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News & Notes: Facing Another Rookie QB...

For the third time this season, the Redskins' defense will square off against a rookie quarterback when Washington travels to St. Louis to take on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Rams.

When Fitzpatrick emerged as the likely starter for this Sunday's game, defensive coaches were scrambling to dig up background information on the little-known rookie quarterback out of Harvard.

Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said he had never watched film of Fitzpatrick prior to last Sunday's game. The Rams came from behind to beat the Houston Texans 33-27 in overtime, with Fitzpatrick completing 19-of-30 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

"The Rams do a good job of coaching the quarterback in their system," Williams said. "They've found a lot of guys seemingly out of nowhere before. [Fitzpatrick] did a very good job stepping in and managing their offense."

The Redskin who is most familiar with Fitzpatrick is fellow Ivy Leaguer Zak Keasey, a practice squad linebacker who played at Princeton the last four years.

"We took some tough losses against Harvard when he was the quarterback there," Keasey said. "He's just a tough competitor. He threw the ball really well. He was really precise with his passes. He wasn't afraid to run with the ball either, so he was tough to prepare for.

"He was always the best quarterback in the Ivy League while I was there. I'm not surprised to see him doing well."

Earlier this season, the Redskins' defense limited Chicago rookie quarterback Kyle Orton to 15-of-28 for 141 yards and one interception in the season opening 9-7 win over the Bears.

In Week 7, the defense terrorized 49ers' rookie QB Alex Smith, holding him to 8-of-16 passing for 92 yards and one interception in the Redskins' 52-17 win over San Francisco.

-- KILLINGS INJURED IN PRACTICE

Defensive tackle Cedric Killings suffered a groin injury during Friday's practice and is listed as doubtful heading into Sunday's game against the Rams.

Killings' absence would impact a defensive tackle rotation that will likely be without Joe Salave'a. Also, Cornelius Griffin is just returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for three games. Griffin is listed as probable.

If Killings is unable to play, Ryan Boschetti, rookie Aki Jones and converted end Demetric Evans would likely see increased playing time at defensive tackle. Ends Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels can also play inside as needed.

Meantime, H-back Mike Sellers has been upgraded to probable for Sunday's game. Sellers missed last week's game against San Diego with a rib injury, but he was able to practice on Thursday and Friday.

Running back Ladell Betts remains questionable with a knee injury, and head coach Joe Gibbs was not optimistic that he would have Betts' services against the Rams.

Also, wide receiver James Thrash has been downgraded to out for Sunday's game.

-- FRESH START FOR ROYAL

A Redskin looking to bounce back this Sunday is tight end Robert Royal, who struggled to hang on to Mark Brunell's passes in last week's loss to San Diego.

Royal's teammates and coaches have been behind him all week. He'd like to reward their support with key contributions at St. Louis.

"It's great to know that guys stand behind you whenever you have hard times," said Royal. "It's over and done with. I can't go back into the past. All I can do is practice and work harder for this week's game.

"You don't want to put too much pressure on yourself because you don't want to say after a bad game, 'I need to do this, this, and this.' That will backfire on you. You just have to continue to do the things that you did well and look to move ahead."

-- QUICK CHANGE

You don't have to remind Clinton Portis that his team is in the midst of a 2-6 slump. Portis faces that reality and then tells you that things can quickly change for the Redskins.

Maintains Portis: "Just thinking about our opportunities, hopefully we'll start putting teams away. Turnover-wise, we're getting better. If you take away the two turnovers I had against Oakland, we've been improving.

"We've been in every game, week in and week out. At the end of the game, when we have opportunities to put it away, everyone has to play smart. We don't want to put the referees in a situation where they have to make a big call."

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