After Pyrrhic Victory, Redskins Face Choices

After Pyrrhic Victory, Redskins Face Choices
November 23, 2010, 2:17 pm
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:15 AM

By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger
In 279 BC, King Pyrrhus of Epirus, a land that was composed of most of what is now Greece and Albania, was in the midst of fighting a war against the Romans. At a battle in Asculum, in what is now Italy, Pyrrhus' troops won a battle against the mighty Romans. The victory, however, came at a huge cost. The army from Epirus suffered a very high rate of casualties. A communication from the field went back to King Pyrrhus. That report read in part: "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined." Over time, a win that was obtained at a very high cost, so high that that the victors could be considered worse off for the achievement, has come to be known as a Pyrrhic victory. Washington's game in Nashville had many of the assembled media types surfing the internet to make sure they had the spelling of 'Pyrrhic' correct. The Redskins came limping into LP Field on Sunday and they left on a stretcher. Three starters were injured going in and eight more players left during the game. One player, running back Chad Simpson, suffered a season-ending broken foot during pregame warm-ups. Backups to backups were playing. But this is the NFL and even if Hallmark made a Pyrrhic victory sympathy card, nobody will be sending one to Redskins Park. It's part of life in the league. Washington will not be able to call in sick for its game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. For that matter, the Vikings probably would like another week to adjust to life under new head coach Leslie Frazier but league rules require that they report to FedEx Field at 1:00 on Sunday, so that's what they'll do. Due to the injury situation, Mike Shanahan and company will be faced with a number of tough choices in the coming days. The team already has put Simpson and safety Anderson Russell on season-ending injured reserve. They will be faced with the possibility of needing to put more players on IR to make room for healthy bodies. One such choice may have to be made concerning starting center Casey Rabach. He was diagnosed with a partially torn MCL (initially reported by the team to be a torn meniscus but later corrected). Depending on the severity, such an injury might have a healing time of four to six weeks. If such an injury happens in September, you probably keep Rabach on the weekly inactive list and wait for him to return. However, there are only six games left in the season. You have to ask if you can afford to keep him on the 53-man roster, especially given that other offensive linemen are ailing, to the point where tackle Stephon Heyer had to play more than a half of the game at guard, a position where he has never either practiced or played. So it becomes a numbers game. In order to keep Rabach on the roster, you might have to waive a healthy player at another position so that you can sign a replacement offensive lineman. Or you could look at the calendar, figure that even if he can come back for the final two weeks of the season it might not make any difference, and put him on injured reserve. Similar scenarios will play out over the coming days at other positions. Here is a look at the options that Shanahan and Bruce Allen will be pondering. Running back There are six running backs on the roster counting fullback Mike Sellers and Darrel Young, a fullback who has served as an emergency running back. Those two are healthy, or as much as one can be 10 games into an NFL season. Among the halfbacks, Keiland Williams has started and carried virtually the entire load the past two and a half games after Ryan Torain went out with a hamstring injury. Clinton Portis lasted about a quarter on Sunday, and it appears that he aggravated the groin injury that had kept him out since Week 4. James Davis, who was signed to the active roster on Monday, is the other healthy back along with Williams. Portis underwent an MRI on the groin and Shanahan said that we will know more after that is analyzed on Wednesday. If the diagnosis is that he will miss four weeks or more, he could be headed to injured reserve due to numbers. Six backs may be too many to carry given the injuries at other positions. As for Torain, he probably will be out this week. Beyond that is anyone's guess, given the tricky nature of hamstring injuries. Offensive line Starting guard Artis Hicks was inactive on Sunday with a thigh injury. Derrick Dockery filled in at left guard after the line was shuffled when Rabach went out but soon after that Dockery went out after injuring his knee. It was then that the line was reshuffled and Heyer wound up in the unfamiliar guard spot. Shanahan described Dockery as 'sore' but 'optimistic' about being ready to play this week. He may be the key to Rabach being able to stay off of injured reserve. If Dock can play, they will have a backup for the interior of the line with Hicks at right guard, Will Montgomery at center, and Kory Lichtensteiger at left guard. If Dockery is out, they may have to shelve Rabach for the season and sign Selvish Capers, Will Robinson, or Erik Cook from the practice squad. (UPDATE: After this was posted, Robinson's agent announced via Twitter that the player has signed with the Seattle Seahawks.)
Tackles Trent Williams and Jammal Brown emerged from the game healthy. If one of them had needed to leave the game rookie tight end Logan Paulsen, who has never played on the offensive line but has been used as an extra blocker in certain packages, would have been the next man up on the line. Wide receiver Although they all are healthy, it is possible that one of the five on the roster might get cut in order to make room for an injury replacement. If Shanahan is confident that Brandon Banks could be productive if needed, the coach might go with him, Santana Moss, and Anthony Armstrong at receiver and waive either Joey Galloway or, more likely, Roydell Williams. Defensive line End Jeremy Jarmon 'tweaked his hamstring pretty good on Friday,' said Shanahan. 'I'm not doing to say he's out because you don't know for sure. The injury to Jarmon and the fact that end Andre Carter may have to continue to play linebacker in place of Lorenzo Alexander might help nose tackle Anthony Bryant. He has been active only one game this year and he might be a candidate to be released in favor of an injury replacement at another position. But with the line being thinned by the injuries, Bryan might be safe. Linebacker Starting outside linebacker Alexander pulled his hamstring during the game and starting inside backer Rocky McIntosh pulled a groin muscle. Carter moved in for Alexander and H. B. Blades took the inside spot. If both are unable to go on Sunday, that would leave rookie Perry Riley as the backup inside linebacker and Chris Wilson as a reserve on the outside. If it turns out that more defensive linemen are healthy they might go with a 4-3 look more often. Defensive backs With starters cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) and strong safety LaRon Landry (Achilles tendon) inactive on Sunday, Phillip Buchanon started at cornerback and the rookie Russell played a couple of series at strong safety before he was injured while covering a punt. Reed Doughty went in at strong safety after Russell went out. Byron Westbrook and Kevin Barnes also saw a lot of action as extra defensive backs. Shanahan said that he's '98 percent' sure that Landry will be out again on Sunday and Rogers is in the 'we'll see' group. There is a roster spot open with Russell's assignment to injured reserve and Shanahan did say that the team is looking for a safety. Whoever it is, he will need to get up to speed on the defense in a hurry. Doughty and Kareem Moore will be the only available safeties if Landry is out. You can reach Rich by email at and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Join Rich Tandler for an in-game chat during the Redskins-Vikings game on Sunday. Rich will be watching the game from the press box at FedEx Field. Things will get underway on shortly before kickoff and continue all game long.