Friday, December 10, 2010, 9:06 a.m.
By Ryan O'Halloran
Hands on his hips near the line of scrimmage after Brandon Jacobs ran over and around several Redskins defenders for a 28-yard Giants touchdown last Sunday, London Fletcher had to be contemplating the obvious: Why can't the Redskins tackle? And how does the team finish strong?
The Redskins start the final quarter of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay at what-could-be cold and wet FedEx Field. At 5-7, they're not going to the playoffs.
A 1-3 stretch since returning from their bye have extinguished those chances and, really, who takes solace in spoiling other teams' chances? That leaves the Redskins to play what center Casey Rabach called pride games.
"This is when the will and want-to get tested," Rabach added.
But even though the games are meaningless, each player this week said they must continue to prepare, practice and play hard if they want a roster spot when training camp starts next year.
"You get paid to play a game and if you can't show up and put your best effort on the field, you don't belong here," outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "In the next couple weeks, we'll find out who wants to be a part of this and who will turn it in and decide, 'OK, this season is over.'"
Said linebacker Chris Wilson: "Guys are going to still play hard, still compete and go out there to show they belong."
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett lauded his unit's practice habits on Thursday and there have been no indications that some players have checked out mentally (Albert Haynesworth being the notable exception).
A chief reason for staying on-point: Coach Mike Shanahan has shown no hesitation in jettisoning players, 23 of the current 53 players weren't with the Redskins last year.
"It's still an interview for a lot of us," said cornerback and impending free agent Carlos Rogers.
Rogers is an established veteran and even if he doesn't come back from dual hamstring injuries, the Redskins have seen enough. But for other players, the next four weeks is vital.
For a guy like James Davis, it means four chances to prove he can attain a productive rhythm even though his playing time will be uneven with the return of Ryan Torain and presence of Keiland Williams.
Davis wasnt even a part of the team until joining the practice squad Oct. 27 and wasn't on the active roster until a month later.
"I think it's really big," Davis said. "The main thing is I want to show I want to be here because I really like this running system, it fits my style of running."
For a guy like Roydell Williams, there are four more chances to show he can make it through an NFL season for only the second time in six years and could make a good depth player.
"It's important but that's not really my concern," he said. "I hadn't been out there in a long time since 2007 and this has been more fun than anything. I'm really enjoying being out there and that's a big key."
And the list goes on and on.
With this being Coach Shanahan's first year, general manager Bruce Allen's first year, obviously, you have to think that since they made a lot of changes this year, you would be naive to think would be the final product they were looking for," Wilson said. "Some guys, I think Coach is already set on and the GM is already set on, saying, 'OK, we like what this guy is doing.'"
"For me, it's not quite training camp but they're going to be looking at guys to see who fits, who doesn't fit and what can they improve on. It's the same thing the entire NFL does, it's just a little bit earlier start to the process."
A sort of resignation has arrived for some Redskins, a realization that this team is several pieces away from closing the gap between them and Philadelphia and the Giants, which have combined to beat the Redskins 90-20 in the last month.
"Shanahan is a good coach but there's only so much he can do," Rogers said. "We have to strap it up and play. How some of the things have turned out this year, I couldn't believe. He still has a lot of work to do around here. We were set as a defense for the 4-3 and move to the 3-4 and you can"t get all the players you want for that in a couple of months. Offensively, I'm sure he has some things he wants to get worked out."
Said Rabach: "These teams in the division are darn good and where we're at last year to where we're at this year, I thought we would take a huge step. We're getting there. But we're not there yet."
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