Debugging the Redskins

The Redskins showed they could be exciting in just one game, scoring a lot of points and reportedly angering the opposing coach. To which we say: it's preseason! How can you run up the score when the games don't even matter? The point is to work on your attack and the Redskins want to pass the ball. Now, what will they do for an encore against Carolina?

The Redskins play the Panthers at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a primer for the game:


It's your turn: quarterback Shane Matthews must answer Danny Wuerffel's night versus San Francisco. Wuerffel threw for three touchdown passes in the second half, albeit against lesser talent. Matthews has looked more comfortable in this system, one he hasn't played in for 10 years. He needs to show it Saturday.

Players who must make a move: Receiver Justin Skaggs, dropped too many balls in practice and needs to make something happen; guard Ross Tucker, in second straight start has golden opportunity to prove Washington doesn't need to add a guard; end Carl Powell, haven't seen much from him in practice; running backs Robert Gillespie and Jimmy Watkins, longshots to make roster, but could find a home with strong outing.

Keep an eye on: guard Rod Jones, played well at left guard last week and might develop into an OK player at this spot; defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, mammoth player could be fun to watch if healthy; end Ladairis Jackson, who showed excellent potential last week and will get a chance to play with the first teamers Saturday.

Most intriguing battle: The receivers aren't world beaters, but it sure is a tight race. The Redskins really like Darnerien McCants, predicting big things for him one day because of his size and athleticism. He seems to be a lock, barring a free fall the next two weeks. If the Redskins keep six, here are my picks, as of today: McCants, Kevin Lockett, Jacquez Green, Rod Gardner, Derrius Thompson and Chris Doering. They've been the most consistent in camp. But this battle isn't over yet.

Show me: That said, Gardner needs to show that he can be a force in this passing game. Which hasn't been evident during practice.

Minor battle: Donovan Arp and Del Cowsette are fighting for the backup tackle spot. Cowsette is more versatile and better against the pass. Arp is stronger against the run. Both stay after practice every day to work on fundamentals.

Offensive goal: The main goal is to move the ball any way possible. But the Redskins know they must be able to run the ball to win in the NFC East. And they didn't run it well against San Francisco.

''We may be passing more, but we still have to run the ball,'' right tackle Jon Jansen said, ''or they'll drop everyone back and then we can't do either. That really is something we have to work on. We've got some kinks to iron out. We have to have five guys working together and at this point we have four doing one thing and one doing another. This is a good test for us, especially with the defensive line they have. They have some big dudes up there.''

Defensive goal: Play better on third down. Coordinator Marvin Lewis said the first unit allowed two of five third downs to be converted last week, a figure that's too high. Darrell Green will start for the injured Champ Bailey and rookie Rashad Bauman will play nickelback. This is a good test for Bauman, who has looked excellent at times. Other times he's mediocre, but then again he's only a rookie.






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