- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

Tonight at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles are collecting new or gently used children's books to benefit the Baltimore Reads Book Bank and the city school system.

Maybe the Redskins can donate their playbooks.

Hey, they're gently used, and so far have produced youth football-like results.

Last night's Redskins preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at FedEx Field was supposed to begin the transition from the preseason jitters to regular-season preparation. Pay no attention to the 20-0 and 27-6 beatings Washington had taken in its first two games. This one would be a truer test of how good this Redskins team would be a team that Marty Schottenheimer told fans at their Welcome Home Luncheon this week was put together to compete for a championship.

Why was this game going to be different? Because Jeff George was going to play. That would change everything.

It certainly was different. Todd Husak threw for 32 yards last week. George passed for 17 yards last night.

This was George's first action after sitting out the first two games to nurse tendinitis in his right shoulder, and he looked a long way from being the strong-armed passer who could throw a ball through a wall from 70 yards away.

Of course, George didn't have much of a chance to get that kind of power behind his throws, as he spent much of the time running for his life when he went back to pass, against a pass rush without Browns defensive end Courtney Brown. If this is the offensive line the Redskins will take into battle, then it won't matter who is playing quarterback.

But on one telling pass, George had the time and the receiver rookie Rod Gardner. It was third down-and-1 at the Browns' 25-yard line early in the first quarter, and George froze the Browns defense with a fake handoff. Gardner appeared to have beaten cornerback Daylon McCutcheon by nearly 10 yards. But by the time the ball got to Gardner, McCutcheon had closed the gap and knocked the pass down.

You might be able to chalk it up to rust, given that George has hardly gotten any work in camp in the past few weeks. But this is a guy who has a reputation of being able to fall out of bed and throw 50 yards with a flick of the wrist. And let's face it: If Jeff George doesn't have the great George arm, then what's the use of having him at quarterback? Certainly not for his personality.

In his one quarter of play, George threw seven passes, completing three, the longest for 12 yards. At one point third-and-17 on his own 21-yard line, with about six minutes left in the quarter the TV cameras showed a closeup of George looking so pained that he might have welcomed someone from the Browns dragging him off the field by his face mask.

There is no defense for how the defense has played so far this summer, surrendering 47 points in the first two preseason games to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons teams with losing records last year. But that was nothing compared to giving up 14 points in the first half to the hapless Browns one on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Rickey Dudley and the other on a 2-yard end-around run by Quincy Morgan.

In two preseason games before last night both of which the Browns had won they scored a total of 17 points. They nearly equaled that in one half against the Redskins. The Browns had a 215 total yards of offense in the first half against Washington. Last year, they averaged 220 yards a game.

They called LaVar Arrington's name quite a bit last night, which meant he made a lot of tackles. None of them turned the game around, which is what they need him to do.

After George's meek appearance, Redskins fans got their first look at the team's backup quarterback for now Tony Banks, and he managed to move the Redskins down the field for a score to cut the Brown lead to 14-7 at halftime, completing six of eight passes for 63 yards and a two-yard touchdown pass to fullback Donnell Bennett with about a minute left in the half.

But Tony Banks can easily complete six of eight to the other team as well. It's feast or famine with Banks running your offense, though, at this point the Redskins will take any taste of offense they can find. Right now they are starving.

There is just one more preseason game at New England on Thursday until these fiascoes turn from meaningless, embarrassing losses to meaningful, ugly losses. And when I say ugly, I don't just mean on the field.

It won't take much for these players to turn on Schottenheimer. Much was made of the comments this week in the Cleveland papers by former Redskins and current Browns fullback Mike Sellers, who ripped owner Dan Snyder and the Redskins organization based on his experiences with last year's team.

Some of it can be passed off as sour grapes. But when Sellers talked about the way the current Redskins feel about Schottenheimer "they basically hate him" you can take that as the first sign that these Redskins won't take long to stop using former players as their mouthpiece and start taking their own shots at their new coach.


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