- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer wrapped up 14 upbeat days of offseason practices yesterday by declaring that his team can compete for a Super Bowl title this season.
There has been some doubt about the Redskins' prospects following the departures of eight starters and more than two dozen significant players from last season. But Schottenheimer made it clear at a news conference that he believes this team with a payroll only about half last year's record $100 million has the potential to be great.
"I see a very, very good football team, a team that can compete this year to win a championship," Schottenheimer said. "I don't think you should ever hide from the reality of what our business is about, and that is to win football games."
Some of Schottenheimer's optimism has been generated by the development of quarterback Jeff George, who many believed was not capable of adapting his big-play style to a ball-control system.
George has matured greatly, Schottenheimer said, since the coach made a friendly bet that he couldn't resist throwing downfield on broken plays. At first George continued to freelance deep throws, but over the past few weeks he has focused on short, high-percentage options.
"His nature is more of a maverick, a riverboat gambler," offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. "But I think in our time here, and particularly in the past 14 [days of] coaching sessions, he has made tremendous strides … in finding that outlet guy."
The progress of second-year passer Todd Husak and fourth-round draft pick Sage Rosenfels, meanwhile, puts the Redskins "at a point where it is very, very unlikely that our football team will acquire a veteran quarterback as we proceed into the coming season," Schottenheimer said. It was once widely believed that the club would pursue Super Bowl-winning passer Trent Dilfer in free agency.
Another position at which the Redskins were expected to sign a free agent was safety, where starter Mark Carrier was released last week. But Schottenheimer is determined to let young David Terrell, Josh Symonette and Ifeanyi Ohalete get enough practice reps to prove themselves.
One player expected to make a big impact is second-year linebacker LaVar Arrington. The current coaching staff, like last year's, is experimenting with using the physically dominant player in pass-rush situations, such as making him a third-down end. Said coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer: "He just brings a tremendous energy when he lines up to play. We're going to get him in situations … with maybe a mismatch."
The Redskins had contemplated a more limited role for end Bruce Smith, who started spectacularly last season, his 16th, before wearing down. But according to Marty Schottenheimer, "Barring injury, I don't see Bruce Smith coming off the field often."
The offensive line appeared to be the Redskins' greatest concern after releasing both starting guards and several key backups to meet the March 2 salary cap deadline. But adding versatile guards Ben Coleman and Matt Campbell, who double as backup tackles, makes Schottenheimer feel "that our offensive line may indeed be the strongest part of our football team."
At defensive tackle, coaches rave about new starter Kenard Lang a natural end who has accepted "the challenge of becoming a defensive tackle," Kurt Schottenheimer said and they like the development of young Delbert Cowsette and Jerry DeLoach.
Cowsette and DeLoach, Marty Schottenheimer said, are two of 10 players who have participated in all 43 possible workout days this offseason. The others are Terrell, defensive end Derrick Ham, tight end Zeron Flemister, safety Martavius Houston, fullback Bryan Johnson, returner Winston October and receivers Willie Spencer and Derrius Thompson.
Schottenheimer said the anticipated battle for the starting middle linebacker job between Kevin Mitchell and recent signee Robert Jones "may be the most hotly contested competition" in camp.
The one situation Schottenheimer scarcely addressed was that of cornerback Deion Sanders. This week's signings of Coleman, Jones and sixth-round defensive tackle Mario Monds used up almost all of the Redskins' cap space, meaning they need the $3.5 million they would get from cutting Sanders.
Sanders' situation hinges on whether he plays his way out of baseball. If he does, the Redskins could elect to keep him and create cap room by asking several veterans to reduce their salaries or by renegotiating a few contracts. If Sanders remains in the majors, Washington likely will cut him and use the space to sign its draft picks and make one or two final free-agent additions.
Notes The Redskins released three players: undrafted rookie linebackers Kevin Nagle and Jake Morrison and kicker Scott Bentley. The departure of Bentley, a two-year veteran currently playing in NFL Europe, gave Washington $180,000 of cap space… . Schottenheimer will make official several hires in the scouting department today… .
George was excused from practice, giving the staff an extended look at the young quarterbacks on the roster, particularly Rosenfels… . Schottenheimer does not see the club signing any free agents soon. He has looked at several running backs but wants to see a few more. Former Pro Bowl kick returner Michael Bates worked out Wednesday and is a candidate to be signed at some point… .
Asked to name several undrafted rookies who have impressed, Schottenheimer mentioned Ohalete, receiver Justin Skaggs and offensive lineman Trey Langley.

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