One safety is back at practice and another is back in the training room. No one knows when the kick returner might return, and the tight end is done until the end of preseason.
The Redskins are midway through the preseason schedule, and their injury picture remains fuzzy. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan had hoped safeties LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe would return to practice this week and see action in Thursday’s preseason game at Baltimore. While Atogwe had his helmet in hand Sunday, Landry has suffered another setback. The Achilles’ tendon injury that kept him sidelined all of training camp is apparently well enough, but Landry hurt his hamstring while working out in Indianapolis last week and his return is delayed indefinitely.
“I don’t know how bad the hamstring is,” Shanahan said. “We all know hamstrings sometimes take a day or two, other times a little bit longer. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Other ailing defensive starters, including Atogwe, cornerback Josh Wilson and linebacker London Fletcher were back at practice and could return to the lineup against the Ravens. The third NFL preseason game is typically the one in which starters see the most playing time and coaches get the clearest idea of where their first-team units stand.
“It’s the preseason but it’s all the stuff that matters, as far as getting everybody ready for the opening game of the season,” said Fletcher. “It’s important how we play each and every game. We’re constantly being evaluated, so we have to take that approach.”
In Friday’s 16-3 win at Indianapolis, the Redskins began the game missing five projected defensive starters: Atogwe (hamstring), Landry (Achilles’), Wilson (groin/hamstring), Fletcher (hamstring) and Adam Carriker (heel). On offense, the Redskins were without Chris Cooley (knee), Ryan Torain (hand) and Malcolm Kelly (foot), and Brandon Banks (knee).
Shanahan said Banks, the team’s top punt and kick returner, won’t be available against the Ravens, as he’s receiving a series of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments on his surgically-repaired left knee. Cooley will also miss Thursday’s game — he isn’t expected to play next week against Tampa Bay either — though Fletcher, Wilson and Carriker might return to the lineup. And Atogwe could make his debut wearing burgundy and gold.
“God willing, if I’m ready, I’ll play,” Atogwe. “If not, we’ll wait for the next game.”
Despite the injury, Atogwe had been active at practice, shadowing safeties in the defensive backfield, but said Sunday’s practice felt different.
“It felt natural to be back out there. I didn’t feel slow,” Atogwe said. “I actually felt pretty fast, quick thinking. It’s just the muscle memory has to come back.”
Players know that missing a single preseason game can be costly. Torain has already missed two and doesn’t know if he’ll take the field in Baltimore.
“It’s tough to be on the sideline, but the team looks great,” he said.
For Torain, that could be a problem. Tim Hightower and rookie Roy Helu seem to complement each other well and combined for 171 yards and a touchdown last Friday.
If he’s unable to play Thursday, Torain will have just one game to show coaches why he deserves to be a big part of the mix.
“I don’t think it’ll take long at all,” he said. “I’ve been staying in shape, and getting used to taking contact doesn’t take long.”
The more starters at Shanahan’s disposal Thursday, the better. In the third preseason game, most coaches stick with their starters through the first half and sometimes into the third quarter.
“Pretty close to the same way we’ve approached the last two,” Shanahan said of his approach, declining to reveal who might start Thursday at quarterback. “Try to get everybody some playing time in the first half, and see a lot of different people play in the second half.”
Despite missing a half-dozen first-team players in Indianapolis, the Redskins didn’t have much trouble with the Colts’’ starting units. In two preseason games, the Washington defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown, and the first-team offense, led by Rex Grossman against Pittsburgh and John Beck at Indianapolis, has moved the ball with relative ease.
Based on what he’s seen, Shanahan doesn’t think the lockout and the lack of offseason workouts will affect how teams approach the final two preseason games.
“I think everybody’s adjusting to what happened with the lockout. I think everybody’s doing a great job,” Shanahan said.