Record (1-7) shocks ex-mate Alexan­der

Bills LB, who spent 7 sea­sons in D.C., says drama can wear on you

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NFL - By John Wawrow

OR­CHARD PARK, N.Y. — Line­backer Lorenzo Alexan­der took a mo­ment from dis­cussing the “whup­pin,” as he put it, the Bills defense ex­pe­ri­enced last week­end to as­sess the sorry state of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, one of his for­mer teams.

“It’s shock­ing in some ways,” Alexan­der said, of a once-proud fran­chise off to a 1-7 start and trav­el­ing to face the Bills (5-2) on Sun­day. “With the ups and downs, the drama, the stuff that’s not foot­ball-re­lated can wear on you.”

Wash­ing­ton has changed coaches, with Bill Cal­la­han tak­ing over for Jay Gru­den, who was fired fol­low­ing an 0-5 start. There’s the drama of of­fen­sive tackle Trent Williams’ un­cer­tain play­ing sta­tus, which re­mains un­re­solved even af­ter he re­ported to the team this week.

And then rookie first-round pick Dwayne Hask­ins will make his first ca­reer start with Case Keenum side­lined with a con­cus­sion.

“I’ve been on teams like that when you’re down to your third-string quar­ter­back and a guy that hasn’t had a lot of reps,” said Alexan­der, who spent seven of his 15 sea­sons in Wash­ing­ton. “It’s just hard to win.”

Tan­ta­liz­ing as the matchup might look, Alexan­der un­der­stands the Bills can’t over­look any­one de­spite be­ing off to their best start in eight years.

Ques­tions con­tinue as to whether Buf­falo is ben­e­fit­ing from a soft sched­ule. The Bills’ five wins have come against op­po­nents en­ter­ing this week­end with a com­bined record of 7-31. Those con­cerns didn’t lessen af­ter Buf­falo was pushed around on both sides of the ball in a 31-13 loss to the Ea­gles last week­end.

The Josh Allen-led of­fense mus­tered a sea­son-low 253 yards and man­aged two first downs on its fi­nal six pos­ses­sions. The usu­ally stout defense gave up a sea­son­worst 218 yards rush­ing.

“We never want to be dom­i­nated the way we were last week,” Alexan­der said. “But one game doesn’t de­fine us.”

In Wash­ing­ton, Cal­la­han is tak­ing a step-at-a-time ap­proach to in­ject a sense of re­spectabil­ity into a team in jeop­ardy of open­ing with one or fewer win through its first nine games for only the fifth time, and first since go­ing 1-8 to open the 1998 sea­son.

“We’re mak­ing progress. I think that’s in­ter­nal and it’s hard for me to say pub­licly that we’re im­prov­ing when we’re at the point that we’re at right now,” Cal­la­han said. “But for the guys in the room, that’s our sole fo­cus is just get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day.”

Peter­son vs. Gore: The matchup will be the first to fea­ture two run­ning backs with at least 13,500 yards rush­ing.

Buf­falo’s Frank Gore’s 15,170 yards rank fourth on the list and 99 shy of match­ing Barry San­ders. Wash­ing­ton’s Adrian Peter­son moved into sixth place with 13,701 yards, af­ter pass­ing Jerome Bet­tis and LaDainian Tomlinson last week.

Bills de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Les­lie Fra­zier held the same job in Min­nesota dur­ing Peter­son’s 2007 rookie sea­son. “He’s fin­ish­ing his ca­reer strong for sure,” Fra­zier said.

Hask­ins’ time: Se­lected 15th over­all out of Ohio State, Hask­ins has had ex­tra time to pre­pare af­ter go­ing 3 of 5 for 33 yards and an in­ter­cep­tion over the sec­ond half of a 19-9 loss at Min­nesota on Oct. 24. Over­all, he’s gone 12 of 22 for 140 yards, with four in­ter­cep­tions in two re­lief ap­pear­ances.

“Next step in my pro­gres­sion? First start,” said Hask­ins, who will be backed up by Colt McCoy. “We’ll see how it goes from there.”

Vet­eran of­fen­sive tackle Don­ald Penn has no wor­ries in be­liev­ing Hask­ins will do “just fine.”

“He’s re­ally try­ing to hold it in, but I think he’s re­ally ex­cited and juiced about this, which he should be,” Penn said.

Sec­ond-half strug­gles: Wash­ing­ton has been outscored 101-46 in the sec­ond half, in­clud­ing al­low­ing the win­less Dol­phins’ first points fol­low­ing half­time in a 17-16 win. Wash­ing­ton also al­lowed 109 sec­ond-half rush­ing yards to Min­nesota last week.

“You can say maybe we play a lot of snaps, but every­body across the league plays a lot of snaps,” in­side line­backer Jon Bos­tic said. “But when it comes down to it, we’ve got to win. We’ve got to get off the field.”

Trent’s here, sort of: Wash­ing­ton has been granted a ros­ter ex­emp­tion for Williams, who failed his phys­i­cal be­cause of hel­met dis­com­fort af­ter hav­ing surgery to re­move a tu­mor from his skull. Williams said he told the team of the med­i­cal is­sue six years ago, and the growth on his head grew sub­stan­tially over time.

Williams said he dis­trusts the team’s med­i­cal staff and adds he was “told some scary things” by doc­tors which changed his out­look on life.

He has not com­mit­ted to play­ing for the Red­skins again.

DC con­nec­tions: Aside from Alexan­der, who played for Wash­ing­ton from 2006-12, the Bills have nu­mer­ous play­ers fac­ing their for­mer team. DE Trent Mur­phy and of­fen­sive line­man Spencer Long played their first four sea­sons in Wash­ing­ton (2014-17). Of­fen­sive tackle Ty Nsekhe spent the past four sea­sons in Wash­ing­ton be­fore sign­ing with Buf­falo in March.

JEFF HAYNES/AP

Quar­ter­back Dwayne Hask­ins will make his first start for Wash­ing­ton against Buf­falo.

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