Rookie Heath Shuler's first NFL start now may be less than two weeks away.
Although Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner wouldn't make it official, he seemed to indicate yesterday that he'll give John Friesz one more start Sunday at New Orleans before going with Shuler the following week against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.
Since the Redskins made Shuler the third pick in the NFL draft in April, Turner's been eager to move him into the starting lineup, but his timetable suffered a setback when Shuler held out for 13 days at the start of training camp before signing a $19.25 million contract.
The result was that he played only briefly at the end of the second and fourth quarters of the Redskins' 28-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, completing three of eight passes for just 14 yards. Friesz, though, didn't help himself when he threw two passes that were run back for Seahawks touchdowns, although one was called back by a penalty.
With Friesz and the team struggling, Turner has virtually nothing to lose if he plays Shuler and gets him some experience.
"I think we're going to get to a point where we're going to say, 'Hey, we're going to get him ready. Let's just go and see how we do.' Whether that's this week or not, we're working to make that decision," he said.
He later indicated the fact this week's game is in New Orleans may make him wait another week. The noise in the Superdome can be a problem for a rookie.
"The one thing that's obviously an issue in this game, I've been to New Orleans a number of times. It can be a tough place on quarterbacks. It can be a tough place on offensive linemen. Those things have to be a consideration," he said.
Although Turner said the Redskins were hurt by mental errors -- namely Brian Mitchell's decision to field a punt inside the 5-yard line and his subsequent fumble and Friesz's decision to force a pass that was run back for a touchdown -- he continued to see encouraging signs.
"I feel good about a lot of things on this football team," he said. "The players I've talked to individually realize this can be a good team."
The Redskins made one roster move yesterday, signing wide receiver Leslie Shepherd. Safety Keith Taylor (torn Achilles' tendon) was put on injured reserve.
Where's the D?
The struggling Redskins offense may be playing the Saints at the right time. Normally a tough defensive team, the Saints apparently haven't overcome the loss of All-Pro linebackers Rickey Jackson and Vaughn Johnson and four veterans in the secondary. They gave up 460 yards to Kansas City in a 30-17 loss.
"Do I miss guys like Rickey and Vaughn?" Saints linebacker Sam Mills asked. "I don't want to get into it, but I'll miss those guys every play I play in the NFL."
Coach Jim Mora said, "When you can't stop people, you've got real problems."
The quarterback derby
Former Redskins quarterback Jay Schroeder, waived by the Cincinnati Bengals when he refused to take a pay cut, decided to take substantially less than the $800,000 he was making with the Bengals to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. He replaced former Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore, who was waived. Steve Beuerlein and Jim McMahon are 1-2 for the Cardinals, but Schroeder could push them.
Bucky Richardson, who started the preseason trying to win the Houston Oilers' No. 3 quarterback job, may start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
When Cody Carlson went down with a shoulder separation against the Indianapolis Colts, Richardson, an eighth-round pick from Texas A&M; in 1992, came in and completed 19 of 35 passes for 203 yards.
It's uncertain whether Carlson will be ready for the Cowboys game.
Carlson became the starter when the Oilers cut Sean Salisbury and his $1.1 million salary. They're now expected to give Billy Joe Tolliver a tryout for the No. 3 spot.
Scott Mitchell, the Detroit Lions' new quarterback who injured the thumb on his throwing hand early in the third quarter Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, had it put in a semi-cast, but still expects to start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Mitchell went all the way despite the injury in the Lions' 31-28 overtime victory over the Falcons.
Drive for five?
There was good news for all the fans who are tired of seeing the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl when they lost their opener for the first time since 1987, a 23-3 drubbing at the hands of the New York Jets.
But the Bills were downplaying the loss, noting the Cowboys lost their opener in Washington last year and still won the Super Bowl.
"It's what you do after this, rather than what we did yesterday," Bills coach Marv Levy said.
Quarterback Jim Kelly noted they didn't do much against the Jets.
"We were lousy," Kelly said. "Everybody on the offense was lousy. There was no one person that could have come out of that film room feeling good about themselves."
As expected, Arizona Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan wasn't left speechless by his team's 14-12 upset loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
"That's the first time I've ever been beat by a team that looked like it was trying to die," Ryan said.
The Cardinals had 230 total yards to the Rams' 152 and won the first-down battle 23-9, but turnovers and dropped passes started Ryan's Arizona tenure on a sour note.