Cornerback Shawn Springs finally returned to action on Sunday against Tennessee, but defensive tackles Joe Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin were deactivated due to injury.
Their absence proved critical as the defense yielded 194 rushing yards in the Redskins' 25-22 loss to the Titans. Running back Travis Henry compiled 178 yards on 32 carries to lead the Titans.
With Salave'a and Griffin sidelined, rookie linemen Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston drew starting assignments. It was Montgomery's first career NFL start.
Third-year player Ryan Boschetti and ends Renaldo Wynn and Demetric Evans also saw action at defensive tackle.
For the most part, Golston and Montgomery held their own on defense. Golston finished the game with six tackles, while Montgomery added four tackles.
In the second quarter, the rookie duo combined on a sack of quarterback Vince Young. They burst through blocks to converge on Young, who had held on to the ball too long in the pocket. The sack turned out to be a key play because it forced the Titans to settle for a field goal.
Salave'a has been slowed by a calf injury and Griffin has a hip injury. They had not practiced last week and were both listed as questionable heading into the game.
Meantime, Springs was active for the first time this season after missing the first five games due to a groin and abdominal injuries. Carlos Rogers and Kenny Wright started at cornerback with coaches working Springs back into action.
Springs finished the game with three tackles serving in nickel packages.
The team deactivated cornerback Mike Rumph, who had seen extensive action in place of Springs the last five games. Ade Jimoh saw action as a reserve as well.
The Redskins' complete list of inactive players for the game was as follows: cornerback Mike Rumph, safety Curry Burns, offensive linemen Mike Pucillo and Jim Molinaro, wide receiver David Patten, Salave'a and Griffin.
Patten had also missed practice last week and was questionable heading into Sunday's game.
-- INJURIES: ROGERS, BRUNELL
#### -- SALAVE'A EVOLVING INTO A LEADER
It was hard for Joe Salave'a to sit out Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, given that he played for the franchise from 1998-2001. But he knows that his long-term health and availability will be a key for the Redskins' defensive line as the season progresses.
The 6-3, 317-pound defensive tackle, sidelined with a calf injury, was originally drafted by the Titans in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Tennessee was a young team led by head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
In 1999, everything came together for Salave'a and Tennessee. The Titans compiled a 13-3 record during the regular season, stunned the football world with the "Music City Miracle" come-from-behind win in the playoffs, and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams.
The Titans made things dramatic in Super Bowl XXXIV, taking the St. Louis Rams down to the wire. Rams' linebacker Mike Jones tackled wide receiver Kevin Dyson at the Rams' 1-yard line as time expired to preserve a 23-16 win for the Rams.
It was the 1999 season that Salave'a says he started to develop his skills and learn the NFL game.
"We had a rotation and I had to earn a spot," he said. "That was one of my best years, because we were so deep and competitive, everybody stayed fresh."
The next year, Salave'a played in 15 games, recording 43 tackles (22 solo) and four sacks. In two seasons with the Redskins, he has been a mainstay along the defensive front, logging 80 tackles (45 solo), 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
As Salave'a has struggled with injuries this season, the defense has turned to Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery. That's put Salave'a in more of a leadership and mentorship role.
"I really have liked Joe's toughness and leadership," said Williams, now the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense. "The funny thing about being with him for so long is seeing him being kind of a silent leader to now more of a vocal leader. There were a lot of guys that did some nice and good things leadership-wise when he came into the league for him when he was a young guy.
"He has taken young guys under his wing here and has done a good job behind the scenes of being someone that they can come to in confidence and talk about what it is to be a rookie defensive tackle in the National Football League now. I am appreciative of the leadership that he brings here."