WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Redskins cut Tim Hightower on Friday, the latest twist in coach Mike Shanahan's 2½-year search for a consistent starter at running back.
Hightower, who was returning from knee surgery, was one of 23 players trimmed from the roster as the Redskins head into the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9.
Included in the tally was safety Tanard Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Hightower's departure leaves the Redskins with three recent draft picks - second-year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. and rookie Alfred Morris - competing for a starting job that's been in flux since Clinton Portis was injured during the 2010 season.
Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams have been among the hopefuls who have started games since then and are no longer with the team.
The Redskins acquired Hightower in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals last year. He won the starting job out of training camp but played in only five games before tearing the ACL in his left knee. He re-signed with Washington in May and played in only one preseason game, getting five carries for 28 yards.
Jackson's suspension complicates matters at safety. He joined Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams as new additions this year as the Redskins attempted to rebuild the position after parting ways with LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe.
But Meriweather missed the last two preseason games after hurting his left knee against the Chicago Bears. His injury and Jackson's suspension no doubt played a part in Shanahan's decision to keep five safeties on the roster.
Jackson will be able to apply for reinstatement in exactly one year. He previously had two drugs-related suspensions during his five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 2007 fourth-round pick was banished for four games in 2009 and for 12 months starting in September 2010.
The Buccaneers terminated Jackson's contract in April after he failed a physical. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins a few days later, reuniting him with former Tampa Bay head coach and new Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.
Jackson spent the first part of training camp recovering from knee and shoulder injuries, but he started against the Indianapolis Colts in the third preseason game.
Among the bubble players making the cut was Brandon Banks, the high risk-high reward return man who can change games with his speed but is sometimes careless with the ball.
Shanahan said Banks needed to show improvement as a receiver to stay on the team, and Banks helped his cause with a 47-yard catch in Wednesday night's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Redskins also cut quarterback Jonathan Crompton; receivers Anthony Armstrong and Terrence Austin; tight end Richard Quinn; offensive linemen Tom Compton, Grant Garner, Willie Smith and Erik Cook; defensive linemen Doug Worthington, Darrion Scott, Delvin Johnson and Marlon Favorite; linebackers Bryan Kehl, Markus White and Donnell Holt; and defensive backs Travon Bellamy, Brandyn Thompson and David Jones.
Fullback Dorson Boyce and running back Tristan Davis were waived-injured. Linebacker Brian McNally was waived with an injury settlement.
The Redskins also placed exempt defensive end Kentwan Balmer on the reserve-left squad list. Balmer left the team several weeks ago during training camp, having decided he no longer wanted to play football.
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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Like Tim Tebow, Roy Helu has become the most exciting offensive player on his team.
And like Tebow, the Washington Redskins running back isn't shy about sharing his Christian faith, interspersing his answers to reporters' questions with phrases like: "I've been praying to be a better steward and a better representation of Jesus on the field."
Helu also realizes that some can be turned off by such talk, while others find it inspiring. Just as Tebow has become a polarizing figure during an amazing run with the Denver Broncos over the last few weeks, Helu is gaining more attention now that he's become the first Redskins rookie in franchise history to rush for 100 yards in three straight games.
That creates a challenge: how to sound genuine - and not sanctimonious.
"I'm being cautious of that," the fourth-round pick from Nebraska said. "My prayer's actually been that just keeping in a close relationship with God through prayer ... and also that he's going to lead me, like in opportunities like this, to share - and that it won't come off as fake or anything but authentic.
"Once I became a Christian I just have this ambition to share, kind of like what you see with Tebow. But obviously he's on a great scale right now."
As he gets more comfortable with the media in his first NFL season, Helu's answers are becoming more about football and less about faith. He said he was especially conscious about his choice of words after a victory over the Seattle Seahawks three weeks ago, lest anyone think he was being thankful to God just because the Redskins had won.
In just a few months, Helu has earned two spots in the team's record book. His 14 receptions against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 6 bettered the single-game mark held by Art Monk and Kelvin Bryant, and his tallies of 108, 100 and 126 yards over the last three weeks are unique among Redskins players fresh out of college. The feat is even more remarkable given that the team has constantly had to shuffle the offensive line because of injuries and Trent Williams' suspension.
Just don't expect Helu to brag about either accomplishment. Asked if he feels he's "arrived," he said: "I don't like that word at all."
"`Comfortable' or `arrived.' That's not my style," he said, "because I don't feel that way at all. Complacency is one of my enemies, and those are kind of synonyms for that."
Helu held out his hand. Before Sunday's game, when he ran for 126 yards against the New England Patriots, he wrote the word "uncompromising" in ink on his left arm. He said he did it to settle himself because "there's so much stuff going on throughout the game."
