While the Redskins still long for a persistent pass rush heading into Sunday's game against San Diego, they do have at least one emerging weapon in that regard. Second-year linebacker Chris Clemons continues to make an impact in his third-down role. He forced an interception that was returned for a touchdown last Sunday and later added a sack on a day when Oakland quarterback Kerry Collins generally had too much time to throw.
Clemons replaces former Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington as a rush end in most third-down packages. His two sacks are one off the team lead, despite his limited role, and with continued development the coaches believe he can round into an every-down linebacker.
"We haven't played him at linebacker because our guys have been healthy," linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said, "but he's making steady progress and does well in third-down situations. He needs to play more and he hasn't done that, and if he can grow as much next year as he has this past year, then he'll be in good shape."
Arrington has yet to register a sack after playing very little in the first half of the season. Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who coached Arrington in Washington in 2001, believes he still can return to his Pro Bowl form.
"He was a delight to coach," Schottenheimer said. "We enjoyed him very much. He has a great, great passion for football and if you have people with a passion for this game, whether playing or coaching, you've got an opportunity to find a niche for them when they can do those things."
Running back Clinton Portis did not practice yesterday due to illness -- negating his weekly costumed meeting with the media -- but is expected to return today and play Sunday. Mark Brunell (groin), Chris Samuels (knee), Sean Taylor (ankle), Arrington (thigh), Joe Salave'a (foot) and Ryan Clark (ankle) all returned to practice fully yesterday. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (hip flexor) said he is enthused by his progress working with the athletic trainers, but expects to miss his fourth straight game. Running back Ladell Betts (knee) is also listed as questionable but said he does not anticipate playing, either. "It's just not ready yet," he said. "I can't see myself playing at this point." Defensive lineman Nic Clemons missed practice after spraining a knee ligament Wednesday, but said he will play Sunday. . . .
The Redskins must try to cope with San Diego's fierce pass rush. The Chargers have 15 players with sacks and have 33 sacks overall -- 17 more than Washington. "You have to be aware," Brunell said. "They have a very good pass rush and our offensive line has to be at the top of their game. I can help by getting the ball out and making quick decisions and making sure all our timing routes are timed out properly." . . .
Coach Joe Gibbs turns 65 today, and said he has much to thankful for in this time of giving. "I feel great, and I've got a lot to be thankful for." . . .
During his conference call with the Washington media this week Schottenheimer praised San Diego's Pro-Bowl runner LaDainian Tomlinson, calling him, "The best running back I've ever seen in professional football." Tomlinson is aiming for improvement. "I'm thrilled he feels that way about me," Tomlinson said during his conference call, "but I want to prove it to a lot of other people than my head coach. I want a lot of people to feel that way, so I've still got a long way to go."