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Notes, quotes and observations (Wed, 8/25)

***QB Donovan McNabb’s chances of playing in the Redskins’ preseason finale against Arizona are “very slim,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

McNabb, then, likely is finished with live-game tune-ups in this new offense. His next test would be the regular season opener against Dallas on Sept. 12.

“He’s missing a half,” Shanahan said, downplaying it. “We’d like for him to have that half, but we know it’s not possible. He’s gotten a lot of reps in the OTAs. He’s been working. He’s got a few snaps in his career, so I think he can handle it.”

McNabb isn’t fazed. He’s a veteran and he’s been injured before, so he knows how to prepare himself. He’s still watching film on the New York Jets this week and learning the scaled-down game plan coaches are installing.

“I think this is just something for me, now instead of being a physical thing, you have to make sure mentally you continue to stay involved,” McNabb said. “I don’t see it as a setback in the progression here.”

Holding McNabb out of the rest of the preseason is a no-brainer to me. There’s no sense in making a bad situation worse by risking injury to McNabb in Arizona. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few starters don’t even make that incredibly inconvenient cross-country trip with the team next week.

***Albert Haynesworth’s conversion to defensive end is expected to intensify in Friday’s game against the New York Jets.

He has played mostly nose tackle in the base 3-4 formation since he passed his conditioning test on Aug. 7 and began practicing with the team. However, he might be a bigger asset playing on the outside.

“He’ll play end, he’ll play nose,” Shanahan said. “More end this week than nose like last week.”

The Redskins’ nickel alignment requires two down linemen, and Haynesworth has played in the preseason as the 3-technique in that. However, I don’t recall seeing him play right end in the base alignment with three down linemen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that on Friday, though.

“He moves very quick, and he’s very talented,” Shanahan said. “We’ll get a chance to see him play it this weekend. He likes to play that position.”

Consider the possible NT-RDE base pairings of Ma’ake Kemoeatu-Haynesworth and Haynesworth-Kedric Golston. I question how well Kemoeatu is going to hold up this season. He hasn’t penetrated the backfield with much frequency in camp or in preseason games, and he’s even been pushed back at times. Now, penetration usually isn’t the top priority for linemen in this defense, but it makes you wonder if Haynesworth is going to have to play nose tackle more than he’d like.

The Redskins likely will mix it up on game days depending on matchups and who’s playing well. Just something to keep an eye on, though.

***I bumped into FS Kareem Moore outside the Redskins locker room this morning. He’s still on crutches after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Monday. He said he hopes to be back by Sept. 12 for the Dallas game. I’m not sure that’s realistic, though.

The recovery time for arthroscopic knee surgery is four to six weeks. That’s what it always is, and it’s what Shanahan said specifically for Moore’s case. I have no doubt Moore will work hard to rehab to get back as soon as possible, but don’t  hold your breath for the opener, no matter what Moore is hoping for.

***QB Donovan McNabb has a reputation keeping things light in the locker room and the media, and it’s one reason why he’s generally well-liked and respected by his teammates. We got a taste after practice today when McNabb took the podium to speak to reporters for the first time since being ruled out of Friday’s game.

“They told me it was just a ‘sprain,’ he said, complete with a two-handed quotes gesture. Most of the reporters present got the joke. If McNabb can poke fun at Albert Haynesworth’s rant from Saturday night, it sets a tone for the rest of the team. And from a reporter’s perspective, a little levity is always good.

And for what it’s worth, things around Haynesworth on the practice field didn’t seem too tense this morning while media were permitted to watch. Haynesworth and a few other defensive linemen were laughing with position coach Jacob Burney before they started strip drills.

***QB Rex Grossman fumbled twice against Baltimore last week and was under heavy pressure on several snaps. There were a few plays on which the Ravens blitzed six players when the Redskins were protecting Grossman with only the five offensive linemen. The backfield was either empty or the backs/tight end lined up wider and went out on pass routes.

Clearly the Redskins aren’t going to win that numbers game. It was a bit curious, though, that they didn’t check to a protection that could handle the blitz. As it turns out, these were instances of the Redskins wanting to stick with a certain play in the preseason for evaluation purposes.

“There’s no doubt we would have a plan for that,” Grossman said. “We didn’t because we don’t have a plan for that yet. We’ll be ready in the regular season. When teams see that on tape, we’ll be ready.”

In the regular season, expect the Redskins’ line to either slide differently to account for pressure up the middle or for them to keep another player in to block.

***Either decisions about playing time distribution haven’t been shared with players as recently as this morning (doubtful) or players are following orders not to share them with media (likely). We reporters are learning this week how scarce information is going to be during the regular season under Mike Shanahan. Shanahan does it for strategic reasons, but it makes our jobs tougher. It’s one of many contrasts from the Jim Zorn Era.

***Kory Lichtensteiger worked at left guard and Edwin Williams was at center during the portion of practice media were permitted to observe. Both guys have worked at both positions during training camp, but Williams had been more entrenched recently at left guard and Lichtensteiger at center. Versatility is imperative for any reserve linemen, and my impressions are that Williams and Lichtensteiger are leading candidates for those roster spots.

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