Helu said a turning point in his life came during his freshman year at Nebraska, when team chaplain Matt Penland helped him discover a new relationship with God. He feels the discipline required to practice his faith has helped him become a better football player. He's usually one of the last players to leave Redskins Park at the end of the day.
"Sometimes I just sit down in here and do nothing," he said. "Sometimes I go and do cold tub and some type of stretch, extra film, but nothing too serious."
From a football perspective, coach Mike Shanahan and teammates have nothing but praise. Helu is showing the ability to balance the patience he needs to wait for a block with the aggressiveness to hit the hole quickly. He has the strength to break tackles, and his ability to pick up the blitz - a weak link at the start of the season - has steadily improved.
"He's got the power and speed to make the big play, and he sees that as times goes on," Shanahan said. "And I think a guy like him just is going to get stronger and better. He works at it."
Even though he's only started four games, Helu has a decent shot at finishing the season as the NFL's top rookie running back. His 582 yards are second to the 897 posted by the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray before he went on injured reserve.
But when it comes to having a platform of success for talking about faith, Helu knows he's way behind Tebow.
"I think he's a very tough-minded individual," Helu said. "I think God protects him from a lot of the really negative stuff."
Notes: An Australian television crew was on hand Wednesday to do a story on punter Sav Rocca. When the reporter asked Shanahan about the Aussie punter, the coach responded with some 30 seconds of compliments - and then added: "The bad thing is he's been probably been our best offensive weapon, and that's not good." ... T Jammal Brown (groin), S LaRon Landry (groin, Achilles), FB Mike Sellers (elbow) and WR Donte' Stallworth (illness, ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
The New York Jets come to Fed Ex Field today at 1 (pregame coverage now) on ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, www.espn980.com and the Washington Redskins Radio Network.
The Jets are (6-5) and in danger of missing the AFC playoffs, but this is nothing new for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. Struggling in the regular season, and making life brutally difficult in January -- has been their modus operandi under Rex Ryan as head coach.
That being said, this has to be their time to make a statement, and they have to be feeling better about the short term future of "Gang-Green" after last weeks come-from-behind win over Buffalo.
Last year, after a (4-0) November, the Jets went (2-3) over the seasons final month and change. They went (1-2) during that stretch on the road, but as they have for two straight years, won two consecutive January road playoff games to reach the conference championship game, before falling short.This year, the Jets were (2-2) in November, beating Buffalo twice, while losing in Denver and badly at home to New England.
The Redskins of course, are just hoping (praying?) that with the offense showing signs of life the last few weeks, that they can put two wins together and get a 5th win on the season, while keeping their less than miniscule playoff chances alive, with New England coming to FedEx next week.
The Redskins will win Sunday's AFC-NFC East tilt with the Jets if .....
**Roy Helu can continue to emerge, as an every down threat. By now, you know what he can do as a screen/dump receiver. Last week in Seattle, Helu had 7 receptions for 54 yards. More importantly, he had a heavy work load carrying the ball (23 carries, 108 yards). Mike Shanahan, on ESPN 980 this week, said Helu is absolutely the starter (duh?) and that he is ready for a consistent 25 carry a game work load. Can he do it against the Jets, after getting 30 touches last week and in game # 16 (including preseason) of the season? The Jets are allowing 114.1 yards per game on the ground, as they transform their defensive front. I don't see it, but Kyle and Mike Shanahan have to remain committed as they have been the last few weeks, because Helu has proved he is capable of getting tough, physical yards and getting something out of nothing.
***The Redskins can limit Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes, and take away the fade in the red zone, while also not allowing New York and Mark Sanchez to nickel and dime you to death underneath. DeAngelo Hall did not truly respect the Seattle WR's last week, and for good reason. He played tight, bump coverage most of the day and had a terrific game outside of Golden Tate's skinny post route touchdown. I don't expect him to play that type of coverage, as aggressively as he did in Seattle today. Hall will need to figure a way to lock in on Sanchez' eyes and break on the ball aggressively to at least break it up, if not pick it off. I have a really bad feeling about this matchup, so I think this is where the game will be won or lost. Don't forget about the outstanding TE for the Jets, Dustin Keller (leads NYJ with 40 receptions) - who will be attacking a Redskins secondary with either Reed Doughty or DJ Gomes at strong safety.
