- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Everyone knows that chicks dig the long ball. Maybe now Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye does, too.

Raye was known to mix ball control and deep shots while overseeing five previous NFL offenses, most recently the Kansas City Chiefs' from 1998 to 2000. But prior to Sunday's 17-14 win over the Carolina Panthers, the Redskins' confusion at quarterback and poor play in practice left Raye's offense short, predictable and ineffective.

Things changed in a big way. Quarterback Tony Banks threw for 346 yards. Rookie wide receiver Rod Gardner caught six passes for 208 yards. The biggest plays were Gardner's 85-yard touchdown to tie the game in the fourth quarter and his 47-yarder to set up the winning field goal in overtime. But there were several other mid-to-deep strikes.

Will Raye stick with them?

"I think he's wanted to," Banks said yesterday. "That's something he's hung his hat on in the past. He's been talking about it ever since I've been here. We just haven't been good at it."

Coach Marty Schottenheimer stressed that there was no change in offensive philosophy. He said the deep passes always have been a part of the offense and that the Panthers game simply presented a good opportunity to use them.

Players were more emphatic in their discussion of the deep wrinkles. They are hopeful they continue.

"It's something I like to do," Banks said. "It's something I've done well in the past. It's something I feel comfortable with."

Said wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who has struggled this season but had a key 19-yard catch Sunday: "It was nice to see us finally throwing the ball downfield."

Health watch

The most serious injury from the Panthers game seems to be the aggravated groin strain of linebacker Antonio Pierce. It is possible that Pierce could play, but Schottenheimer would not give any odds.

The coach did say that Robert Jones, a veteran backup in the middle and on the strong side, likely would start in Pierce's weakside position if the latter cannot play. Eddie Mason subbed there Sunday.

The banged head/mild concussion of linebacker LaVar Arrington should not be a factor this week. Nor should Banks' bruised thumb.

Among starters who missed the Panthers game, defensive end Marco Coleman (elbow) is the most likely to return. Schottenheimer said there is a "definite possibility" Coleman and defensive end Bruce Smith (shoulder) could play. Coleman didn't make any predictions, saying he would have to wait until practicing.

Cornerback Fred Smoot (leg) is less likely to play, but Schottenheimer left open the possibility. Smoot said he is 50-50. Tight end Stephen Alexander (ankle) remains out.

Extra points

Several candidates to return punts are expected to work out today. Washington has just 19 punt return yards on the season, compared to its opponents' 244 yards. Wide receiver Kevin Lockett and kickoff returner Michael Bates have rotated with no success.

Schottenheimer does not appear set on signing someone. None of today's candidates will be former Chief Tamarick Vanover, who already worked out and whose legal troubles have been well-documented. Schottenheimer, asked if he might sign Vanover, replied, "I want to look and evaluate what else is available." …

Smoot will remain the starting cornerback when he regains his health, Schottenheimer said, even though veteran Darrell Green played well Sunday in his 251st career start. …

Schottenheimer continues to have no concerns about handing running back Stephen Davis the ball in crucial situations, even though Davis committed his fifth fumble of the season Sunday. …

Gardner is the league's top rookie receiver following the Panthers game. After being plagued by drops all season and dropping the first pass thrown his way Sunday he ranks sixth among all NFC players with 417 receiving yards. …

The Redskins still rank last in the league in offense, though they have made up quite a bit of ground to No. 30. The Cleveland Browns now are next to last, 26.5 yards ahead of Washington (227.7 yards). The Redskins' defense, meanwhile, moved up two spots to No. 28. …

As a reminder, the Giants' game Sunday was moved from 8:30 p.m. to 4:05 p.m.

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