- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

The rematch is more like a reloading.

The New York Giants' top two running backs are now healthy. The Washington Redskins' starting defensive ends are back, too. In a typical NFC East smashmouth game where the Giants will try to rush past the Redskins' 30th-ranked run defense Sunday at FedEx Field, personnel changes make the Giants' earlier 23-9 victory meaningless as a barometer.

Giants running back Tiki Barber returns after missing the Redskins on Oct. 7 with a strained hamstring. Running back Ron Dayne is also healthy after being sidelined in the second half against Washington with a sprained neck. However, the Redskins counter with healthy defensive ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman. Smith dislocated his shoulder on the first defensive snap against New York, essentially missing three games. Coleman missed four games with a dislocated elbow.

It's strength versus strength. The Redskins expect another scuffle in the pits.

"It tests your manhood," defensive tackle Kenard Lang said. "Your knuckles are dirty, bloody. It's like boxing. You go at it."

The Redskins have allowed five opposing 100-yard runners this season. The Giants were the only team that failed to get a century runner, though third-stringer Damon Washington gained 90 yards in the second half after one career carry previously. The Giants rushed for only 142 yards on 46 carries, but the ground game dominated the clock. New York's 38 minutes, 31 seconds of possession time was 14:58 more than Washington. That's like the Giants kept the ball an extra quarter. No wonder the Redskins' defense tired late after entering the fourth quarter tied 9-9.

Whether Smith and Coleman tire after lengthy absences has coach Marty Schottenheimer planning to play Lang at both end and tackle to spell the older veterans. Lang is amid a standout season he had 13 tackles against the Giants and joked that he'll also sell popcorn and programs in the stands.

"They're resting their old bodies," Lang said of the veteran ends. "They start walking and their bones start cracking. Remember the Tin Man in the 'Wizard of Oz'? They need oil they're so rusty."

The Redskins' season-opening line hasn't played together in five games. Smith and Coleman are considered better pass rushers than run defenders, and Washington barely pressured opposing quarterbacks during their absence. However, defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson warned not to expect too much from the ends right away.

"It's going to be huge, but they've been seriously injured, so when they come back you can't expect them to be 100 percent," Wilkinson said. "We can't wait until they come back and give us a hand, but you can't rely on them to fly all over the field."

Containing the varied styles of "Thunder and Lightning" isn't easy. Barber is an outside runner, and Dayne goes straight ahead.

"It will be hard to shut them down completely," Coleman said. "They have outstanding players. We do, too. Last year I felt like we matched up well against them, and we have the same guys."

Said Lang: "They'll still take the same approach. Barber and Dayne run the same plays. You have to try to get outside a little more."

The Redskins will play linebacker LaVar Arrington more on Barber to protect the outside lanes. Arrington comes off a standout game despite an apparent concussion in which he scored on a 67-yard interception return that rallied Washington over Carolina 17-14 on Oct. 21 to end an 0-5 start. Arrington's speed could neutralize Barber's quickness if the latter gets around the ends.

"Barber's so quick I'm not sure we have somebody that can match up on him," Schottenheimer said. "LaVar can run fast, but Barber has all these moves. He presents problems we didn't face in game one."

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