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News & Notes: Running Game Is Grounded

With Clinton Portis sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Redskins' ground game has been lacking this preseason. In three preseason contests, the Redskins are averaging 62.6 rushing yards per game.

In Saturday's 41-0 loss to the New England Patriots, the Redskins rushed for 74 yards, but 26 of those yards came on scrambles by Jason Campbell in the fourth quarter.

Ladell Betts was the primary ball-carrier in the first half against New England and he finished with 25 rushing yards on seven carries, with a long of 10.

Players would not use the absence or Portis as an excuse for the struggles in the ground game.

"Obviously, when you do not have your best running back, that's going to hurt," quarterback Mark Brunell. "But that's no excuse for us not to be able to run the ball well. We certainly miss Clinton, but he'll be back soon enough."

Added wide receiver Brandon Lloyd: "It would mean something not to have Clinton in the regular season, because of some of the packages that he is involved in. Right now it is a basic run up the middle, run outside kind of offense."

Running back T.J. Duckett, acquired by the Redskins in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, last Wednesday, made his game day debut as a Redskin on Saturday, rushing for eight yards on four carries against the New England Patriots.

Duckett came in the game at the start of the third quarter and played with most of the first-team unit. On his first play, Mark Brunell handed off to Duckett, who barreled forward for a solid 7-yard gain.

As Saturday's game approached, Redskins coaches were confident that Duckett knew enough of the offensive playbook to handle a limited workload.

Said head coach Joe Gibbs: "He is just getting started. He seems like he's picking things up real quick."

Duckett's challenge in his first week as a Redskin has been to learn the play calls.

Asked how different the Redskins' offense is from Atlanta's scheme, Duckett replied: "It is somewhat different, but some of the plays are the same scheme. I just have to learn the verbiage. It is a lot to take in. It's confusing, but it's my job to learn it. I can't have any excuses.

"They are throwing a lot at me, and I am just trying to pick up as much as I can each day."

Saturday's game was the third of Duckett's preseason. He previously played in two of the Atlanta Falcons' preseason games, rushing for 96 yards on 15 carries.

Rock Cartwright, who saw a strong workload in the Redskins' first two preseason games, had just one carry for five yards against the Patriots.

-- QB ROTATION

#### -- GRIFFIN, MCCUNE SIDELINED

As expected, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin sat out the Patriots preseason game. The seventh-year player suffered a sprained knee in last week's 27-14 loss to the New York Jets at FedExField.

Griffin is expected to be at full health by the Redskins' regular season opener. It's still possible he could play in the preseason finale this Thursday, although unlikely.

Meantime, linebacker Robert McCune suffered a hamstring injury last week in practice and also sat out the Patriots game.

Also among the the Redskins' list of pre-game inactives: cornerback Shawn Springs (abdomen), defensive end Phillip Daniels (back), offensive lineman Jim Molinaro (knee), tight end Robert running back Clinton Portis (shoulder) and linebacker Kevin Simon (abdomen).

Cedric Killings started in place of Griffin, Renaldo Wynn started for Daniels and Kenny Wright started for Springs.

-- ON THE BUBBLE?

With roster cuts for all 32 NFL teams due on Tuesday, Aug. 29, several Redskins players entered Saturday's preseason game with one last chance to impress coaches. The team must reduce its roster to 75 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

The Redskins could wait until the deadline to announce the preseason cuts. That way, team officials could get a look at some players on the bubble in practice on Monday.

Said Joe Gibbs: "I think every time somebody goes out there, whether it's practice or a game, they have to make a statement. It is their chance to be on film. That's why [preseason games] are so important for them. You can't go out and have a bad performance. You can't afford to do that if you are one of the guys trying to make the football team."

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