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At Season's Midpoint, A Work In Progress

It's been a season of scrapping for wins. The Redskins have employed a stout, aggressive defense, a strong and resilient rushing attack and a special teams unit that has become more consistent as the year has progressed.

So, with the Redskins at the halfway point of the season, has the team's personality been established? Are the next eight games going to be similar to the first eight?

"No," Joe Gibbs said during his Monday press conference. "We're running the ball physically and we're playing very good defense. And our special teams stepped up [against Detroit]. But the one area of our football team where we can still make the biggest jump is throwing the football. I think we can do that. We have talented guys there.

"When we are consistent throwing the football, I think we'll take another step up. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Just as advertised when Gibbs became head coach, he has tried to build a foundation with the running attack. Clinton Portis has rushed for 810 yards on 204 carries and is on pace to run for 1,500-plus yards for the third consecutive season.

The passing game has had its moments--Rod Gardner's 10 catches for 167 yards and two TDs come to mind. Mark Brunell will start this Sunday's game against Cincinnati. He has completed 117-of-229 passes for 1,188 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He has developed a solid rapport with Laveranues Coles, who has 42 catches for 498 yards.

The NFL's top-ranked defense has been nothing short of remarkable, even after losing starters LaVar Arrington, Matt Bowen and Phillip Daniels for key stretches. Antonio Pierce, Ryan Clark, Ron Warner and Demetric Evans have made names for themselves by filling roles in Gregg Williams' defense.

But the end result--a 3-5 record--is not what Gibbs had envisioned at the beginning of the season.

"Certainly I was hoping that we'd be better than what we are," Gibbs said. "It's been extremely hard for all of us. I'm proud of our team and the way we have fought. I wouldn't have dreamed that we'd have as many players missing [due to injury]."

Gibbs knows that the NFL has changed dramatically since he last coached. It's now a league in which a team can win four games one year and then be a Super Bowl contender the next.

"When you evaluate the first half of the year, we beat Tampa Bay and Chicago but they were teams that weren't thought to be very good," Gibbs said. "Then both of those teams came back this Sunday with two real good victories. I think what it says about the NFL is that you have to go out and play great on every weekend. On any given weekend, it can turn. It's kind of hard to pick the favorites."

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