**The Redskins do not get gashed on special teams, specifically the kickoff return unit. I know that sounds weird, considering all of the field goal/extra point issues - of course that is important, but with Joe McKnight leading the way for the Jets on kickoff returns (34.7 Avg) -- the Redskins have to be much better than they were last week in Seattle, against former Jet returner, Leon Washington. Washington allowed Washington (confused yet?) to gash them on two returns for 86 yards. Graham Gano had to save the day twice, once on a 51 yard return to start the 2nd half, after Lorenzo Alexander slipped and Anthony Armstrong missed a tackle. Perhaps the most important kick that happened in a positive way for the Skins, was Gano with a touchback thru the end zone with 1:06 left, to deny Washington an opportunity - only down by 6 points. HUGE.
Those are just some of my keys - we will have more throughout the day on the game broadcast and Redskins pre game show on ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, www.espn980.com and the Washington Redskins Radio Network. I will also post the latest information from Fed Ex Field, on twitter at www.twitter.com/russellmania980 and www.facebook.com (ESPN 980)/www.twitter.com/espnradio980.
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Roy Helu is becoming too productive to ignore. Give the Washington Redskins rookie a start, and he's good for about 150 yards of total offense.
At least that's what happened the first two times he got the nod. He piled up 41 yards rushing and 105 receiving against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 6 but found himself back at second-string the following week.
Now he's coming off a 162-yard day - 108 rushing, 54 receiving - and a leap-the-defender touchdown in a 23-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks that broke a six-game losing streak.
Coach Mike Shanahan is dealing with uncertainty at many positions as he heads into December with a team that is 4-7, but the running back position looks settled - for now.
"He's our starter, for sure," Shanahan said Monday.
Helu was part of a day of Redskins resilience.Anthony Armstrong finally caught another pass - his first in five weeks - and it was a big one, a 50-yard touchdown grab that gave Washington the lead in the fourth quarter. It was the team's longest completion of the season, and it more than doubled Armstrong's yardage total for 2011.
DeAngelo Hall, who a week ago said he ought to be cut because of the way he was playing, made the game-clinching interception in the final minute. Rex Grossman completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 314 yards, both season-highs. A defense that allowed 27 points against the Dallas Cowboys a week earlier clamped down, proving the Redskins still have some pride despite the longest losing stretch in Shanahan's head coaching career.
"It's tough," Shanahan said. "That's what you're in this game to do, is to win. But at the same time, when you're around a football team that's giving you everything they've got, you feel good. I've been around some teams that have been on losing streaks and you didn't feel like you got the type of effort that you're hoping for.
"That's why I feel good about the character of this football team, and it was nice to find a way to win because they deserved to win. Our players have been working extremely hard, and hopefully we can keep it going."
To keep it going, Shanahan needs the solid running game that was a hallmark of his Denver Broncos teams. He got it Sunday, when Helu gave the Redskins only their second 100-yard rushing performance of the season.
The fourth-round draft pick from Nebraska found yards when there appeared to be none, and his acrobatic 28-yard touchdown run ignited the fourth-quarter rally. Shanahan called the play "the difference in the game."
"You can see he got some tough yards," Shanahan said. "He broke some tackles. He made some people miss. You could some elusiveness, power, some speed. That's what you look for in a running back. He played with a lot of confidence. He knew he was going to be the guy. We told him he was going to have the workload, and he really took advantage of his opportunity."
Tim Hightower emerged from training camp as the starting tailback, but he was lost for the season with a knee injury five weeks ago. Ryan Torain had a 135-yard game in relief against the St. Louis Rams but failed to tally more than 22 yards in any of his four starts.
Helu set a Redskins franchise record with 14 catches against the 49ers in his first start, but Shanahan kept going back to Torain because Helu was still developing, especially as a blocker in pass protection.
On Sunday, it was Helu all the way - with more to come as the Redskins prepare to host the New York Jets.
"We're going to go with the guy with the hot hand," Shanahan said.
Notes: Shanahan said breakdowns in blocking technique were to blame when the Seahawks blocked a field goal in the second quarter and an extra point in the fourth quarter. The Redskins have had four field goals blocked this season, and injuries have prompted a shuffling of the personnel up front. "Unless you have some guys on the team that I don't know of - there's not a whole lot of options," Shanahan said. Shanahan said Graham Gano was not to blame on either play and will remain the team's kicker. ... FB Darrel Young, who suffered a concussion on Sunday, will undergo tests over the next couple of days to determine when he can return. ... DE Stephen Bowen tore the PCL in his left knee and is sore but will not require surgery. "Hopefully he'll be able to play this weekend," Shanahan said.
SEATTLE (AP) Roy Helu's hurdle gave Washington the kind of spark a team riding a six-game slide needs when it's down 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Then it was up to Rex Grossman and the Redskins' defense to put an end to the team's longest losing streak in more than a decade.
