- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 1999

The Washington Redskins' defense isn't led by two high-priced tackles, a cornerback destined for the Hall of Fame or the rookie cornerback sensation. Instead, the pacesetter has been an end who was a late offseason addition.
In the first practice of training camp, Marco Coleman startled teammates by screaming "Get the ball. Get the ball," during a fumble. Soon he was the talk of the camp. Many players believe Coleman is their most valuable defensive player and the locker room leader.
"If you see him on the field, he plays hard, practices hard every week to get ready," said running back Stephen Davis. "Just being around him, he brings guys up."
Coleman, 30, has become the Redskins' best right end since Dexter Manley in 1989. Washington merely wanted a fair run defender, but Coleman has also become a regular pass rusher. His 43 quarterback hurries are tied with tackle Dan Wilkinson for the team lead, and his 6 and 1/2 sacks trail only Wilkinson's eight. Coleman has also forced three fumbles and returned another 42 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants.
"He's brought a work ethic that's very important to practices as well as games, from training camp to this point," said defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. "Marco reminds me a lot of [Indianapolis defensive end] Chad Bratzke, who learned about what it took early in his career and did the little things on the field."
Said coach Norv Turner: "Aside from providing great leadership, he's just a great competitor. He gets the most out of himself in almost every situation he's been. [Leaders] are critical. The more guys like that, the more consistent you play."
Coleman offers an icy stare that would freeze a volcano, but his passion is ever present. He'll awaken teammates during practice by yelling directions or encouragement. There's no sluggishness when he's around.
"The vocal is important, but you have to back what you're saying," Nolan said. "When he's hollering for guys to go to the ball, he's going to the ball. Some guys that stand around and watch can't holler and go to the ball. People look at them like, 'What are you talking about? Why don't you go to the ball?' That has created that leadership role that's good for any football team."
Coleman realized he might have antagonized some teammates in the opening weeks, but he has since become one of the more popular players. Coleman has converted skeptics into followers with his hard-nosed style.
"You have to have 11 guys that feel that way. I won't change the way I play," he said. "Football is football. It's just running and tackling. Coming here, it wasn't any different. I was just being myself. It's just touched other people in the process. We have a lot of young guys that haven't experienced what I have. I'm able to bring that to the guys."
The Redskins' defense remains ranked 28th overall and against the run but hasn't allowed more than 20 points in the last six games.
"I always knew that we could play well," Coleman said. "People just expected a whole lot, and we didn't do it. But we got better as the season went on. The first game [losing 41-35 to Dallas in overtime] put us deep in the hole. That was a lot of yards. After that, there wasn't any team that did that to us. We just have to keep it going. It's not about where you are after the fourth week or 10th week, but at the end of the season."
Coleman is an unrestricted free agent next season. However, he hopes to sign a long-term deal with the Redskins.
"I love the team," Coleman said. "The organization is on its way up. The fan base is outstanding. I'm looking forward to being here next season."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide