- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Washington, you have known and loved the Hogs.
Now meet the Dogs.
In the first of many expected canine conquests, the Washington Redskins opened the pen Sunday and let their revamped defensive line attack Carolina quarterback Steve Beuerlein. After each big hit, FedEx Field's speakers blared, in the form of the hit song by the Baha Men, "Who Let the Dogs Out."
The Redskins did, using newcomer Bruce Smith, one of history's premier defensive ends, to catapult their line to a dominant debut. For now, it's one big game. But by season's end, this fearsome foursome with its talented reserves could become the type of famous force the Redskins' offensive line was throughout the 1980s.
Those were the Hogs.
These are the Dogs.
"You know, that's probably a good name," reserve lineman Kenard Lang said. "We can let them dogs loose and let them run. That's what we did this weekend, and that's what we've got to do each week."
The Dogs are, from right to left: end Smith, tackle Dana Stubblefield, tackle Dan Wilkinson (a k a Big Daddy) and end Marco Coleman. Backing them up are Lang, an end who now plays mostly tackle; Nolan Harrison, another end/ tackle; and young pass-rushing end N.D. Kalu.
The Dogs include five former first-round picks (the starters and Lang), including two No. 1 overalls (Smith and Wilkinson). They own three Defensive Player of the Year trophies (two for Smith, one for Stubblefield), 14 Pro Bowl appearances, 341.5 sacks and 665 starts.
Smith is the only newcomer to the starting unit, playing the glamorous right end, where Coleman played in 1999. Smith's presence, along with the new aggressive scheme of first-year coordinator Ray Rhodes, seems to have inspired the parts to play better than their former sum.
"When you've got a guy like Bruce Smith, who has that quality about him, he's going to make everybody better," free safety Mark Carrier said. "You know what he's going to bring to the table. You want to equal that. You want to match that… . You don't want to be the guy, when you watch film on Monday, who's not pulling his weight."
The linemen had a pretty good time watching film this Monday, reliving the manner in which they systematically unnerved Beuerlein. Smith and Coleman had two sacks apiece, and Beuerlein appeared on the run and on his back most of the afternoon.
Stubblefield, for one, called the line's pressure the most consistent he's seen as a Redskin.
"Yeah, it is," said Stubblefield, who came from San Francisco in 1998 but missed nine games that season to injury. "And you could see it taking its toll not only on the offensive line but [on] the quarterback as well. If we keep that up and keep doing things like that … the quarterback [won't] want to go anymore."
The line's pressure affected Carolina's linemen in ways both evident and hidden to the average fan. Easily seen were the four false starts by Panthers left tackle Clarence Jones, who was manhandled by Smith. Less apparent was the offensive line's doubt as it called protections.
"You could see it in their eyes they had the look that they had enough," Wilkinson said. "They were going back and forth trying to figure out who to slow down. Looking at the film, we were hitting Beuerlein from every angle. Everybody was getting back there, the whole front four."
And how does that feel?
"It's a blast," Wilkinson said. "When you've got the offensive line sitting up there making calls and checks and they don't know where to go they don't know what to do, they've got to keep the [running] backs in or the tight end in it works on our behalf."
Wilkinson seemed unaffected by the knee sprain that sidelined him for the last two preseason games. He played less than he might normally, but Lang appears to have overcome his size (277 pounds) to become a solid reserve tackle, while Harrison (289) has proved throughout his 112-game career that he can fill that role.
"[The reserves' talent] is the whole deal," Stubblefield said. "That's why we're so blessed and pleased this year because not only do we have the starters … but we've got Nolan, Kenard, N.D. those guys who can come in and contribute and do just as well as we did."
The Redskins' pressure up front helped hold Carolina's passing offense the NFL's second best in 1999 to just 124 yards. This week the Redskins rank sixth in the league in passing defense, though their 17th-ranked run defense leaves them at No. 8 overall.
That run defense remains the Dogs' primary question. Can they improve the Redskins' dreadful 1999 ranking (27th)?
Carolina's Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who burned Washington for 123 first-quarter yards last season, once again seemed to do his best work on the perimeter. He finished with 88 yards on 15 carries. On one play, he streaked into the area vacated by dangerous wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad and picked up 41 yards.
"They just happened to have the perfect run for the defense we were in," Wilkinson said. "We were double-teaming the tight end on the other side, and that took both of our safeties away from the run. Other than that, we flew around pretty good… . They made some great plays, but they never had any kind of consistent offense."
Ultimately the Redskins' imposing pass coverage (with future Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders and second-year standout Champ Bailey) and high-octane offense may make it difficult for their run defense to finish with a good ranking. Conventional wisdom says teams will take their chances against the defense's question mark particularly because doing so will limit turnovers and milk the clock.
The Panthers, for example, ran three times in the first five plays of their fourth-quarter touchdown drive even though they began the possession with just 4:59 on the clock and a two-possession deficit.
"We were like, 'Man, what are they doing?' " Lang said. "You saw they were worried about our defensive line pass rush."
Lang believes the line's potency, as it gains in reputation, will shorten the field and limit big plays.
"Teams are going to be scared," Lang said. "Quarterbacks are going to be scared to do a five- or seven-step drop, [to] throw the deep route. That's going to make it easy on our defensive backs."
Such intimidation really would earn a nickname. Keep it in mind the "Dogs" just might do.
"Nah," Stubblefield said with a laugh. "We're just trying to get it going. It's just a competition among us: 'Let's get back there. Let's tear this thing up.' "

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