- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

The Washington Redskins finally are confusing defenses.
Running back Stephen Davis remains the offensive mainstay as the Redskins prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, but opponents can no longer stack eight-man fronts against Washington anticipating the run. The Redskins are becoming more balanced; they finished with 210 yards passing and 130 rushing in last week's 20-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
For much of the year, quarterback Tony Banks or Davis took turns leading the offense, never quite in tandem. The offense was often one-dimensional, with Banks and Davis only twice combining for more than 300 yards in the first 11 games. But coach Marty Schottenheimer told offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye to "attack" as the pregame locker room emptied at Arizona. Schottenheimer wanted more diversity from an offense that was supposed to spread the ball.
Behind contributions from both Davis and Banks, the Redskins opened with 14- and nine-play drives that netted a touchdown and failed field goal. Nine players caught passes against Arizona, tying a season high, while Davis gained 110 yards.
Now the 28th-ranked offense with only Davis possibly bound for the Pro Bowl is making defenses react after a predictable start. The extra reaction time means extra yards, especially on third downs. The Redskins have converted 42 percent over the past five games.
"Anytime you can go to the line of scrimmage with a run-pass option, you're going to dictate to the coverage what play you're going to run," Banks said. "That lessens the anxiety."
The Redskins now must confront the Eagles' top-ranked pass defense. Banks passed for only 96 yards in Washington's 13-3 victory on Nov. 25. However, that doesn't mean Washington will purposely challenge Philadelphia's No. 19 run defense. The Eagles are big and fast up front, and letting them play eight-man fronts regularly means another low-scoring struggle. The Redskins don't expect to limit the Eagles to three points again, so the offense may need 20 points to win.
"It's continuing to improve, [and] as we keep going I hope that it will continue to produce more yardage, more big plays, more points," Schottenheimer said.
Still, the Redskins maintain little will change offensively. They want to grind it out like they did in the near nine-minute drive that sealed the victory over Arizona with a field goal.
"We're a physical football team. We're not going to change our M.O.," Banks said. "They knew what we were going to do last time we played them. It wasn't like we had some magical plays we took against them. We controlled the tempo and the clock last time, and that will be our emphasis again. It's easy to say we want Stephen Davis to get 25 carries, but it's not as easily done."
Said Schottenheimer: "I don't think it will be radically different. What happened [in Philadelphia] is we won on third down."
Banks expects to take a few more downfield chances than in the first game, when he averaged 8 yards on 12 of 18 completions. The Redskins completed only three passes for more than 10 yards, with a 23-yarder to tight end Zeron Flemister the longest. Receiver Michael Westbrook has emerged with 21 receptions over the last four games, including seven for 82 yards against Arizona. The Redskins seem to be stretching defenses by finding Westbrook regularly.
Davis also should be slightly more involved than his 22 carries for 79 yards against the Eagles, which included a 26-yarder. Davis gained 15 yards on seven carries on the final drive before Ki-Jana Carter gained 6 yards on five carries during the intentional time-consuming possession.
The offense still isn't second nature to Banks, not even close. Yet he's becoming an advocate of the modified West Coast offense.
"It's grown on me a lot," Banks said. "I had my reservations early on about it just because it was so different to me, but we're having success with it."

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