ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -During the day, second-year safety Reed Doughty has the unenviable task of trying to replace Sean Taylor. He is concerned with coverages, formations, reads and the feeling that he doesn't want to let down a Washington Redskins defense that misses Taylor dearly.
At night, Doughty and his wife hook up their 14-month-old son to a dialysis machine at their home. Born six weeks early, Micah Doughty spent the first month of his life in a hospital and will need a kidney transplant once he grows to 22 pounds. He has about 1 1/2 pounds to go.
``It's definitely not going to happen before the season's over,'' Doughty said Wednesday. ``He's doing really well. It's discouraging only when you take him to the doctor and he hasn't gained weight for a month.''
It would be easy to pick on Doughty for what happened Sunday in his first NFL start. With Taylor, arguably the Redskins best player, sidelined with a knee injury, Doughty and the secondary allowed four touchdown passes to Terrell Owens in a 28-23 loss to Dallas.
Doughty looked like the inexperienced player he is on a 51-yard pass interference penalty that set up the Cowboys' go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. He also takes a share of the blame for one of the touchdown passes to Owens.
But the fault didn't lie with Doughty alone. He was benched after three quarters and replaced by Pierson Prioleau, who missed the tackle on Owens' final touchdown. Other players had lapses as well.
``It was two plays that defined the game for me,'' said Doughty, who counted three separate mistakes in his coverage on the interference call. ``But that's what you know. You know there's going to be two, three, four critical plays, and you need to make those plays.''
Taylor's injury has had a stunning effect on the Redskins. In five quarters without him, the defense has allowed eight plays of 20 or more yards, not counting Doughty's interference penalty. Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Dallas' Tony Romo have picked apart the defense in wins that have dropped Washington (5-5) to .500.
Before Taylor was hurt, the Redskins had allowed only 21 plays of 20-plus yards all season - or about 2 1/2 per game. The rate with Taylor gone is about 6 1/2 per game.
``You're talking about one of the best safeties in the league,'' cornerback Fred Smoot said. ``Just by his presence in the middle, people don't try the middle. We miss him tremendously, so hopefully we'll get him back soon.''
Taylor, who was hurt in the third quarter of the Eagles game, will miss Sunday's trip at Tampa Bay and possibly more. With him gone, assistant coach Gregg Williams tried a variety of packages in practice last week before deciding to rely on Doughty over Prioleau, who still hasn't fully recovered from a knee injury a year ago.
Doughty said he can't compensate for Taylor, but he was also quick to point out that most big plays are allowed by a combination of errors by multiple players. Teamwork and communication need to improve.
``I know Sean's a great player,'' Doughty said, ``but I don't feel like we can't win games without him.''
When Doughty goes home, he said he separates football from family. Micah, who ``crawls all over the place'' and is close to walking on his own, gets excited to see his father. Developmentally, the boy's progress has been good, and the Doughty family can feel more at ease this year when they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.
``Last year we really didn't know quite what was going on,'' Doughty said. ``Now at least we know what's going on. At least we kind of know what the plan is.''
Notes: G Randy Thomas was in uniform at practice Wednesday for the first time since having surgery Sept. 19 to repair his torn left triceps. Thomas took part only in individual drills and hopes to return for the stretch run in December. ``I'm just glad to be out there and bring a little energy to the practice,'' Thomas said. ... Even with Thomas' return, the list of sidelined players was long: WR Santana Moss (heel), WR Antwaan Randle El (chest), WR James Thrash (ankle), G Pete Kendall (ankle), T Todd Wade (knee), DT Cornelius Griffin (foot), RB Ladell Betts (illness) and Taylor. Also, LB London Fletcher (ribs) was limited, and FB Mike Sellers left early with back pain. ... Coach Joe Gibbs turns 67 on Sunday, but he said he doesn't celebrate birthdays anymore. ``I think I'm definitely in the fourth quarter,'' he said with a laugh.

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