- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

A Pro Bowl jinx seems to have struck the Washington Redskins, whose four participants in February's all-star game are far from duplicating last season's accomplishments.
Tight end Stephen Alexander is battling dropped balls and lost footing. Running back Stephen Davis is averaging just 13 carries a game. Cornerback Champ Bailey isn't impregnable. And defensive end Marco Coleman is sidelined with a dislocated elbow.
The quartet was a big reason why the Redskins entered 2001 with plausible hopes for the playoffs despite significant turnover under coach Marty Schottenheimer. Now the frustrations of Alexander, Davis, Bailey and Coleman are a key part of Washington's 0-4 start.
"I still feel that we are the game's best," Alexander said this week. "But the ball bounces crazy ways in this game."
Alexander was supposed to be a pivotal contributor to Schottenheimer's West Coast offense. But a year after setting career highs with 47 catches for 510 yards and following a summer in which many projected a leap into the Tony Gonzalez stratosphere, Alexander has just nine catches for 85 yards.
The drops and poor footing were on display in Sunday's 23-9 loss at the New York Giants. Early in the third quarter Alexander dropped a third-and-10 pass. About nine minutes later he caught a ball in the left flat and ran himself out of bounds short of a first down. And on a critical drive in the game's final minutes he dropped another third-and-10 try.
"[This season is] not what I expected," Alexander said. "We struggled on offense, pretty much in all four games at times, and I wasn't really a big part of [the offense]. There's still a lot of football left to be played. Hopefully I can become an impact player for this offense. I know I'm ready to do it."
Davis' plight is more dependent on the coaching staff. He has been underused all season; at first it was blamed on the Redskins' large deficits, which made the offense focus on the pass, but at New York Davis had just two rushes in a fourth quarter that began tied 9-9.
Schottenheimer made it clear this week that he wants to utilize Davis, but Davis is more concerned with winning.
"My frustration is that I want to win games," Davis said. "I want to be part of winning. To do that, I've got to perform. Everybody's got to perform on offense."
Bailey claims to have mastered Schottenheimer's system of playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage rather than the more traditional 7 yards. However, the corner, considered by some to be the game's best, has not dominated in his third season.
While not blaming the 10-yard technique, Bailey said, "That's just a situation they catch us in a lot. Teams try to take advantage of it because they know when I'm in a guy's face, 99 [times] out of 100 I'm going to get my hands on the ball. When I'm off, they try to come at that."
Bailey's key letdown came at Green Bay on Sept. 24, when wide receiver Bill Schroeder breezed past him on a slant in, caught a pass from Brett Favre and raced into the end zone for a game-breaking 41-yard touchdown.
"[This season has] been rough," Bailey said. "Not as good as I want it to be. I'm never satisfied anyway. I've done some good things and some bad things. I've just got to make the good [things] outweigh the bad a lot more than they are."
At least Bailey can re-establish himself each week. Coleman, in contrast, must wait for his elbow to heal. It's a rough lifestyle for the hard-working end, who has all but forgotten his first Pro Bowl selection last year.
"Last year was great. Last year is done, as you can see," Coleman said. "It's a whole new thing going on. I'm all right. I've just got to go play."
With 12 games remaining, there still is time. Alexander, Davis, Bailey and Coleman can prove that there is no Pro Bowl jinx even as they struggle to explain their frustrations.
"I don't know if it's the change [in coaches] or guys getting used to the change," Davis said. "People talk about buying into a system the only way you can buy into a system is win games. And I think once we win the first one, it could be a trickle effect for the rest of the season."

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