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For Redskins, A Fast Start Is Key

Whatever the Redskins of 2007 have, they'll need to bring it to the table on Sunday afternoon against Miami at FedExField.

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That's how important the 2007 opener is for Washington.

Center Casey Rabach said it best this week when he noted that Sunday's game could have something of a "playoff atmosphere" attached.

Added Rabach: "You look back at every game you've played, and that first game kind of sticks on your memory. That's what this one is going to do, too."

Of course, the Redskins don't want to forget what transpired 12 months ago in the 2006 opener. They lost, just about inexplicably, to Minnesota 19-16 in a Monday Nighter at FedExField.

It was more than a tough loss. It was devastating, and it paved the way for a 5-11 season. You could make a case for the fact that the Redskins have never really recovered from that shocking loss to the Vikings.

They'll get a chance to make that loss to Minnesota nothing more than staid, ancient history on Sunday versus the Dolphins, a team which won one more game that the Redskins in 2006.

Joe Gibbs mentioned it way back in March: He wants the Redskins to get off to a fast start in the 2007 season.

"I am worried about starting," he said then. "I want to start fast."

Gibbs was trying to set a foundation.

Now it's the dawn of the new season. As always, Gibbs is nervous.

"You're never sure how you're going to play," he said. "We all know it would be a huge deal to get off to a great start, but you're never sure. That's the way I am about it."

Last season, the Redskins were 0-4 in the preseason. This year, they did better at 2-2.

What's tricky here is that after the game versus Miami, the Redskins have two huge NFC East confrontations back-to-back, at Philly on Sept. 17 and home to the New York Giants on Sept. 23.

Human nature being what it is, there's always the chance of keeping those NFC East games in the back of the mind at the expense of the opener.

That's something the Redskins will have to avoid, obviously, as they prepare for Sunday afternoon and the Dolphins.

Said tight end Chris Cooley, fresh off a contract extension: "We've talked about it all along. A fast start is very important for us. A couple of wins would be enormous for this team, especially with the slow start last year.

"We really have to learn to win early and get that feeling so we can continue it through the whole season."

Complicating matters is that the first-team offense has not played much together in pre-season games.

Chris Samuels and Clinton Portis missed all four pre-season games due to knee injuries. Jason Campbell was sidelined one pre-season game with a knee injury. Pete Kendall was acquired in a trade late in preseason and has played just one series with the first-team offense.

Santana Moss believes the Redskins' first-team offense is ready, despite the limited work together.

For Moss and most of his teammates, it's their second year in Al Saunders' offense. They had the entire offseason and training camp practices to run plays.

"As an offensive unit, we've done enough together in the preseason to be pretty much ready," Moss said. "Last year, we had to turn it on right away and run plays that we weren't too familiar with.

"This year, I think we're pretty good. This year, we have a whole year [in Saunders' offense]. We don't have to worry about going out there and not knowing the offense."

Added Cooley: "I definitely feel like we can put it all together in Week 1. We have a big responsibility offensively as far as what we're going to do this week.

"We have tried to work hard in the preseason. Everyone does that, but we're going to step it way up in what we're going to show and do in this game. I think we'll be fine."

In FedExField home openers, the Redskins are 5-2, and this one in the offing against the Dolphins has so much riding on it.

It's almost as if that loss to the Vikings last Sept. 11 cast a pall that has yet to be removed. Sunday represents an opportunity to accomplish as much.

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