- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

The Washington Redskins are already dipping into their depth, but at least the $100 million payroll is providing a solid return.

Reserves patched injuries along both lines as the defense gained its first shutout in nine years and the offense scored on four straight drives in the 24-0 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns on Saturday. Reserve guard Jay Leeuwenburg played three positions. Center Mark Fischer survived his first start. Defensive end Kenard Lang was a surprisingly effective stopgap tackle.

"Through training camp that's one of the things you want to find guys that can come in and play like Fischer and Leeuwenburg did and you don't miss a beat," coach Norv Turner said.

Meanwhile, the Redskins will release 18 players today to reach tomorrow's mandatory 62-player limit. Running back Gerald Arnold will be placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn knee ligament against Cleveland. Another nine players will be cut by Sunday.

The Redskins finish the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday at FedEx Field with few lineup changes. Punters Tommy Barnhardt and Rodney Williams are still vying over the only prominent vacancy. Otherwise, the Redskins spent the summer readying backups for emergencies. While defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (sprained knee) will return for the season-opener against Carolina on Sept. 3 and center Cory Raymer (sprained knee) should miss only a month, the Redskins are quickly relying on reserves.

Fischer struggled on pass coverage, especially with Cleveland defensive end Courtney Brown. However, there were no problems with the snaps so the Redskins plan to stay with Fischer. Leeuwenburg will replace guard Tre Johnson against Carolina when the latter serves a one-game suspension for hitting an official during the playoffs last year.

After a slow start, the offense scored on the final three drives of the first half and the opening third-quarter possession. Both Leeuwenburg and Fischer played most of the second quarter after guard Keith Sims departed with a mild knee sprain. Sims' injury was not serious and he would have returned if it was a regular-season game. Sims will practice today.

"It was more of a scare because it hurt more initially than when I got to the sideline," he said.

The Redskins offense chipped away for 175 yards at halftime when starters largely departed. Mostly, the Redskins concentrated on the running game with 63 yards on 20 carries in the first half, including Skip Hicks' 12-yard touchdown run. Stephen Davis gained 28 yards on nine carries.

"We've run the ball better this preseason than any I've been involved with," Turner said. "We don't spend a lot of time gameplanning the run. The preseason is for quarterbacks to get their reps. The running game is better than I thought it would be."

Hicks said he didn't feel like he was being showcased for a possible trade this week despite scoring two touchdowns. Several teams are interested in Hicks, who continues to work on running inside.

"I'm not necessarily showing everybody what I can do," he said. "I'm not saying I have to run up the middle to impress anybody. I know if I run in there four or five times they're going to expect that and open up the outside."

The defense was barely tested by the Browns, who gained only 151 yards. It was Washington's first shutout since blanking Philadelphia 23-0 in 1991, and first during preseason since beating Green Bay 30-0 in 1987.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Lang's effectiveness on running plays despite a 50-pound weight disadvantage against interior offensive linemen. Lang regularly moves to tackle on third-down passing situations, but was forced to play much of the game against the Browns. While defensive end Nolan Harrison could also play tackle against Pittsburgh if his sprained knee isn't a problem when returning to practice today, Lang may have gained a new role.

"He may have found a little bit of a home," Turner said. "He's not going to give us the run defense Dan did in there, but it's a good changeup."

Said Lang: "The only difference is things move a little quicker. You have three or four different blocks where at end you get two."

Linebacker LaVar Arrington's role should increase by the Carolina game, but Turner said Greg Jones remains the starter.

"Greg Jones is playing so well we don't have to rush it," Turner said. "I think we'll get to a point in the next couple weeks where we can use a mix of the two. LaVar did exactly what I know he can do make big plays. We have to get him to where he doesn't give up big plays. That just comes from learning the defense. If he can make the same jump these next two weeks he did from the Tampa game [on Aug. 4], then he's going to be in great shape to help us."

Fullback Mike Sellers (sprained shoulder) won't play against Pittsburgh with Turner uncertain if Sellers will be ready for Carolina. Rookie safety Lloyd Harrison (sprained ankle) will return to practice today after missing more than two weeks. Linebacker Shawn Barber (bruised knee) and offensive tackle Andy Heck (sprained knee) are day-to-day while tight end James Jenkins (back spasms), cornerback Tyrone Drakeford (hamstring), running back Chad Dukes (sprained knee) and cornerback Tim Denton (toe) could return later this week.

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