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Preseason remains a pointless exercise for Redskins' offense

WASHINGTON -- When the Washington Redskins couldn't score in last year's preseason, they had a built-in excuse: They really weren't trying that hard.

This week, they'll need to come up with a new set of explanations. The first-team offense tried very, very hard to score in the preseason opener Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans - and still came up empty.

Coach Joe Gibbs played Jason Campbell and most of the offensive starters for the entire first half - a rare, extended workload for the first game of August - but seven possessions yielded only six first downs and not a single snap inside the Titans' red zone.

The Redskins won the game, 14-6, but their only points were scored in the final 90 seconds of the game, when both teams were playing third-, fourth- and fifth-stringers.

"We wanted to play our guys more than what we did last year," Gibbs said. "We wanted to get into more of a groove. Had we roared down the field two or three times, we would've gotten them out of there, but that certainly wasn't the case. We were struggling like mad."

The first-teamers didn't score at all - and never reached the opponent's 20 - in last year's 0-4 preseason. The Redskins later conceded they didn't take the games seriously enough, an attitude that carried over into a 5-11 regular season.

Gibbs is trying a different approach this time around - with a more physical training camp and more varied game-planning for the exhibitions - and so far the only difference is that the team has actually won a game.

"It's always good to win," Gibbs said. "But everyone believes that at the same time we have a long way to go."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

Gibbs' biggest worry has to be his offensive line. Campbell was sacked twice, fumbling both times. The longest first-half run was only 7 yards, although running back Clinton Portis (knee tendinitis) did not play.

Part of the problem will rectify itself if left tackle Chris Samuels returns, as expected, from a knee injury before the start of the regular season. Rookie free agent Stephon Heyer got the start in Samuels' spot Saturday night.

But there is also concern at left guard, where Todd Wade continues to struggle as he learns a new position after playing his entire career as a tackle.

"I think in the beginning everybody had to adjust to what everyone else was doing," Wade said. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd do things differently. It's something you can't prepare for until you get into the preseason."

Gibbs hinted after the game that changes could be in the works, although there's no easy solution at guard if Wade is moved back to tackle.

"I think we will have to take a look individually at what all happened to us there," Gibbs said. "Certainly, you don't want pressure back there. That's one of the things you come out of this being a concern. I know I was disappointed with our run. I think in that case, they blitzed the safety quite a bit and gave us trouble in there. There's probably some things we can do a better job of scheming."

Campbell, in his first training camp as a starter, wasn't sharp. He completed six of 14 passes for 104 yards.

"It was a rough start for Jason, and I think he will probably tell you that," Gibbs said. "Last year he did a great job of protecting the ball. Today it got away from him twice."

At least Gibbs can be satisfied with the defense, which allowed only three first-half points. Middle linebacker London Fletcher, the free agent centerpiece of the offseason plan to improve a unit that ranked 31st last year, looked solid in his Redskins debut.

"I would say we had some individuals that played very well - and also as a group," Gibbs said.

While in Nashville, the Redskins had Portis' knee re-examined by Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the diagnosis of tendinitis. Portis will continue to take medication to ease the swelling.

"They think it is getting better for sure," Gibbs said. "They think we are doing the right things. We've done every bit of research we can. What we are trying to do is to get him back to a point where that thing will calm down and go away."

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