KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
SERIES: 2nd meeting. Redskins beat the expansion Texans 26-10 at FedEx Field in the meaningless penultimate game of 2002.
2006 rankings: Redskins: offense 25th (18th rush, 25th pass); defense 23rd (18th rush, 21st pass). Texans: offense 23rd (21st rush, 19th pass); defense 32nd (22nd rush, 32nd pass)
*Keys to the game: In an ironic twist, both teams have struggling secondaries that might catch a bit of a break. That's because both offenses have also stumbled badly out of the gate and the Redskins and Texans both want to work out their issues with their running games. Washington should receive a boost from the return of RB Clinton Portis, but it also needs the offensive line to improve in run and pass-blocking. Coordinator Al Saunders' new offense isn't clicking, and he needs QB Mark Brunell to step up and take advantage of a secondary allowing 478 passing yards per game. Houston is expected to use more of RBs Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado now that they've had more practice with the team. If the Texans can use the run to set up the pass, the Redskins' secondary could be in for continued trouble with CB Shawn Springs likely out again.
*Fast Facts: Redskins: Portis needs 31 rushing yards to become the fifth fastest player all-time to 6,000 for his career. ... Are 24-8 (.750) when Portis rushes for at least 100 yards. Texans: QB David Carr has thrown 71 consecutive passes without an INT. ... Rookie LB Demeco Ryans leads the team with 20 tackles.
PREDICTION: Redskins 27-17
--RB Clinton Portis practiced again on Thursday and is expected to start on Sunday at Houston after missing last week with an injured left shoulder.
--CB Shawn Springs didn't work on Thursday after straining his right groin on Wednesday in his first practice since abdominal surgery on Aug. 15. Springs won't play in Houston. Kenny Wright will start again in his place.
--DT Joe Salave'a sat out a second straight practice because of the calf he strained last week at Dallas. Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said he doubts that Salave'a will play. Sixth-round draft choice Kedric Golston is the logical choice to start if Salave'a isn't ready.
--CB Kenny Wright played for the Texans' during the expansion team's first three seasons (2002-04).
--LB Jeff Posey played in 16 games, starting nine, for Houston in 2002. He still holds the Texans' sacks record with eight in 2002.
--RB Ron Dayne is expected to start in place of Wali Lundy, who has dropped on the depth chart.
--DE Antwan Peek (groin) has not practiced all week.
--LB Morlon Greenwood (foot) has practiced limited this week and will likely play.
--CB Phillip Buchanon (ankle) may return this week after missing the last week. He has been limited in practice.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
His weekly Thursday dress-up session wasn't back, but Clinton Portis was. The Redskins' star running back said his left shoulder is better than 100 percent and he expects to start on Sunday in Houston for the first time since he was hurt in the preseason opener.
"I took a couple of shots and I ended up OK," Portis said on Thursday about his recovery from Wednesday's practice, his first full session since he partially dislocated the shoulder on Aug. 13 at Cincinnati. "(The Texans) can expect a full-throttle Portis. It's no setbacks or limited plays for me, or we're going to do this for me and do something else for Ladell (Betts, his stand-in the past two games). I'm part of the game plan."
Portis is excited about what he can do for an offense that has managed just one touchdown -- his 5-yard run against Minnesota. Portis was a backup in that season-opening 19-16 loss before being sidelined for last week's defeat in Dallas.
"Having the opportunity to carry the team on your back, you want to do it," said Portis, who set a franchise record with 1,516 rushing yards in 2005. "Hurt shoulder or not, I want to do that."
Not that Portis is worried about his shoulder, which will be covered with a protective harness during games.
"Soreness is going to come," Portis said. "(The Vikings' game) was the first time I had taken a shot in four weeks. It was like coming back to camp, not running, not doing nothing. You come back to camp, you're going to have some tweaks."
Asked if his weekly dress-up act is a thing of the past, Portis smiled and said, "Hopefully we won't need the characters. Hopefully, you'll see the character in this team and we'll go out and establish win after win."
Frustrated, embarrassed and definitely chastened after being pummeled twice, the Texans' defensive players grimly returned to practice Wednesday seeking answers. While theories and conjecture as to the nature of their poor showing abound, defensive coordinator Richard Smith offered the clearest, most concise reason.
"We're not a very good fundamental football team on defense," Smith said. "We went into last week's game and cut back to minimize mistakes. We still had mistakes, both technique and fundamental mistakes. Somewhere, we've slipped.
"When you looked at us in preseason, I thought we were making strides. But in the first two games, we haven't. Basically, we've given up too many explosive plays."
Defensive lineman N.D. Kalu believes some serious contrition is in order.
"We've embarrassed ourselves," Kalu said. "(Gary) Kubiak, Richard -- they're such great coaches. We owe them a big apology. We've let them down, and we've let ourselves down. We've got good players. I don't know what we're doing wrong."
Everything, it would seem.
The Texans (0-2) are last in most of the major defensive statistical categories and closer to the bottom than the top in most of the rest. After Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb tormented them in the opener, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning tortured them in the second game, throwing for 714 yards between them.
Of course, that's a big part of it right there -- Manning and McNabb. The Texans found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time both weekends, confronting quarterbacks who tend to make life miserable for everybody. The strong-armed Colt and the elusive Eagle rank 1-2 in the NFL in passing yards and probably will stay in that vicinity for another 15 weeks.
"I don't give a damn how powerful their offenses are," Smith said. "Sure, those are great teams. But if you look at it that way, you're looking at it as a loser."
The players also took a standup approach. None blamed the schedule-makers for this fiasco in the making, one that might be panic-button material if Houston's next two opponents -- Washington and Miami at home -- weren't both in dire straits offensively.
The Redskins have been so inept that the Mark Brunell-led offense has generated just one touchdown to date. The Texans might have to guard against overconfidence, assuming they have any confidence left.
"It's hard, especially when you feel like things were going to be so different this year," cornerback Dunta Robinson admitted in the Texans' RCA Dome locker room after Manning and the Colts slapped 43 humbling points on them. "A lot of people around this league expected what went on today, but for us, it was totally unexpected."