- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

From 340-pound Gilbert Brown to a reserve defensive end who leads the NFL in sacks, the Green Bay Packers' defensive front presents some interesting problems for the Washington Redskins.
Fortunately for the Redskins, their offensive line just might be up to the task Monday night. The unit allowed just one sack in the opener on a cautious slide by Jeff George despite a 30-3 loss at San Diego.
Big deficits often lead to big sack totals, with the trailing team forced to pass repeatedly. That helped Green Bay get seven sacks in a 28-6 opening win over Detroit. But the Redskins' line held up in that situation in Week 1 and generally seems to have made progress after an unsettled and erratic preseason.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us, but we're excited about it," left guard Dave Szott said this week. "We protected Jeff very well the last time we played, and I have every expectation that we're going to do the same this week."
The Redskins are confident despite continued questions at right guard. Ben Coleman was signed to be the starter but continues to be slowed by a swollen knee. Undrafted rookie David Brandt started the opener but suffered a sprained knee, the lingering effects of which could make him a reserve to Matt Campbell this week.
Whoever plays the position will have to figure out how to block Brown, the huge nose tackle who anchors Green Bay's defense. Brown used to weigh close to 400 pounds but lost significant weight while sitting out last season. He returned to the Packers markedly thinner but still a gigantic obstacle for opponents.
"In my notes to the players, I said this guy is a load," Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You're not going to move him. If you think you're going to run over that big piece of ground he's taking up, you're kidding yourself. You might be able to run around him, but he is an absolute massive, massive guy."
Starting alongside Brown is defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, a free agent pickup from Chicago. Flanigan is far smaller (290 pounds) but effective, posting two sacks in the opener. Completing the interior rotation are Santana Dotson (287), a Packers starter in Super Bowl XXXI, and first-year player Rod Walker (320).
"You've got Gilbert, who's so big, and you've got Flanigan, who's a real quick, hard-working guy," Szott said. "They really contrast one another. And then they've got some guys who rotate in who are pretty good. They've got a lot of talent up front."
Another Packer who sees frequent time at tackle is left end Vonnie Holliday, who plays on the edge on early downs and inside in pass rushing situations. Holliday also had two sacks in the opener.
"I think Vonnie Holliday is one of the best defensive linemen in the league," Schottenheimer said. "You don't hear much about him, but he's an awfully good player."
Complicating Washington's task on the interior is the fact that the Packers' tackles switch from side to side, sometimes just as the play starts. That technique has one tackle essentially setting a pick for the other.
At the ends are Holliday and John Thierry on early downs (with first-round draft pick Jamal Reynolds still limited by a knee injury), while second-year player Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila presents a speedy threat on passing downs. Gbaja-Biamila, after three sacks against the Lions, is tied with New Orleans right end Joe Johnson for the NFL lead.
"You know who [Gbaja-Biamila] reminds me of?" Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. "And this will speak for itself. [Baltimore Ravens right end Michael] McCrary. He's kind of a wild guy, but he's steady coming. Constantly coming. Never quits. So I know I'm going to have my hands full with him."
The Redskins' challenge apart from avoiding a repeat of their seven fumbles and two interceptions in the opener is to run against this front, which generally is supported by a safety (Darren Sharper or LeRoy Butler) in a scheme that resembles the Denver Broncos' of recent seasons.
Washington's offense revolves around running back Stephen Davis, who is trying to become the first Redskin with three straight seasons of 1,000 or more rushing yards. But Davis had just 35 yards on 14 carries at San Diego, with three fumbles. He was limited by the Redskins' big deficit, just like Detroit's running game had little chance to get going after the Packers' early offensive strikes.
This week Washington expects no early deficit, the run game to be moving and Green Bay's unique defensive front to be overcome.
"They bring the safety down a lot for run support, so it's going to be tough to run on them," Samuels said. "But if we execute our front we can run on them."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide