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VA PILOT: Mirror-image Redskins and Dolphins clash in Miami


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Mirror-image Redskins and Dolphins clash in Miami

By JIM DUCIBELLA, The Virginian-Pilot


Two teams facing some of the same issues meet tonight when the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins play a preseason game at Pro Player Stadium.

The Redskins split their first two games under new coach Joe Gibbs. The Dolphins opened the preseason last week with a 16-5 victory over Jacksonville.

Both teams are in the process of determining their starting quarterback. The Dolphins, who acquired A.J. Feeley from Philadelphia in an offseason trade , will start Feeley over Jay Fiedler tonight.

Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt acknowledged this week that Feeley played so well against Jacksonville that he may take the competition right up to the Sept. 12 opener against Tennessee.

Gibbs, who surrendered a second-round draft pick to Jacksonville for veteran Mark Brunell, will start Brunell tonight. Unlike Wannstedt, who praised the performances of all of his quarterbacks, Gibbs is still waiting for Brunell or third-year pro Patrick Ramsey to display an impressive command of his newly installed attack.

The plot: The Redskins are 1-1 in the preseason in more ways than one. They opened with a respectable victory over Denver, then stumbled at home last week against Carolina, losing in overtime. With five preseason games this summer, tonight’s game isn’t as important as usual for the veterans because the regular season remains three weeks away. But coach Joe Gibbs has made it clear to the team that he expects to see some signs of real progress tonight.

The subplot: That may be easier said than done, considering the number of front-line players out tonight because of injuries or precautionary procedures. LB LaVar Arrington (first-degree sprain of left knee), LB Mike Barrow (tendinitis in left knee), TE Fred Baxter (knee), CB Rashad Bauman (hamstring), LB Chris Clemons (hamstring), WR Cliff Russell (hamstring) and RB Ladell Betts (hamstring) didn’t make the trip. WR Darnerien McCants (ankle) also might not play, pending a doctor’s report.

Things to watch: QB Mark Brunell remains the starter in Gibbs’ alternating system. He appeared to open a small lead over Patrick Ramsey in the battle for starting QB, though he didn’t look sharp against the Panthers. Despite a 61-yard touchdown pass to McCants, he still has to show more consistency.... Who runs after Clinton Portis? Betts is still too injured to play, and John Simon and Sultan McCullough have shown flashes in his stead. Frankly, it’s still a major question. ... WR Gari Scott showed enough last week on punt returns and catching the ball that Gibbs wants to see more. Less hesitation on punt returns would help the former Michigan State star. ... With Arrington and Barrow out, Antonio Pierce, Clifton Smith and Lemar Marshall will get a chance to impress on something other than special teams.... OT Chris Samuels should be back after suffering a concussion last week. Kenyatta Jones gets another crack to win Jon Jansen’s RT spot. The unit needs to show signs of cohesion.... Does this team have a punter? Special-teams coach Danny Smith doesn’t seem impressed with Tom Tupa, and Kevin Stemke’s nine line-drive punts for a 33.2-yard average against Carolina isn’t what the coach is looking for, either.

Heads up, history buffs: Tonight’s preseason game is the 14th all-time between Washington and Miami. Only three other teams have been on the Dolphins’ preseason schedule more often. Why does Miami keep scheduling the Redskins? Could it be because the Dolphins have won nine of the previous 13 meetings? How’s this for trivia: The Dolphins have 90 players on their roster right now, 10 of them exempt because they played in NFL Europe. Of those 90, 61 have fewer than four years of NFL experience.

Both teams are dealing with a spate of injuries. The Dolphins have already lost safety Chris Akins, receiver Kendall Newson and cornerback Alphonso Roundtree for the season.

Receiver David Boston is also expected to be out for the year. Boston is talking with friends and family about returning at the beginning of November, but that seems unlikely after he underwent surgery for a torn patellar tendon. Rehabilitation is usually 6-8 months.

The Redskins already have lost starting right offensive tackle Jon Jansen for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. At least seven other players, including starting linebackers LaVar Arrington and Mike Barrow, won’t play tonight.

“I talked to the team the other day about it; certainly, we never want somebody to play who is hurt,” Gibbs said. “That’s our first thought. And our second thought is that in this game, you’re going to get bumps and bruises. Hopefully you find guys who can play through it.”

The Dolphins are also looking for a starting running back after tailback Ricky Williams shocked the NFL by announcing his retirement right before the start of camp.

“Every week will be a new focus,” Wannstedt said. “What I’m preaching to the players is that we have to focus each week on what we have to do to win, whatever that is.”

Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was head coach of the Buffalo Bills the past three seasons, thinks the Dolphins will maintain a decent running game even without Williams.

“I think they’ll be solid with Travis Minor,” Williams said of the fourth-year back from Florida State, even though Minor rushed five times last week for 0 yards. “I respect him as a runner. I coached Sammy Morris at Buffalo, so I know a lot about him. They’ll be very physical and very sound.”

Fred Russell, a rookie from Iowa, rushed nine times for 101 yards, including an 88-yarder, to lead Miami against the Jaguars.

Williams should get his first extended look at defensive end Phillip Daniels tonight. The free agent from Chicago recently returned from an extended absence caused by an abdominal strain. He and Regan Upshaw are being counted on to man the right side of a Washington defensive line considered to be a weakness.

“If we can get him anywhere between 10-14 snaps this week, that’ll be good,” Williams said of Daniels. “And then we can just progress him on.”

Gibbs was upset by the number of unforced penalties last week against Carolina, something that plagued the team the last two seasons under coach Steve Spurrier.

Winning would be nice, Gibbs said, but playing smoother and with more poise is critical to his long-term plan.

“I don’t view specific preseason games as more important than others because really what you’re trying to do through the whole preseason is get better and better,” Gibbs said.

“You’d like the total team to take the step up. We need to play smarter, particularly on offense, and continue to develop as we go.”

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Good grief, I didn't realize we were in such disarray. I wasn't aware that our star player quit because he prefers smoking dope. I didn't realize our steroid queen WR finally snapped his weak leg and was done for the year.

Mirror Image? All the Dolphins have is question marks. The Redskins also have question marks, but the prospect of coming up with the right answers seem a hell of a lot better up here.


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I'm with you Bang....

Ronstadt is playing for his job (he may get a pass this year losing Williams, but he's still on the pressure cooker). The Redskins have Gibbs. Need I say more?

I also think its a major stretch comparing our QB situations. Brunell/Ramsey vs. Feeley/Fiedler????

I think his major point was that both teams have a lot of question marks at this point. Thats hard to disagree with, as its true of just about 2/3's of the NFL this time of the year ;)

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Originally posted by Bang


Good grief, I didn't realize we were in such disarray. I wasn't aware that our star player quit because he prefers smoking dope. I didn't realize our steroid queen WR finally snapped his weak leg and was done for the year.

Mirror Image? All the Dolphins have is question marks. The Redskins also have question marks, but the prospect of coming up with the right answers seem a hell of a lot better up here.


This is exactly what I was thinking.

A mirror image means exactly the same. This was a poor choice for a title.


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