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For Redskins, Real Issue Is Depth

That 41-0 score gets your attention. Maybe it's the 41. Maybe it's the 0.

Let's put it this way: While it's not true to say the Redskins don't care about preseason games, it is accurate to suggest New England may put as much weight on the preseason as any team in the NFL.

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Consider: Page 2 of the Patriots' 2006 media guide points out that since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, New England had gone 30-6 entering this preseason. (It's now 32-6.) In that statistic, Pats count regular season, postseason and preseason games. They actually factor in preseason games.

For the Redskins, the only good thing about that 41-0 debacle is they have a short week to think about it. The Baltimore Ravens are at FedExField Thursday night to wrap up what has been something of a disastrous pre-season stretch.

Disastrous because the Redskins have been outscored 87-17 through three games. That 87 is a bad number and so is the 17.

"We just have to get better. There's no way around it," Santana Moss said late Saturday night.

Added Joe Salave'a: "We took a step backward."

Minnesota pounded Baltimore 30-7 last Friday night so this Thursday's preseason finale pits a pair of teams struggling to find a way forward.

To take a long term look at the Redskins' difficulties is to see that the real problem may pertain to those players who were not on the field Saturday night in New England.

Shawn Springs, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels and Clinton Portis are players who can change a game individually.

When they come back from injury, how many games will they be able to play? Redskins coaches are leading a hopeful chant: "16." But at this point is looks as though that's not a reasonable expectation.

A Redskin team with those four players in the lineup can compete with any team in the NFL. A Redskin team without them? On Saturday night in Foxboro, there were myriad cover problems, no pass rush and no running game.

Fifth-year back Portis, the youngster in the quartet, has missed just one regular-season game in his two years with the Redskins.

Daniels, an 11-year veteran, is coming off a spectacular season but in 2004 was available for just five regular-season games.

Springs, in season No. 10, missed just two regular-season games his first two years in Washington; Griffin, a seven-year veteran, has played in 28 of 32 games.

With everyone available, the Redskins bring a lot to the table. But it's asking a great deal to expect much out of a menu that is lacking players the caliber of Springs, Portis, Daniels and Griffin. Especially when the opponent is New England, winners of three of the past five Super Bowls and a team that is in mid-season form already.

You can work your way past 41-0 debacles in exhibition games but you have to be able to count on your full cast of talent for the long haul.

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