- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Some extra substitution by the Washington Redskins' defensive line proved extra effective last weekend.

By using reserve linemen Kenard Lang, Nolan Harrison and N.D. Kalu about twice as much as usual, the Redskins confused and wore down the New York Giants' offensive line and left the Meadowlands with a crucial 16-6 victory.

The Giants still have the league's No. 1 rushing offense, propelled by rumbling rookie Ron Dayne and speedy tailback Tiki Barber. But the Redskins allowed the touted Thunder and Lightning tandem just 88 yards, helping maintain a No. 6 defensive ranking in the NFL.

Now the Redskins (2-2) face a similar one-two punch Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1), who boast 248-pound fullback Mike Alstott, 180-pound tailback Warrick Dunn and the league's No. 5 rushing offense.

"It's a totally similar offense, where they've got a big power back [and] a little scatty back," Redskins defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said. "I think [our substitution pattern] worked this past week. I think we might stick with it this week, especially with how big this game is for us."

Lang (277 pounds) and Harrison (289) sub at tackle for Stubblefield (315) and Dan Wilkinson (313) and at end for Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman. Smith and Coleman also take a few snaps inside. Lang, Harrison and end Kalu got more than 20 plays apiece after getting perhaps half that in each of the first three games.

"We've been [substituting] all season, but we haven't been doing it a lot," Stubblefield said. "Even [coach] Norv [Turner] on the sideline thought it was a circus, because we had so much substitution going on up front."

Lang enjoyed his best game since losing the starting left end job last season. The former first-round pick out of Miami recorded three solo tackles, all for losses, including a 10-yard sack of quarterback Kerry Collins.

"That's what we're trying to do … give them different looks," Stubblefield said. "That [offensive lineman] is not playing you the whole game and keying on you the whole game. He's got to key against Kenard and Nolan and Marco, and then maybe Bruce will come down inside for a couple plays."

That creates mental and physical fatigue.

"You can see the look on the offensive line's faces, when they turn around and there's three new defensive linemen and they know there's no drop-off in skill level," Harrison said. "Psychologically it wears on people along with physically, and I think that's going to be key for us."

Stopping the run was the big issue surrounding the Redskins' defense before playing the Giants. Washington allowed Carolina's Tim Biakabutuka 66 yards on six first-half carries, Detroit's James Stewart 64 second-half yards, and Dallas' Emmitt Smith an effective 83 yards over the course of a 27-21 loss.

But Sunday's performance demonstrates the potential of a unit still ranked 17th against the run (105.0 yards per game). Now the question is what will happen against one of the NFL's premier offenses like that of the St. Louis Rams, who the Redskins play Nov. 20.

Two of the Redskins' opponents so far rank in the league's top third (New York, No. 7; Carolina, No. 10), but the other two rank in the bottom third (Dallas, No. 21; Detroit, No. 29).

"We still made some mistakes," Bruce Smith said. "[Coordinator] Ray [Rhodes] said it earlier: We haven't even scratched the surface. Each week we're improving, and that's a good sign."

Tampa Bay is on the tier below the Rams and the Indianapolis Colts. The Bucs own the league's fifth-best scoring average (27.5 points) but a marginal passing game despite the addition of Pro Bowl receiver Keyshawn Johnson. They average just 164.5 passing yards, sixth worst in the league.

Frequent substitution may help the Redskins contain the varied talents of Alstott and Dunn and keep pressure on quarterback Shaun King. Even if it does not, the linemen believe the tactic eventually will pay off.

"I think [Sunday's substitution pattern] is going to be a trend," Harrison said. "You want everybody to be ready in December for that big push. You want everybody to be as fresh as possible."

Notes Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson moved up four places among NFC passers, to eighth with an 81.5 rating. The subject of an intense quarterback controversy before Sunday's 14- for-20, 289-yard, two-touchdown day at the New York Giants, Johnson (1,009 yards) now is one of just four quarterbacks in the league with more than 1,000 yards passing… .

Sunday's victory was the Redskins' fourth in their past five NFC East games. Excluding losses to Dallas, which Washington has not beaten since Oct. 13, 1997, the Redskins have won seven straight division games… .

Sure, the Redskins' October schedule is tough, with Sunday's game against Tampa Bay followed by contests at Philadelphia, against Baltimore, at Jacksonville and against Tennessee. But the Bucs have a difficult month, too, with home-and-away games against Minnesota (currently 3-0) and a home date with Detroit (3-1)… .

Tampa Bay has the NFC's top turnover ratio, plus-6. Washington ranks seventh at even… .

The Bucs have won just one of their past 18 games in which an opposing rusher picked up 90 or more yards. The Jets' Curtis Martin had 90 yards on 18 carries Sunday. The Redskins are 7-3 in games in which Stephen Davis rushes for at least 90 yards.

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