Helu's leaping 28-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter pulled the Redskins within three, then Grossman hit Anthony Armstrong on a 50-yard touchdown pass on third-and-19 minutes later as the Redskins rallied to stun the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 on Sunday.
Seattle led 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, then watched the lead get whittled away in a hurry by Grossman, who was brilliant early, shaky in the middle and then great again in the closing minutes. Washington (4-7) snapped its longest losing streak since dropping the first seven games of the 1998 season.
"That was one of the most impressive runs I'd ever seen, to be able to hurdle somebody and keep moving, it was awesome," Grossman said. "That was the play that really got us going there in the fourth quarter and got us the win."
The highlight was Grossman's toss to Armstrong, who outmaneuvered Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner and hauled in the pass in the corner of the end zone to give Washington a 20-17 lead with 6:18 remaining.
The touchdown came one play after Grossman was called for intentional grounding while getting driven to the turf. Grossman stepped up in the pocket to avoid the pass rush then unloaded his toss for Armstrong. It was Armstrong's first catch since Week 7 at Carolina, his sixth of the season and his only one on Sunday.
But Helu's leaping touchdown run was equally important for the Redskins. After Seattle took its 10-point lead, the Redskins immediately answered with their most impressive drive since a dominating first quarter. And the capper was a moment that will forever be in Helu's highlight reel.
On third-and-3 at the Seattle 28, Helu took a quick pitch out of the shotgun, sprinted into an opening, hurdled over Seattle defensive back Roy Lewis and through the tackle attempt of safety Kam Chancellor on his way to the touchdown run. It was the high point of Helu's first 100-yard game, rushing 108 yards on 24 carries.
"I (saw) that I could get around and right, I think where their DB was, was the first down marker and I just wanted to make sure I got it," Helu said. "I didn't care if their safety came over and killed me in the air I just knew I was going to get that first down from forward progress ... and I ended up breaking a tackle."
Helu's touchdown was followed by three critical holds by Washington's defense. Seattle had consecutive three-and-outs, hampered on each drive by costly penalties. When Seattle's defense held and forced a punt with 2:42 left, the Seahawks were backed up again by an unnecessary roughness flag on Browner during the punt.
"That was our strongest finish that we've had," Washington defensive tackle Barry Cofield said.
Grossman threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Fred Davis as part of Washington's nearly perfect first quarter, threw a pair of interceptions in the second and third quarters, then led two touchdown drives in the fourth after Seattle took its lead. He finished 26 of 35 for 314 yards and was 7 of 9 passing in the fourth quarter.
The loss all but ended what little hopes the Seahawks (4-7) had of getting back into the NFC playoff picture and now they must regroup for a home game Thursday night against Philadelphia.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 111 yards and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but Seattle saw its chance at the first three-game win streak under coach Pete Carroll crumble under too many mistakes.
Jackson was 14 of 30 for 144 yards and was intercepted in the final minute by DeAngelo Hall. Along with the continued penalty problems, the Seahawks twice were forced to use timeouts because of communication problems with having the wrong personnel on the field.
Seattle was flagged nine times, while Washington had 10 penalties in a game that was chippy throughout and required the teams to be separated during the coin toss.
"It just comes back to discipline. We've just got to be more disciplined," Chancellor said. "We got to start at practice. We get penalties in practice and it shows in the game. So we just got to start at practice and be penalty-free in practice so it can carry over to the game."
It didn't help that the Seahawks' offense disappeared in the closing minutes. The quarter actually started well for Seattle with Jackson finding Golden Tate on a 15-yard TD pass with 12:45 left to give Seattle its 10-point advantage.
Nothing good happened for Seattle from there.
The Seahawks ran 13 offensive plays on their final four possessions. No play went for more than 11 yards. Seattle failed to pick up any first downs and had three penalties, two sacks and a turnover.
"We have some issues that we have to keep working on. We have such a fast turnaround right here that we won't be able to dwell on this very long. We'll barely be able to touch on this thing on Monday and then we get onto game week for Thursday night," Carroll said. "The lessons are hard and this is how it goes. You've got to get through it and you've got to grow from it."
Notes: Washington FB Darrel Young and Seattle WR Sidney Rice both left with concussions and did not return. ... Seattle starting WRs Rice and Mike Williams were held without a reception. ... Washington's 172 yards of offense in the first quarter was its most in a first quarter since 1999 against Philadelphia. ... Davis' touchdown catch was the first time Washington scored a TD on its opening drive this season.
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San Francisco 49'ers @ Washington Redskins - 1st Half
**Inc on 3rd Down, getting hit by Smith, threw to covered Austin on pivot route. May have missed open guy. **Terrible decision to throw out of I-form, right into hands of Justin Smith, who stunted down the line in traffic from right to left, and was kind of hard to find after freeing himself of Mo' Hurt. Would have been TD. **Throws screen from end zone to Helu, incomplete but holding. 2nd throw from inside 3. **Beck INT on cross in cut route, right to left - to Fred Davis. Thrown just a bit too far out on lead, could have hit him a step before. **Misses wide open Niles Paul early, and then again, when targeted, with erratic pass. Not under pressure. BAD **Great hookup with Jabar Gaffney on 3rd/7 wide open on right sideline square out, from 3B spray. **Nice 3rd/8 hookup with Gaffney on back shoulder, wiped out because of TRENT PF. Kills momentum. **Beck pump fake windmill and pulls it down to run away from sack for plus 2. **Throw into tight coverage (Gaffney) on 3rd down, with Fred open on pick route. **Nice take off and slide to pick up positive yardage and avoid sack, 3 yards. **Beck to Gaffney for 14 on 2nd/10 on last minute drive. **Beck another pump fake pull down and shovel pass INC at end of first half. Weird.
***+ 16 off right side, Fred Davis good lead block, Jammal good drive block to open hole. **2 small runs on 1st/2nd down. Next series, + 1 on 1st, Screen dump left for 3 yard gain. **3rd/4 - Helu drop on wide open 1st down over middle. Trent throws arm in frustration. **Helu up middle for + 3, runs into Chester on pull. Monty hooked his block perfectly. **Rips off nice gain off RT on 1st down, 3-0, + 10 behind great lead by Fred & DY. JB goes out w/ groin. **Helu fumble on 8 yard gain on screen right. Stripped by Patrick Willis late in first half down 6-0. **Screen catch late in first half..cuts back in-bounds instead of running out to stop clock. **Next play - screen cuts back against the grain to the middle of the field. Redskins have to use timeout.
**Big I-back formation middle sprint to sidelines catch, for 12 yards and first down, with play action to Helu.
**2nd/2 drop on square out with Torain split wide left and Gaffney in right slot. Perfect throw by John.
**3rd run in a row, Mo' Hurt pulls - Will late on Justin Smith who stops run backside. **Maurice Hurt chip blocks Justin Smith who loops and belts Beck as he throws INC on first series. **Mo Hurt and Logan Paulsen lose block on stretch zone left, as Helu is stopped for 1 yard loss. **Trent shoves Justin Smith in back on Torain run right, for small gain - kind of stumbles. TRENT takes personal foul on Justin Smith two plays later, negating offside by SF, UNR applied. Shanny benches for one play, BAD foul becuase it negates a 1st down. Williams yanked for 3rd/23 for Locklear one play. **Trent false start on 1st down to start 2 minute drive.
**Shallow cross on 2nd/2, rubs off pic and bobbles catch up in the air but focuses and catches it for first down.
KO # 1 - touchback, line drive thru end zone. Did not even attempt to field wild kick. PUNT # 1 - drifting backwards and fumbles punt at the 3 yard line. TERRIBLE DECISION. 2nd game this year that Banks has struggled catching the ball (St. Louis) **KO # 2 - gets obstructed on return by I believe DY and ball comes out to 17. ***KO # 3 - Nice return by Banks to set up FG drive to 27.
**Keyaron Fox 2 special teams tackles (1 punt, 1 KO) after Byron wildly misses tackle at POA.
**59 yard FG at end of half to break long scoreless streak for Redskins.
**1st play from scrimmage + 11 yard gain by Gore, churning thru stacked up line. Carriker misses arm tackle. **Hunter out of wishbone power set as upback around left end for 7, with Reed getting dumped. **Alex Smith with big scramble on 1st down up middle. for 9 yards. **Redskins defense does great job on 4th/1 holding stance twice, with shifting and motion to draw offsides and force FGA. (6-0)
**Defeats double-team, one block then another, and chases down Smith who flushed all the way to far left side of field for sack, with late assist from Rocky, on 3rd and 6. **Great run stop, running free from LOLB spot to stop Gore for loss. Golston & LaRon seal edge. **Combines on 2nd/2 with London to stop Gore, face 3rd/2 - forces roll scramble and INC because of pressure and chewing up Davis at RT.
**Good rush on same side as Kerrigan on 3rd/14 to force throw, wide open to Gore drop. Would have probably been stopped short.
**Gets pinned inside a bit, and Gore runs right around to left side of defense
**Zone defense, races over to cover Crabtree on 7 yard gain - missed tackle for first down. **Gets picked in traffic and late getting over on FB - Bruce Miller for TD on wheel route.
**Bad missed tackle on left side of D pinching down on Gore run through slight gap because of arm tackle effort.
**Blows up on blitz forcing INC on Alex Smith to force 4th/1.
**Nice run stop shooting gap on 2nd/2 to force 3rd/1.
**Playing loose zone, way late in getting over to sideline on Crabtree + 21 gain to right. Wide open.
**Nice 3rd/2 deflection and PBU on Vernon Davis near completion.
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Mike Shanahan's weekly news conference morphed into a give-and-take over semantics Monday, with the coach finally conceding that, yes, he is "rebuilding" the Washington Redskins.
To anyone watching the team, it seemed obvious all along. Even now, although the season is only half over, the Redskins already feel like a team looking ahead to next year.
It can be seen in the product on the field, where youngsters are getting more playing time. It can be heard in the words of Shanahan, who is repeatedly citing the injuries that have decimated the offense and the challenging developmental curve faced by inexperienced quarterback John Beck and the other players in the lineup.
Three rookies made their debut starts for the Redskins (3-5) in Sunday's 19-11 loss to San Francisco, a fourth straight loss for a team that is again trailing the pack in the NFC East.
"I'm not even sure what you mean by rebuilding," was Shanahan's first response when the r-word was broached. He responded he doesn't believe that merely playing young players because of injuries would fit the definition.
But, later, when asked about his relationship with his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the head coach brought up the word up himself.
"I'm the one who told Kyle not to come," Mike Shanahan said. "I said, `This is going to be a work in progress. It's not going to happen overnight. You're with an established team. You've got your ducks in order.' I said, `We're going to have to rebuild this football team, starting on offense.' He understood that. He enjoyed the challenge and that's what we're doing."
So, just to make sure, Shanahan was asked again. In retrospect, it seemed almost superfluous. Only 18 players on the current 53-man roster predate his arrival last year, and so far he's managed only a 9-15 record in 1 1/2 seasons as he continues to retool and reshape.
"Our center is changed from when we first came in," Shanahan said. "Our left guard is changed from when I first came in. Our left tackle's changed. Our right guard's changed. Our right tackle's changed. Our tight end has changed through injury, both our wide receivers, our halfback. ... That is rebuilding a football team. Now, with the draft, free agency, we're getting some young players playing as second-teamers, and they're getting a chance to show up what they can do. ... Some young players are getting some experience.
"Now if that's what you call rebuilding, then we're rebuilding."
OK, that's settled, more or less, although it would have been easier for the fans to take if he had said it 18 months ago and asked for their patience.
Meanwhile, there's the hard part - actually living through the struggles associated with it.
"Sometimes," linebacker London Fletcher said, "you've got to go through a couple losses to get to where you want to be."
In this case, more than a couple. The Redskins are underdogs this week against Miami, which finally won its first game on Sunday. It's hard to imagine when or how Washington will be the favored team anytime in the next six weeks.
"Coach Shanahan came here last year, he started a process of rebuilding, you know, years of a lot of mistakes that had been made by the prior people who had been running things," Fletcher said. "That's going to take a while. Last year, he took a step towards doing that, establishing his standard of how he wants to do things, and this year we took another step toward doing that."
"The word `rebuilding' can be taken out of context," Fletcher added. "If you say that, people automatically assume that you're saying, `Well, we're just giving up on this season; we're resigned to losing.' There's not a man in this locker room, there's not a coach on this coaching staff - I know coach Shanahan and his competitiveness is not resigned to losing. I'm not resigned to losing. There's nobody who's going to accept losing."
This was always going to be a fragile season for the Redskins, who were operating with little margin for error because of the thin roster and uncertainty at quarterback. A 3-1 start offered some hope that looks more and more like false hope. Injuries to Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Tim Hightower and Kory Lichtensteiger were an obvious blow, but neither of Shanahan's quarterbacks - Rex Grossman or Beck - has proven worthy of the job, and the defense isn't getting big plays from its secondary.
"I think what we have to do," Shanahan said, "is we've got to grow up real quick."
There's natural curiosity to see how long Shanahan will stick with Beck, who is 0-3 as a Redskins starter and 0-7 in his NFL career. Beck struggled again Sunday, leading the Redskins' only touchdown drive during garbage time in the fourth quarter, but he'll get another start.
At least he didn't take 10 sacks, as he did against Buffalo the week before, and Shanahan felt there were times Beck got rid of the ball too quickly. Their longest play against the 49ers was a 17-yard completion that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fluttered over to Roy Helu.
