Normally, when your defense is facing a team that has Randy Moss on its roster, containing the star wide receiver is your primary goal. It's true that the Redskins will have to control Moss and Jerry Porter when they host Oakland on Sunday at FedExField.
But another threat has emerged in the Raiders' offense: fifth-year running back LaMont Jordan, the former University of Maryland Terrapin who joined Oakland this offseason after four seasons as a New York Jet. Jordan, the 5-10, 230-pounder, is a native of Suitland, Maryland, so playing at FedExField basically is playing in his own back yard.
Through the first nine games of the 2005 season, Jordan has been at the forefront of Norv Turner's offense, with 168 carries, 640 yards and seven TDs. Add to that the fact that he's caught 47 passes for 399 yards and two scores, and you see why he'll be such a challenge for Gregg Williams' defense.
It won't be his first career stop at FedExField. With the Jets in 2003, Jordan scored his team's lone touchdown in a game Washington won 16-13 on John Hall's 33-yard field goal with 2:11 left.
The Redskins did a solid job against Cadillac Williams, Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman last week, yielding just 61 yards on 27 carries in the 36-35 setback at Tampa Bay. But this is also the defense that gave up 206 yards on the ground to Tiki Barber in the 36-0 setback on Week 8 at the Meadowlands.
The question: Which run defense will show up for the Redskins this Sunday versus Oakland?
In the middle of his team's defensive line, Greg Blache has been rotating players for weeks. With Brandon Noble on IR, Cornelius Griffin battling a hip injury and Joe Salave'a slowed due to a foot injury, Blache has had to use defensive ends Demetric Evans and Renaldo Wynn at tackle in certain situations. Also getting playing time there have been Ryan Boschetti and Aki Jones.
Salave'a is forging ahead despite a painful case of plantar fascitis, an injury which can cause severe foot pain. At Tampa, he produced four tackles and a forced fumble in a truly courageous effort. It gets so bad that Salave'a struggles even walking to the sidelines when it's time for him to be replaced.
The Week 10 game marked the third straight outing during which he played with the ailment. He says: "There are going to be situations where you're going to be faced with adversity. Plantar fascitis is not one of them that I anticipated, but I think there's a reason why it's happened. It's another way to prove what kind of man I am as far as dealing with pain, and yet playing at a higher peak performance level."
Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams has been with Salave'a since 1998, when both were in Tennessee.
"I was with him in his infancy in this league," Williams said. "For whatever reason, he is a guy that you almost have to knock on the head to not let him play. He'll get nicked or hurt in the middle of a ballgame and all of a sudden, he's back next to me, pushing on me to make sure that I know that he's ready to go."
The indomitable presence of the 6-3, 317-pound Salave'a, a seventh-year veteran, has been critical to Washington's injury-riddled defensive front. On Thursday's practice report, Saleve'a was listed as probable for Sunday's game but Griffin still was cited as questionable.
Entering Week 11, the Redskins are ranked fourth in the NFC in total defense but ninth in the conference against the run, giving up 116.2 per game.
Salave'a, who has excellent quickness at the point of attack, played his first four seasons for Tennessee under then-Titans defensive coordinator Williams. He reacquainted himself with Williams in 2004 and played in 15 games last year with nine starts for the league's No. 3 defense.
Overall, the Redskins will try to stop a string of eight straight losses to AFC opponents. The last time Washington beat a team from the AFC was on Sept. 28 two year ago. The Redskins edged New England 20-17, just before the Patriots went on their Super Bowl run.