Raymer Starts at Center
Cory Raymer replaced Lennie Friedman as the starting center last night, as the Redskins focused much attention on their offensive line during preparations for the game. Friedman has had several botched exchanges with starting quarterback Mark Brunell through the first two weeks and running back Clinton Portis has not looked as threatening running inside as he has outside the tackles, which might have been reasons for the switch in personnel.
"We felt like Cory deserved a chance to play," Coach Joe Gibbs said.
The battle between Raymer and Friedman was supposed to be one of the most hotly contested in training camp, but Friedman started all five preseason games. Raymer entered for Friedman in the opening regular season game against Tampa Bay after two miscues with Brunell, but Brunell fumbled on that series and Friedman played the rest of that game and started at New York as well.
The rest of the offensive line was aligned as it had been. Ray Brown started at right tackle ahead of Kenyatta Jones for the second straight week, with stalwart tackle Jon Jansen out for the season with an Achilles' tendon injury.
Bowen, Morton Sidelined by Injuries
Safety Matt Bowen missed most of the second half with a groin strain, and kick returner Chad Morton also left the game with a knee strain and concussion after getting hit hard on a return. H-back Chris Cooley (stinger), safety Sean Taylor (hamstring), receiver James Thrash (leg contusion) and receiver Laveranues Coles (finger) suffered minor injuries but stayed in the game. . . . Wide receiver Darnerien McCants was inactive for the third straight week. McCants was a regular contributor last season and re-signed with the team in the offseason, earning a $2 million signing bonus. . . . H-back Brian Kozlowski, an offseason acquisition, was inactive for the third straight week, as was reserve running back Rock Cartwright. Rookie offensive lineman Mark Wilson was also inactive. . . . Washington dressed five safeties for the second straight week; all played in the Week 2 loss to New York. . . . It was the 13th meeting between Washington and Dallas on Monday night. Only Denver and Oakland have played more times on that night (14). . . . Country music star Tim McGraw, son of the late major league pitcher Tug McGraw, was on hand to perform at halftime. McGraw said he is a huge sports fan and a football fanatic in particular. "I'm just a big fan," McGraw said before the game. "I'm glad to be able to do this and I'm glad they let me do it." McGraw would not predict a winner in the game. He grew up rooting for the New Orleans Saints and has adopted the Tennessee Titans, since they play in Nashville. . . . D.C. United star Freddy Adu watched the game in owner Daniel Snyder's private box.