Redskins Inside Slant

Quietly laying the foundation for Sunday's blowout win and, in general, whatever limited success the Redskins have enjoyed this year is the run defense.

Gregg Williams' unit was at it again in the 31-7 win over the Giants, who failed to gain significant yardage on the ground and thus provided little relief to rookie quarterback Eli Manning.

Running back Tiki Barber remains the NFC's No. 2 rusher at 1,183 yards, but that's in spite of his efforts against Washington. Against all other teams this season, he is averaging 110.3 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. In two games against the Redskins, he rushed for 80 yards total at a 2.4 clip.

"When a guy gets 4 yards, you should see guys -- they're really disappointed," middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We think that every time they run the ball, it should be 2 yards or less."

The Redskins continue to lead the league by a wide margin in average carry. Washington's average yield of 3.1 yards is 11 percent lower than the No. 2 Ravens' 3.5-yard clip.

The formula is pretty simple: The Redskins' defensive line, despite a dearth of big names, holds it ground, and the linebackers fill in holes. Adding to the mix has been deft tackling in the secondary, particularly by strong safety Ryan Clark, and a general desire to swarm to the ball.

"The reputation of the Redskins in the past was that they couldn't stop the run," Pierce said. "Gregg Williams came in and really emphasized stopping the run. We worked on it all offseason. Once you get into the game, it just becomes routine. Everybody knows where they fit. It's like clockwork. Every gap is accounted for."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Redskins didn't get DE Phillip Daniels back for long. After returning from a three-game absence because of a flare-up of a groin strain, Daniels dislocated a bone in his left wrist and likely will miss the final four games.

It has been a very difficult year for Daniels, who signed a five-year, $12.4 million contract in the offseason to start at right end. He battled muscle strains in his groin and abdomen starting in the preseason. Assuming he can't return from the latest injury, he'll end up seeing time in parts of only five games this year.

"Every time I come back, it's something else," Daniels said. "I can't explain this season. It's been hard. But I've got to keep my head up and realize I've got to come back strong next year and help this team out."

Daniels saw a specialist Monday and is scheduled to see another Tuesday. The Redskins are holding out a sliver of hope that he can play through the wrist injury.

--S Sean Taylor has the 15-yard flag down to a science. His latest infraction came in the fourth quarter of the Giants game when he dealt QB Eli Manning a late blow.

It was the third personal foul by Taylor in three games. If officials had seen him spit (allegedly) in the face of Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh on Nov. 7, it would be four fouls in four games.

Coach Joe Gibbs continues to go easy on Taylor in the public spectrum. After earlier fouls Gibbs said he didn't have a good view to make much comment; after the latest, the coach exonerated the exuberant rookie, saying the penalty was unmerited and, in any case, the product of a near-sack.

"That was a great effort for him there," Gibbs said. "You get some of those. You don't want them. But he certainly makes a lot of great plays. That guy can cover the field."

--LB LaVar Arrington (knee) will take a stab at returning from a 10-game absence. He'll do some limited work in Wednesday's practice and see how he feels.

--WR Laveranues Coles (toe) got a shot of cortisone in Charlotte, N.C., this week and probably will miss a couple of practices. However, he's expected to play against the Eagles.

--DE Demetric Evans (ankle) has a slight fracture but still could play against the Eagles. --TE Robert Royal (knee) suffered a mild sprain against the Giants and might be sidelined against Philadelphia. He'll likely miss Wednesday's practice.

--NT Joe Salave'a (knee) appears to be fine after suffering a mild sprain against the Giants.

--CB Fred Smoot (wrist) appears to be OK after suffering a mild sprain over the weekend.

--RG Randy Thomas (hamstring) held up well against the Giants and shouldn't have any trouble playing the Eagles.

--DT Jermaine Haley (knee) should return this week from a two-game absence.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Patrick Ramsey enjoyed one of the best games of his three-year career and, more important, played just the way coach Joe Gibbs wants. Ramsey completed 19 of 22 throws for 174 yards and three touchdowns. He took just one sack and threw no interceptions. A comfort level is developing between him and WR Laveranues Coles (six catches, including a deep cross), and between Ramsey and TE Chris Cooley (three catches, including his third touchdown in four games). The line performed extremely well, keeping blitzers from the Giants' creative scheme out of the backfield.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Each time RB Clinton Portis rushes for more than 100 yards, the Redskins win. He is averaging 153.5 yards in Washington victories following a 148-yard outpouring against the Giants. Whether picking the right hole, pushing for extra yards or slipping out of a tackle, Portis demonstrated true passion. Backup Ladell Betts also ran hard, gaining 64 yards on 11 rushes. Gs Randy Thomas (who was playing on a sore hamstring) and Derrick Dockery played one of their best games of the season. The blocking in general was outstanding.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Giants netted just 107 passing yards, but an assist goes to rookie QB Eli Manning, who didn't make a lot of good throws or good decisions. Washington did a solid job applying pressure to Manning, though the team registered just one sack, and there were a number of nice plays in coverage. The best came in the second quarter when CB Shawn Springs made a perfectly timed break-up on WR Jamaar Taylor.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- This unit just keeps getting better. RB Tiki Barber remains one of the top players in the league this season, but in both games against the Redskins he couldn't get anything going. Barber rushed 15 times for just 38 yards, a 2.5-yard average. The interior line, which appears in sync now that DT Cornelius Griffin is near full health, lets virtually no one through, and role-playing LBs Antonio Pierce and Lemar Marshall clean up any rusher who does. The game was the eighth this year in which Washington's opponent rushed for fewer than 100 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus -- Another breakdown in coverage. The Giants' Derrick Ward sprinted 92 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, quickly erasing the benefit of a field goal by the Redskins. Washington was lucky it played poorly on special teams in a game where its offense was doing so well. Ward also had a 34-yard return on the game's opening kickoff. The highlight was CB Walt Harris' blocked punt, which set up a Redskins touchdown. Elsewhere, James Thrash had a solid kickoff return and K John Hall, despite seeming decreased strength following October's groin strain, managed a 46-yard field goal.

COACHING: B-plus -- Coach Joe Gibbs called a terrific game after drawing scrutiny through much of the year for being too old-fashioned or just plain out of it. And the Redskins' win was set up by Gibbs' ability to keep the team together through such a rough season. Washington might indeed prove stronger in 2005 for enduring so much adversity in 2004. Gregg Williams continues to get the job on defense as his ostensible big-name players fall. DE Phillip Daniels (wrist) becomes the latest to head to injured reserve.


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