"We're going to have some growing pains with the quarterback situation and with shuffling some guys around," Shanahan said. "But I like what John did from one week to the other."
Notes: Shanahan said RT Jammal Brown has a groin injury, not a hip injury as originally announced. The coach offered no timetable for Brown's return. ... WR Niles Paul has turf toe and is expected to miss two weeks. ... Shanahan said rookie WR Leonard Hankerson, who caught four passes for 34 yards, will remain in the starting lineup.
The Washington Redskins did not score a touchdown for 2 full games, before FINALLY - scoring late in Sunday's 19-11 loss against the now (7-1) San Francisco 49'ers.
Well that's a positive right? They did actually score a touchdown! By my very unofficial count, the Redskins went 123:55 of actual game clock time between touchdowns. Obviously, it is embarrassing and humiliating, but progress is being made in my eyes. Believe it or not.
Before you accuse or ask -- yes I am sober and no I was not forced to write this - with Dan Snyder and Mike Shanahan cuffing me to a wall and demanding some positivity.
Here's what I think -- and as a warning - you are not going to like what you see.
**John Beck is NOT good enough, right NOW. That's obvious, and well -- expected -- by anybody that has half a brain. Beck needs to play better, get more decisive, sharper, accurate and he needs to be able to see the multitude of open receivers that the Redskins have on seemingly most plays.
We all understand this. John Beck does. Mike Shanahan does. Kyle Shanahan does. A monkey would understand it. Here's what 99 % of the media and disgruntled Redskins fan base doesn't understand -- John Beck WILL GET BETTER. Gotta trust me on this. He's not a punk. He's not one of the fan favorite Quarterbacks who is going to stop working to get better, and improve. He's humble, unassuming, hard working, smart and mobile. He is raw, inexperienced and hesitant to pull the trigger at times. Sometimes he locks in to one guy (as all QB's do), sometimes he tries to squeeze a ball in to a tight space or tight coverage (something you have to do at times, with a razor thin margin) and often, he misses a open target.
Here's the positive, if there is one -- at least guys are getting open. They have been getting OPEN all year long, even under Rex Grossman. Anybody that has not seen that, just doesn't know the reality of the situation. It is why I have largely defended Kyle Shanahan's play calling and scheme.
I will say this -- as my friend and the dean of the Redskins beat, John Keim from the Washington Examiner points out -- http://bit.ly/tq1K4x -- the Redskins have to do a better job of playing to their strengths and tailoring the system around the guys, as opposed to the guys around the system -- or not adjusting the scheme to better utilize what they have/are left with/stuck with.
Kyle Shanahan very clearly did that this week, after not really doing it in Toronto. The 2nd half of the Bills disaster was really the only major time that I even questioned his non adjustment to the deteriorating game conditions. He did a much better job against San Francisco's talented defense, and that was obvious by the heavy screen game.
The Redskins and Kyle Shanahan did EVERYTHING they were supposed to do (outside of score enough points, partially because of 3 turnovers) and now are getting beat down for not throwing the ball long. It happened Sunday on Comcast SportsNet in DC, as detailed here by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post http://wapo.st/uixOFE
Hate to say this, but you can't have it both ways.
John Beck very clearly has to get better in all phases for the Washington Redskins to win a game, or two. Remember, Sunday was his 9th game as an NFL Quarterback - and obviously, some of that was seperated by a long gap of time between his first five games, and the last four. I know fans do not want to hear it, but that is the reality. He is essentially a rookie, that has learned watching from the sidelines. It is impossible to judge a player based on 3 plus games.
**The offensive line was better on Sunday, with Trent Williams returning (despite the personal foul), rookie Maurice Hurt stepping in at left guard, natural center Will Montgomery going back to his normal position of Center, Chris Chester and Jammal Brown manning the right side. Of course, Brown re-injured his hip, and might be lost for some time as the Redskins move forward, but Sean Locklear did a pretty decent job (allowed a sack) at his natural position of right tackle. I will have a better feel as I get to watch the TV tape, but the short passing game certainly helped out.
**Ryan Kerrigan was terrific on Sunday, as he continues to show at least three or four reasons every Sunday -- why the Redskins made the smartest decision of the Mike Shanahan era -- trading the # 10 overall piick to Jacksonville for a Quarterback they had no interest in (Blaine Gabbert) for Kerrigan and essentially Leonard Hankerson. For all of the criticism that the new regime has endured, and some of it is fair and warranted -- that trade will go down (I believe) as the deal that changed the fortunes for a long time to come for the Redskins. Kerrigan, never gives up -- as evidenced by beating his blocker with a rush, and chasing down Alex Smith early on Sunday on the opposite side of the field for a hustle/effort sack.
