It’s been a difficult beginning for the Washington Redskins, considered by some a Super Bowl contender when the season started.
Another loss and their playoff hopes could be in serious jeopardy before September ends.
Washington (0-2) has dealt with problems on both sides of the ball in losses to Minnesota and Dallas to open the season, but it’s a lackluster offense causing the most concern.
An injury to Portis and poor protection for quarterback Mark Brunell has rendered ineffective what was supposed to be a potent unit.
After winning their final five regular-season contests and a first-round playoff game last season, the Redskins brought in Al Saunders from Kansas City to run the offense and added receivers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El. The changes have yet to pay off because Washington is averaging 255.5 yards per game, 25th in the NFL.
“I’m definitely concerned,” center Casey Rabach said. “With the talent we have here, the coaching staff we have here, the preparation all week that we have, I don’t understand what’s not clicking in these games.”
Portis rushed for a franchise-record 1,516 yards last season, but partially dislocated his left shoulder in the preseason opener and came off the bench in Week 1. He jammed the rotator cuff in the same shoulder in that game, a 19-16 loss to the Vikings, and sat out last Sunday’s 27-10 defeat to the Cowboys.
Portis, however, made it through an entire practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring the shoulder and is listed as probable for this game.
“Clinton looked good. He took the whole practice, felt good,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “I think we’re OK there.”
If the Redskins could establish a rushing attack, perhaps some pressure would be taken off Brunell, who was sacked six times last week against the Cowboys.
Santana Moss, who had 84 catches for 1,483 yards in 2005, has seven for 138 yards through two games, partly because Brunell hasn’t had time to find him.
“We’ve got playmakers there. We are disappointed in it,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got guys there that we think can make great contributions to the team. Right now, we’re not able to get them the ball. If we continue with that, we’re going to be in deep trouble.”
The Redskins certainly will be in trouble if their losing streak against AFC opponents reaches 11 games this week.
Since the NFL expanded the playoffs to 12 teams in 1990, only three teams that started 0-3 advanced to the postseason. Washington hasn’t been 0-3 since 2001, when it began 0-5 under Marty Schottenheimer.
Gibbs hasn’t opened 0-3 since 1981, the first season of his first tenure with the Redskins. He led the team to the first of its three Super Bowl titles the next season.
“I think we have a lot of things we need to fix to win football games,” Gibbs said. “Certainly, this is a tough time for us.”
It’s been a tough season for cornerback Shawn Springs, who has not played since abdominal surgery on Aug. 15. He was hoping to return this week, but is listed as questionable after straining his right groin on Wednesday.
Unlike Washington, the Texans (0-2) were not expected to make the playoffs this season, but they have disappointed in the first two games after hiring Gary Kubiak as coach and drafting defensive end Mario Williams first overall.
Williams has five tackles and no sacks in losses to Philadelphia and Indianapolis, and Houston again is having trouble protecting quarterback David Carr.
Carr was sacked four times in last Sunday’s 43-24 loss to the Colts and has been sacked 217 times in 62 career games.
To make matters worse, left tackle Charles Spencer broke his left leg against the Colts, forcing the Texans to reshuffle their offensive line.
Center Mike Flanagan suffered a left foot injury and is listed as day-to-day, although he may miss Sunday’s game. Ephraim Salaam will fill Spencer’s role and either guard Steve McKinney or backup Drew Hodgdon will take Flanagan’s place if he’s unable to play.
The Texans haven’t been much better than the Redskins on offense, averaging 270 yards, 23rd in the league.
“We’ve got to stop making mistakes—hold on to the ball from my standpoint and protect Dave more,” running back Wali Lundy said. “We’ve got to get better on offense as a whole.”
Lundy has started both games, rushing 17 times for 57 yards. Dayne and Gado both saw their first action last week—Dayne had 11 carries for 37 yards while Gado rushed three times for 36 yards.
Despite Houston’s protection problems, Carr is second in the NFL with a 123.7 passer rating.
The Texans have lost eight of 10 to NFC opponents, including a 24-10 defeat to Philadelphia in Week 1.
Washington beat Houston 26-10 at home on Dec. 22, 2002, the only previous meeting between the teams.
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