SNAP JUDGMENT

The Redskins finished the preseason the way they started: with a thud. Will the regular season go the same way? After a 33-13 loss to New England, it's hard to be optimistic about Washington's season.

On the other hand, two key players, tackle Chris Samuels and end Bruce Smith, didn't play. But can they make that big a difference? No way.

The offensive line remains a mess. Here's the problem: they don't have time to mesh their playing styles. The injuries wouldn't be so bad if they'd played together in the past, but that's not the case. Both guards will be new and the center missed all of last season. The line miscommunicated too often, a result of inactivity together. They desperately need Chris Samuels back, but who knows when that will be. It's not definite that he'll be back for the opener. If he's not, this line is in trouble.

And the right guard spot isn't settled--David Brandt played OK, but he's still highly unproven. Ben Coleman allowed pressure two plays in a row in the fourth quarter--to New England's backups for crying out loud! He's not the answer. The line's problems led to a shaky night by quarterback Jeff George, who got hit way too often. He was drilled in the ribs on a safety blitz. One play later he nailed Westbrook for 37 yards, but, as he ran downfield, George grimaced in obvious pain.

What's the answer? Marty Schottenheimer ruled out Matt Campbell at right guard--perhaps he's worried about Samuels and wants Campbell to continue working at left tackle. But can Brandt really start so soon? Did every other team make a colossal mistake not drafting him? Brandt did a decent job picking up blitzes and on one play made two nice blocks. Frankly, he did as well as any lineman they had.

Still, the Redskins will scour the waiver wires this weekend for veterans who are released.

Until the Redskins answer questions along the line, it's hard to predict anything but a long season.

The Redskins have to make some tough decisions this weekend--most, however, will be easy. But the hardest part will be deciding who should start along the line. After all, who deserves to?

GOOD NIGHTS

Defensive end Dorian Boose: Recoevered a fumble, made a tackle for no gain and deflected a pass in coverage on a zone blitz. He also rushed from the tackle spot on occasion, with Kenard Lang rushing at right end.

Defensive end Derrick Ham: Fighting for a roster spot, he had his best game of the preseason. Ham forced plays inside with his penetration. He also applied pressure and nearly recorded a sack, instead forcing a hurried incompletion.

Defensive end Marco Coleman: Very active in run support, as usual.

Receiver Michael Westbrook: Caught a 37-yarder.

Special teams coverage: Ifeanyi Ohalete, David Terrell and Eddie Mason all made nice plays. And their coverage mates helped set them up. Ohalete has looked better of late, perhaps moving ahead of Josh Symonette. Terrell made one excellent play in which he missed a tackle and fell to the ground. But the coverage unit turned the play back his way. And, from the ground, Terrell grabbed the returner's legs and tackled him.

Linebacker Antonio Pierce: Made plays again; a nice find as an undrafted player.

BAD NIGHTS

Center Mark Fischer: Whether or not he had a chance to unseat Cory Raymer is debatable. But he didn't help himself with his outing, allowing pressure up the middle--just like he did last season. Nor did he distinguish himself in run blocking. He must communicate better.

Tight end Stephen Alexander: No one is threatening him, but Alexander dropped two passes and missed a block that led to a loss.

Corner Donovan Greer: Was he still fighting for a starting job? We don't think so. Regardless, he didn't help himself with another subpar game. And this was the guy they thought would unseat Darrell Green? Receivers get inside too easily on Greer.

Receiver Justin Skaggs: Dropped a long pass from Tony Banks. When you're fighting for a roster spot, that's a no-no. One play won't cost him a spot, however. Besides, if he makes the team it will be as a special teamer.

Safety Keith Lyle: Didn't distinguish himself, handing the job to David Terrell, who also didn't do much to smile about. Both missed tackles.

GOOD SIGNS

LaVar Arrington: He finally made plays, after staying in the game longer than any other defensive starter. Arrington had a tackle for a loss and deflected a pass and forced an incomplete throw. Arrington blitzed on each play. It allowed him to use his best trait: athleticism; beat the guy and make a play. But we'd still like to see Arrington make plays when he doesn't blitz.

Jeff George: For the first time this preseason, the Redskins' once-sore-shouldered quarterback unleashed a bullet to a receiver. He zipped a 17-yard pass to Rod Gardner. It's the kind of throw Washington fans have longed to see him throw this summer. And it's the kind that gives them hope. Alas, his next pass was intercepted as George got greedy, throwing to the end zone. Gardner didn't help: he ran a lazy route, never challenging for the ball. George also threw a similar pass in the second quarter and unleashed a 37-yard bomb to Michael Westbrook.

John Keim covers the Redskins for the Journal Newspapers and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.


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