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Redskins coach Jim Zorn admitted Thursday that running back Clinton Portis hasn't made any significant progress with his sprained knee. Portis' teammates are still holding out hope for Portis because they've seen him play well after missing an entire week of practice before.
"I was hoping today that there would be a little more optimism, and there's not," Zorn said. "He's still questionable. I would say there's no change today. I was looking for another jump, but there wasn't."
Now there's always the chance the Redskins are making this a little worse than it is, but that doesn't seem like Zorn's style. Right now, he's preparing a game plan that doesn't include Portis. The Redskins will still try to run the ball, but they may use Ladell Betts and Shaun Alexander in a different way. If Betts can play with a bum knee (and he looked good in practice today), he'll get the majority of the carries. Alexander's not a guy that can come in and be a third-down back because he doesn't catch the ball and he's not particularly good at picking up the blitz.
For Alexander to be effective at all, he needs to be in there on first and second down. Zorn said he's asked Alexander to do some different things than he did in Seattle, but he didn't elaborate on that point.
Another concern for the Redskins is Santana Moss' injured hamstring. He played with it against the Steelers, but he wasn't effective at all. The Redskins thought Moss' presence alone would take pressure off Jason Campbell, but that didn't work out.
The Cowboys are a team in desperate need of a win, and Portis' absence would give them a much better chance. I think the Redskins will come out immediately and test Terence Newman. It would nice if Washington could get a little help from one of its two rookie wide receivers, but that's unlikely. Devin Thomas was sick Thursday and Malcolm Kelly's nowhere close to playing.
It will once again be Moss, Antwaan Randle El and James Thrash trying to get the job done. The one player to watch is tight end Chris Cooley, who has had some great games against the Cowboys. Dallas knows what it's like to play without its best player. Now, it looks like the Redskins might find out.
So much more to come when I roll out Audibles on Friday afternoon.