Porous ‘Skins Rush D Faces Tough Test Against Jaguars

One of the many unfortunate upshots of Albert Haynesworth being shut down for the final five games by the Redskins is the further weakening an already troubled rush defense. In the three games Haynesworth has missed, the Redskins' 27th-ranked run defense has not held an opponent below four yards per rushing attempt.

The last time they did was at home against Minnesota four weeks ago, the last team Haynesworth played against. Of course, it also helped that Vikings back-up rusher Toby Gerhart got the bulk of the carries in that game.

Now the 'Skins face a steep challenge on Sunday against the Jaguars, owners of the third-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Leading the way for Jacksonville is Maurice Jones-Drew, who is second in the league in rushing yards.

However, the Redskins might be catching a break by facing him at the right time. Jones-Drew has been coping with a knee injury. On Sunday, he posted one of his worst performances of the season against the Colts, hardly among the league's elite run defenses. The 46 yards that MJD rushed for on 15 carries snapped the six-game streak of 100-yard rushing performances he held coming into the game.

Jacksonville also has a capable back-up in Rashad Jennings, but the Jags appear to be sticking with MJD on the ground, injury or no. Jennings rushed only three times in the Jags loss to Indianapolis on Sunday. The 67 rushing yards by Jacksonville against the Colts were a season low for the team and the Jags will almost certainly be intent on bouncing back at home against Washington.

For the Redskins, Rex Grossman will make his second straight start. He hopes to do more than simply best low expectations and possibly even come away with a road victory. Donovan McNabb won't even serve as the primary back-up to Grossman. McNabb has been relegated to third-string status for the final two games of the season as Mike Shanahan has said he wants to be able to evaluate John Beck.

Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was already dealing with a sore hamstring, but now his throwing hand is injured too. He hit his right hand on the helmet of Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney in the second half of Sunday's game. 

On Monday, Garrard said his fingers felt fine after undergoing X-rays. While this hasn't been Garrard's most efficient season as a passer, his 22 touchdown passes in 2010 have set a new single-season franchise record in Jacksonville, topping the mark set by former Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell.

In addition to clamping down on the run, the Redskins will have to do a better job on offense early in the game. As good as the 'Skins were on offense in the second half against Dallas, they were just as bad in the first. 

One way to counter that might be trying to get the ball to tight end Chris Cooley earlier in the game. During the past two weeks, Cooley hasn't been targeted with a single pass in the first half. Meanwhile, in the second half of the Dallas game alone, Cooley caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, adding a reception on a successful two-point conversion attempt.

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