|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR (NFI-Airese Currie-foot); FB Jason McKie (NFI-pectoral); FB Bryan Johnson (PUP-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee).||P Tom Tupa (IR-back); TE Manuel White (IR-fibula); CB Artrell Hawkins (IR-hamstring); DE Melvin Williams (IR-shoulder).|
|Out||QB Rex Grossman (ankle).||None.|
|Doubtful||None.||LB Chris Clemons (hamstring).|
|Questionable||None.||S Ryan Clark (knee); WR Taylor Jacobs (toe).|
|Probable||CB Jerry Azumah (hip).||OT Jon Jansen (thumb); DT Brandon Noble (knee).|
Rex Grossman's broken ankle and Chad Hutchinson's ineffectiveness paved the way for rookie Kyle Orton to be thrown into the mix. Orton had a strong preseason, completing a high percentage (63%) of his passes for a large average gain per attempt (10.2 yards). At fullback, free agent Marc Edwards has been a welcome addition since joining the team during training camp. Bryan Johnson has been slow to recover from the foot injury that cost him the end of last season. Edwards is a veteran sledgehammer who quickly adapted to Ron Turner's offense. He has surprisingly good hands, and his ability to catch passes in the flat is a great insurance policy to keep the chains moving. Edwards will need to be on top of his game to keep blitzing defenders off Orton. Tight end Desmond Clark is rounding into form after missing most of the preseason with a hamstring injury suffered in minicamp.
Former Bear Phillip Daniels returns from an injury-plagued season to lead the Redskins' defensive line. He's expected to play against John Tait. Safeties Matt Bowen (chest) and Ryan Clark (knee) have been nicked up during the preseason but are expected to be ready for Sunday's matchup. The Redskins are hoping linebacker LaVar Arrington will return to form after multiple knee surgeries. One of their few true difference-makers, Arrington appeared in just four games last season and is likely to share time with former Bear Warrick Holdman. The linebacking corps in general is a question mark, since middle linebacker Lemar Marshall replaces Antonio Pierce who left via free agency. Another former Bear, cornerback Walt Harris, missed some time in the preseason with a sore calf. He'll need to perform well to hold off rookie first-round selection Carlos Rogers, who could be challenging him as early as this week for the vacancy at cornerback caused by the departure of Fred Smoot.
The Redskins held opponents to just 81 yards rushing per game in 2004. Against the pass, they lack a great pass rusher and have to generate pressure via the blitz. They will come from everywhere. Despite amassing 40 sacks in 2004, the Redskins' sack leaders were defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and cornerback Shawn Springs with six each. Look for the Bears to test the Redskins' rush defense, which no longer has Antonio Pierce manning the middle. Additionally, they'll look to minimize rookie Kyle Orton's exposure to long down and distance situations by mixing in some short passes, and to set up play action. The Redskins will load up the middle to stop the Bears' run game, and when they pass, they'll send blitzes off the edge to test Orton's poise and recognition.
Cornerback Jerry Azumah is expected to play after having minor hip surgery a month ago. Azumah's 70-yard interception return for a score was the Bears' only touchdown in the Bears' 13-10 loss last season. If Azumah cannot play, Nathan Vasher will be ready to face the challenge as the starter. As a rookie, Vasher led the team with five interceptions in 2004. Former Arena Football standout Rashied Davis would see action in nickel schemes if Azumah cannot play. Bear cornerbacks will face a revamped Redskins receiver corps. Transitioning to a smurf-like attack, David Patten (Patriots) and Santana Moss (Jets) take over for the departed Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner. Azumah's availability could trickle down to special teams, where rookie wide receiver Mark Bradley would return kickoffs if necessary. Safety Mike Brown and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher have had excellent training camps and are looking to rebound from injury-plagued seasons. Brown missed nearly the entire year, while Urlacher missed roughly half of the season after suffering a hamstring injury during the first practice. Brown and Mike Green have switched safety positions, allowing Brown to play the more physical strong safety near the line of scrimmage while Green focuses more on coverage at free safety.
Right tackle Jon Jansen fractured a thumb in practice this week and will be playing with a cast on his left hand. This could hamper him in his matchup with Adewale Oguneleye. Ogunleye is coming off a down season, playing through an ankle injury he suffered in the previous contest with the Redskins. He was a terror in limited action during the preseason, and is primed for a strong campaign.
Last season's 13-10 Redskin victory was built on Clinton Portis' 171 rushing yards. The Redskins still have to sort out their passing game. It will be difficult to do this against the Bears' pass rush. The challenge will be for the Bears to stop another full dose of Portis. With the Bears loading up the middle and needing nickel coverage a bit less, the often-overlooked Hunter Hillenmeyer will be a pivotal player.