NFC's worst to battle it out

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Unless Buddy Ryan has gotten really outlandish and is planning on suiting up, he won't be the difference Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals play the Washington Redskins.

"I've never tackled a coach, never covered one," Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said of Ryan, who hogs the attention whenever his Cardinals play. "And ultimately, it's the player who's in front of us.

"I think that would be just a diversion, if we concentrated on Buddy Ryan, who will not be wearing No. 81, or No. 84, or anybody."

No he won't. Ryan will be on the sidelines as his Cardinals (1-4) play the equally inept Redskins (1-5) in a matchup of the NFC's worst teams thus far this season.

Both are desperate for their second win of the season, with the Redskins seeking their first win at home.

Arizona is coming off a 38-3 thrashing by Dallas. The Redskins have lost four in a row, including three to division opponents New York, Dallas and Philadelphia.

The Cardinals offense is ranked last in the NFL in total yardage, but Washington's defense is only slightly better at 24th in the league.

"They're a physical offensive team," said Washington coach Norv Turner. "They can pound at you and run the ball. They beat the Vikings. The Vikings are a good football team. And defensively we know they're a very, very physical front. They cause problems in your protections and make it very difficult to run the football."

To have any success against the Cardinals, the Redskins have to get their running game moving. They have run for 394 yards, an average of just 65 a game.

Offensive line coach Jim Hanifan said he was looking for blocking help from running backs and tight ends, both when running and especially when passing.

"In the area of pass protection with all the blitzing that they do, it's a coordinated effort not only by the offensive line, obviously your tight ends have to be involved, your running backs have to be involved," he said.

Running back Ricky Ervins started last week against the Eagles after Reggie Brooks pulled a muscle in his rib cage. Brooks practiced some this week, but was listed as questionable. Turner said fullback Brian Mitchell might see some time at running back.

Redskins rookie Heath Shuler will start his third game after showing enough spark in the loss to the Eagles to keep Washington in the game until the final minute, despite having the ball just 17 minutes.

"I was impressed with their game against Philadelphia," Ryan said. "They gave Philly all they wanted and Philly I think is the second- or third-rated defensive team in the country. I thought they did a hell of a job against them."

Ryan said he would start Steve Beuerlein at quarterback after Jay Schroeder sustained elbow and shoulder injuries against Dallas. Beuerlein relieved Schroeder and completed just 11 of 26 passes for 135 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

But while the Cardinals have sputtered on offense, their defense is ranked fourth in the league, having held opponents to 1,389 yards in five games.

So the Redskins will have their hands full keeping their rookie quarterback safe from linebackers Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall and Eric Hill and linemen Clyde Simmons, Michael Bankston and Eric Swann.

Plugging the hole at left tackle against Ryan's hard-blitzing defense will be another rookie, Tre Johnson. He's expected to start in place of Jim Lachey, who has a sprained right knee and ankle.

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