**Sack # 5 as Jammal Brown gets beat with rip inside from shotgun. Had just over :03. **Beck INC on 3rd/22 under heavy pressure on zero blitz with double stack pressure on Jammal, dump to avoid sack to Helu. 8 man pressure vs. 4 WR release, Helu takes one side. **3rd deep ball INC, this time to Anthony Armstrong who was blanketed by Drayton Florence. **Sack # 6 - Sean Locklear blown up. Niles scraping across. Had less then :03. 2 WR pop free at time of sack, again 4 WR out in pattern + Helu. No blitz pickup. **Sack # 7 on 4th/4 - scrambles as pocket collapses and tackle for no loss/gain by Dareus. 4 WR's out in formation (include Fred) plus Helu releases late. Will got pushed back and lost control (Moats) Nobody open, more on OL. ***Will Montgomery gets beat badly again for hard hit on Beck, on short completion. **Beck big throw on 3rd/4 to Austin for first down on square out from slot. Missed open Donte' on sideline, then hitting Torain wide open. **Bad INT with bracketed coverage on Fred, high and low coverage. Bad read, almost impossible fit.
**Shotgun 5 step drop to Fred for 15 yards on crossing route left to right.
**Shotgun, huddle deep ball INT to Stallworth who trips w/ no contact but was double bracketed when he made his post cut, over and under. ***Sack # 8 -- roll and scramble right takes WAY too long. **Sack # 9 - Shotgun 3rd/7 - Big blitz thru 'B' gap and Chester on switchoff. Helu didn't stay back and missed blitz pick up. **4th/12 - Beck steps up to avoid pressure and overthrows out of end zone. **Sack # 10 - credited by the NFL on Wednesday on Beck fumble in open space & recovery.
** + 8 screen right, behind Chester. Good job. Next play, swing left for first down pass completion + 4.
**Several times did not stay in and chip, rub, attempt a blitz pick up before releasing into formation.
**+ 8 on first down on square out. **Shifts right to left, and gets 'covered' for 5 yard penalty. **15 yard completion over middle on crossing route out of shotgun. PERFECT. ***Personal foul on tackle of Byrd ripping helmet in back, not facemask. **2 late catches before 2-minute warning + 6 and + 8. **+ 24 gain out of up tempo soft zone. +19 underneath, up tempo.
**Gets pushed back at POA, and DE blows up Torain for 2 yard loss.
**Struggles big time twice in 3 plays for a sack and lucky incompletion.
**Nice finger tips catch on play action boot roll to right by Beck for 1st down on 3rd down.
**Trips making cut to post on Beck INT at goalline.
**Lorenzo Alexander with nice stop on punt coverage. **Brandon Banks nice punt return for 21 yards with nice blocks by Niles and Rob Jax, to midfield. **Brandon Banks with 26 yard KO return late, stepping out of bounds barely, or may have popped it.
*1st play from scrimmage, FJax rips off huge 43-yard run. Redskins slanted to the left side of the defense, and couldn't slide fast enough to hole. London got picked in traffic. Orakpo takes outside leverage on LT and gets hooked. Kerrigan shoots thru backside and dives but misses (not his fault) **3rd/9 Blitz pressure from play side with Rocky/London blocked but pushing LOS back, Fitz finds FJAX for screen and 24 yard hit.
**Shoots thru gap on backside and can't drag down FJAX from behind for + 4 gain. **Nice run slow & stop with Rocky McIntosh on 3rd/11 in 4th.
**Shoots gap on stunt, over runs angle and F-Jax for 7 yards.
**A 2nd big run stop in the backfield for a loss. **Dives late on 2 big run plays in the 2nd half, while shooting thru gap. **Completely bites and caves in on play action boot to right by Fitzpatrick for 5 yards. **Comes from behind loop and crunches FJAX from behind.
**Sack on 2nd/5 just bullrushing LT into Fitzpatrick.
**Shoots gap to stop run for 1.5 yards, like a rocket. Well done. **Busted Coverage on Chandler 2nd TD with LaRon biting on run (3rd/1) but so did London who got turned inside out. Very demonstrative with frustration after play, and on the sideline. **Throws down WR on 3rd and long well short of first down. Playing angry. **Blows up FJAX at POA for 1 yard gain on 3rd/7.
**Misses tackle in backfield on FJAX run behind LOS. **Crunches Brad Smith on wildcat run for 3 yards.
**Zone D shuffles Stevie Johnson off to London for first down on 3rd/4 to WSH-24. **Great recognition of quick hitch to Spiller on hitch. Excellent read, jump and tackle.