- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

REDSKINS (0-0) vs. JETS (0-0)

9 p.m., FedEx Field

OFFENSE

REDSKINS: The unit as a whole should be a lot more comfortable in Year 2 of Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘n’ Gun system, but there are still question marks. QB Patrick Ramsey has only five career starts under his belt, and he had an inconsistent preseason. RB Trung Canidate will start, but it’s unknown whether he can carry the load the entire game. This much is certain: In Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, Ramsey has a couple of top WRs at his disposal.

JETS: One of the league’s top offenses from last season suffered a major blow when QB Chad Pennington broke his left wrist during preseason. Veteran Vinny Testaverde, at 39, will be counted on to lead this team for at least eight to 10 weeks until Pennington returns. Fortunately, he has RB Curtis Martin (one of only two players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons). WR Curtis Conway was signed to take Coles’ spot.

ADVANTAGE: Even.

DEFENSE

REDSKINS: Last year’s fifth-ranked unit has undergone some significant changes, most notably the departure of coordinator extraordinaire Marvin Lewis to Cincinnati and a complete overhaul at DT. Unheralded players like Jermaine Haley and Bernard Holsey will have to clog up the interior to keep Martin from having a big rushing game. LB LaVar Arrington seems primed for a monster season, and CB Champ Bailey suddenly finds himself in a contract year.

JETS: This wasn’t exactly New York’s strongest area last year. The club ranked 24th in total defense (18th against the run, 21st against the pass). Two-time Pro Bowl DE John Abraham is an emerging star, and veterans LB Mo Lewis and CBs Donnie Abraham and Aaron Beasley are reliable. But like the Redskins, the Jets are thin at DT. Josh Evans was suspended for his third drug violation, and prize rookie Dewayne Robertson is progressing slowly.

ADVANTAGE: Redskins.

SPECIAL TEAMS

REDSKINS: Washington’s kicking situation is solid, and the Jets should know because John Hall wore green and white the last six years. Hall was 6-for-6 in FG attempts during the preseason. Veteran P Bryan Barker staved off two competitors during camp and appears ready to regain his past form. New KR/PR Chad Morton (another former Jet) provides a dangerous weapon.

JETS: New York has a revamped special teams unit with K Doug Brien replacing Hall, P Dan Stryzinski taking over for Matt Turk and KR Albert Johnson handling Morton’s old responsibilities. Brien is the seventh most accurate FG kicker in league history (80.3 percent), but he has bounced around with five different teams in nine years and hasn’t been a regular since 2000. Stryzinski also has been around the block.

ADVANTAGE: Redskins.

INTANGIBLES

REDSKINS: Washington has been gearing up for this season opener for some time now, and clearly the four “JetSkins” want to have a good showing against their old teammates. But the Redskins have to avoid entering this game with too much confidence, especially since Pennington went down and Testaverde stepped in. If recent Redskins history tells us anything, it’s that nothing should be assumed.

JETS: Has a defending division champion ever entered the following season with such negative vibes? Everyone is predicting gloom and doom for New York after its roster was raided by Dan Snyder and its star quarterback KO’d by the Giants. This just in: Vinny Testaverde, while clearly past his prime, is still a capable QB, and even if he’s off his game, the rest of the Jets have plenty of motivation against their new least favorite team.

ADVANTAGE: Jets.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

REDSKINS: DTs Jermaine Haley and Bernard Holsey. These two unheralded tackles, along with backups Lional Dalton and Martin Chase, are being asked to do a lot, not the least of which is capably replace Daryl Gardener, Dan Wilkinson and Brandon Noble. Tonight’s performance by the rotating quartet against RB Curtis Martin should be a good indicator of things to come.

JETS: QB Vinny Testaverde. Who are we kidding? All the pressure is on the veteran now that he has been thrust into the starting lineup. Testaverde did not get too many snaps during the preseason (he went 6-for-14 for 56 yards), but with 16 years of NFL experience, was there really much left for him to learn? Expect the wily vet to play a conservative, mistake-free game.

PREDICTION: Redskins 23, Jets 20.

INJURY REPORT

REDSKINS

WR Taylor Jacobsabdominal traumaout

OL Wilbert Brownelbowquestionable

C Larry Moorekneequestionable

DT Jermaine Haleyankleprobable

DE Peppi Zellnerkneeprobable

JETS

QB Chad Penningtonwristout

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