- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

Although making the playoffs is probably impossible for the Washington Redskins, several young players will have plenty at stake tomorrow night in New Orleans.
Fullback Bryan Johnson, tight end Zeron Flemister and defensive tackle Delbert Cowsette have two more chances to show that they deserve significantly increased roles with the Redskins in 2002.
Each has earned consistent if limited snaps this year for the first time in their careers. Next season Johnson, Flemister and Cowsette could compete for starting jobs.
"It's possible," coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday. "It will all depend on what transpires before the opening of next season. They'll all certainly be able to compete. … They're three young guys who have a very promising future in the NFL."
Schottenheimer downplayed the significance of the final two games, saying, "We have a pretty good handle on where they are." But each player wants to leave a strong impression.
Johnson, 23, has nine catches for 129 yards after spending most of 2000 on the practice squad. The former undrafted rookie out of Boise State has not carried the ball, and he needs to begin proving himself as a rusher. He should have a chance to start in 2002, with the one-year contract of veteran Donnell Bennett expiring.
"I'm still trying to establish a name as a fullback in this league, so I've got to go out there in the last two games and prove that I can do it," Johnson said. "All those plays are going to go on film, and I want to show what I can do."
Flemister, 25, has become a key target following injuries to Pro Bowl tight end Stephen Alexander. Flemister has 14 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. A former undrafted rookie out of Iowa with tremendous speed for his size, he could have a major role in 2002 if Alexander departs as an unrestricted free agent.
"I've come a long way," Flemister said. "My blocking still has a ways to go, but I feel more natural out there now. … It's becoming like it was in high school or college, where you don't think about what you have to do you just do it."
Johnson and Flemister also have made key contributions in kick coverage, ranking among Washington's leaders in special teams tackles.
Cowsette, 24, is an undersized (6-foot-1, 288 pounds) former seventh-round pick out of Maryland. After battling a thumb injury much of the year, he now is getting 10 to 15 plays a game, and he could compete for a starting job in 2002 particularly if Kenard Lang departs as an unrestricted free agent.
"These next couple games I'm hoping to get in a little more," Cowsette said. "But even if I only get my 10, 15 plays, I'll still play as hard as I can and try to show them what I can do."
Arrington, Coleman downgraded
Linebacker LaVar Arrington and guard Ben Coleman, both nursing knee injuries, were downgraded to questionable for tomorrow night's game. Arrington practiced a bit, but Coleman was held out. Schottenheimer said each player's status would be a game-time decision. Eddie Mason would start for Arrington; Matt Campbell for Coleman.

Extra points
Marty Schottenheimer's continued focus on winning by refusing to start younger players during the final two games has inspired at least one veteran, safety Sam Shade. Shade compared this situation to his in Cincinnati from 1995 to 1998, when the team often got eliminated with several weeks remaining.
"Coaches came in [and] said, 'We want to see what guys can do,'" Shade said. "For a player, especially for a veteran guy, that's a tough situation, because you want to go out and play your best. You want the team to win. But then you look and see a guy out there, and you know there's a guy on the bench who's better.
"That's frustrating. Then you feel that the team really isn't doing everything it can do to win. … I know I was happy to hear [Schottenheimer] say [he was committed to winning]." … Tight end Chaz Murphy, who spent training camp with the Redskins and was on the practice squad early this season, was re-signed to the practice squad.

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