- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

Despite playing less than half of the Washington Redskins defensive snaps, Shawn Springs believes he’ll start at cornerback Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I think I am, I’m not for sure,” he said. “I’ll prepare like I’m going to start.”

After practice, cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said: “Hopefully on Monday, he’s out there with the starting unit.”

Springs had hamstring tightness last week, an ailment that wasn’t revealed until Tuesday because he had practiced the entire week. On Monday, coach Joe Gibbs stammered about why Springs played only 23 of 58 defensive snaps in the overtime win over Miami. By comparison, Fred Smoot and Carlos Rogers 56 and 53 snaps, respectively.

Springs and Gibbs are apparently on the same page after a conversation Wednesday or yesterday.

“We had a good talk, it was an excellent talk,” Springs said. “We’re on the same page with everything and that’s good.”

Springs said he wrapped his hamstring after lifting weights Sept. 3, “because that’s what veterans do sometimes.”

Even though Springs practiced last week, Gibbs and the coaching staff cut Springs’ playing time, they said, to avoid him injuring his hamstring.

“[Gibbs] was like, ‘I’m just looking out for you. I want you for 16 games,’ ” Springs said. “That was pretty much it.”

Springs had two tackles and a fumble recovery against Miami.

“I thought Shawn played well last week, especially after coming in and talking about having some tightness,” Gray said. “Shawn knows his body. He’s been playing for a long time and he communicates with us and the trainers so there isn’t a discrepancy. Our job is to make sure he gets to Sunday.”

One reason why Springs may start is because Philadelphia often employs three-receiver formations. Miami was strictly a two-receiver offense on first and second downs. According to “The Pro Football Prospectus,” the Eagles used three receivers on 51 percent of their offensive snaps last year, the eighth-highest percentage in the league.

Even with Springs playing less than expected, the Redskins were decent in pass defense.

Trent Green was 24-for-38, but he averaged only 5.8 yards an attempt, a sign Miami had little success downfield. Seven of Green’s completions went for 10 or more yards, but none were longer than 28 yards.

The Redskins played primarily cover 3 to take away the deep ball. The two cornerbacks and safety Sean Taylor each took a third of the field so safety LaRon Landry could play close to the line of scrimmage in run support.

That strategy required the cornerbacks to play 8 to 10 yards off the line, allowing Miami to throw quick passes. Sure tackling by the corners and pursuing linebackers prevented long gains. Miami had three completions of 22 or more yards and none longer than 28 yards.

That’s why Gray defended the performance of Smoot, who gave up two 14-yard completions.

“People say, ‘Hey, Fred gave up the hitches,’ ” Gray said. “Guess what — it takes 10-12 hitches to equal 80 yards on one pass. And none of those hitches went for a touchdown.

“You don’t want to give up big chunks of yards. If you make a quarterback dink and dunk, you have a better chance to win games. Last year, we gave up big chunks. We don’t want to get beat deep.”

Said Smoot: “If my defensive coordinator calls cover 3, I have to play it. I can’t play the hitch.”

Last year, the Redskins allowed 55 completions of 20-plus yards (most in the NFL) and 15 completions of 40-plus yards (second-most).

“That’s our main thing — not giving up deep passes and for the most part, we did that last weekend,” Rogers said. “They got a lot of check downs. This week, we definitely have to get them to throw into the flats because they’ll want to take us deep.”

If Springs is playing the majority of snaps, the Eagles will be reluctant to test the Redskins’ best cover corner.

“Shawn’s deal is, when he’s on the field, we’re a better team,” Gray said. “If we can get him for 16 weeks, we’re going to be a better team.”

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