- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

The momentum that came with the season's first victory continued for the Washington Redskins yesterday. Star defensive ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman fully participated in practice and should play Sunday against the New York Giants.
Smith (shoulder) and Coleman (elbow) said they expect to be back in the starting lineup. Their returns are expected to further boost a team that rallied to beat the Carolina Panthers 17-14 in overtime Sunday and a defense that largely held up in their absences.
"It's real big," said defensive lineman Kenard Lang, who shifted from tackle to left end while Coleman was sidelined. "It's like a whole new [outlook] to the game."
Coleman, who has been out since dislocating his elbow Sept. 24 at Green Bay, is the healthier of the two. He doesn't have much concern about missing the Giants game, saying, "I'll probably play. I feel good."
Smith, who was injured on the first play of the first Giants game (Oct. 7), was similarly optimistic. Listed as "questionable" on the injury report, he said with a smile, "That's the way the game plan usually works. But I don't play games. … I'm playing."
Assuming Smith and Coleman start, Lang will move back to tackle. He has been one of the Redskins' top defenders this season at both positions. End Dorian Boose and tackle Jerry DeLoach will step back into reserve roles.
Weakside linebacker Antonio Pierce (groin) was limited in practice but is probable.
Still in doubt is the status of rookie cornerback Fred Smoot (leg). He sat out practice and expects to have a better idea today of whether he can play. Tight end Stephen Alexander (ankle) is almost certainly out.

Conversions are key
The Redskins are converting a league-low 22.5 percent of their third downs. Despite Sunday's offensive outburst (443 yards, more than double their average coming in), the rate barely improved. Washington converted just three of 12 third downs and just one of nine before LaVar Arrington's game-turning interception in the fourth quarter.
Third-down plays could be key this week if the game is low scoring, as anticipated. In the first Giants game, the Redskins converted just one of 13 chances and none of their first 11 (the final two third downs were inconsequential, coming after the Giants had taken a 23-9 lead in the final minutes).
Poor production on first and second downs led to the low rate that day, as it often does. The Redskins needed an average of 8.6 yards and not less than 5.0 to convert those first 11 third downs. Physical and mental errors plagued Washington that day, as they have much of the season.
"We're making some progress [on third downs]," Schottenheimer said. "But [the conversion rate] needs to be much better, obviously. We're working on it."
Conservative play-calling proved another problem in the first Giants game, though that finally appears to be changing. Schottenheimer sounded like he wants to continue using the deep balls that were so successful against Carolina.
"It takes some time to find out the things [quarterback Tony Banks] does best, the things he's comfortable with," Schottenheimer said. "Obviously, we all had to be impressed with the way he threw the ball down the field [Sunday]."

Extra points
Rookie wide receiver Rod Gardner was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his six-catch, 208-yard, one-touchdown performance against Carolina. Arrington was nominated for defensive honors but lost out to Atlanta Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking.
Before his big day, the drop-plagued Gardner was being called "50-50" by teammates because of the apparent odds of him making a given catch. But yesterday they were calling him "208," a switch he obviously appreciated.
Of the award, Gardner said, "First of many to come." …
Schottenheimer awarded game balls to Gardner (offense), Arrington (defense) and safety Ifeanyi Ohalete (special teams). The awards are based on a vote by teammates. … Schottenheimer reiterated that he engaged in no talks to make a deal before Tuesday's trade deadline, specifically refuting one report regarding wide receiver Michael Westbrook.

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