- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Lost in the Washington Redskins' poor preseason and season-opening 30-3 defeat at San Diego has been the solid play of defensive tackle Kenard Lang.

Lang, a natural end in his first season as a full-time tackle, has not only held up as an interior run-stopper but also has stood out at times with his quickness and athleticism.

Two plays, in particular, resonated during the opener. The first was a first-quarter sack of Doug Flutie, in which defensive end Bruce Smith couldn't quite pull down Flutie but Lang ran to the edge to finish the play. The second was a third-quarter strip of wide receiver Curtis Conway after a short reception.

In neither scenario would one expect a defensive tackle to be in position to make a play. But in both cases Lang was there and seemed to indicate the questions about his ability to play tackle are among the least pressing on this squad.

"He has played extremely well," Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said emphatically this week. "He has exceeded my expectations. He made a tremendous play on a screen pass in practice [Monday]. He's so athletic he turned and ran the thing down from behind. He caused the fumble [on Conway] on the chase. He's really done a very, very good job."

For the 26-year-old Lang, a Redskins first-round pick in 1997, there was no doubt he would overcome his perceived size deficiency to succeed at tackle.

"I think if you go into a situation where you have doubt in your mind, you don't need to do it at all," Lang said. "I look at it like it's a challenge, and I know I can do it. It's just a matter of putting my mind and head into it. Right now I've got a pretty good start. I've got to keep getting better, which I think I will."

The potential downside remains Lang's durability. San Diego rookie running back LaDainian Tomlinson got 36 carries in the opener and gained 113 yards. Neither statistic could be totally pinned on the defense, let alone Lang, but it remains to be seen how Lang will weather a full season at tackle.

"He's going to have moments when his footwork is not going to be what it's supposed to be and they're liable to knock him five yards up the field," Schottenheimer said. "But he will be a force as a pass rusher inside."

If Lang has his way, he'll be a rusher in the mold of New Orleans Saints tackle La'Roi Glover. Glover, a 1996 fifth-round pick by Oakland, blossomed during a 1997 stint in NFL Europe and led the NFL with 17 sacks last season. He stands just 6-foot-2, 285 pounds. Lang is 6-4, 281.

"He's not a big guy, but he's a technician," Lang said of Glover.

That's how Lang likes to think of himself. But before he can be known as a technician throughout the league, he must have a big season that will erase his early label as an underachiever. Teammates say he now has the right attitude, demonstrated by, if nothing else, his eager adaptation to the less glamorous inside position.

"He's grown in a lot of different ways," defensive end Marco Coleman said. "He's just maturing. He's taking every game in stride, with the different moves and things of that nature with his position. My hat's off to him, the way he's handled himself. He's definitely grown up in every aspect of the game."

When asked if Lang can become a standout tackle, Coleman points to longtime Minnesota Vikings star and current Seattle Seahawk John Randle.

"How much does John Randle weigh 265 pounds, 270 pounds? [287, in fact]," Coleman said. "It's all possible. And K-Lang? … He's a strong guy. He's fast, athletic. Right there that gives him an advantage in the position. He's enthusiastic, a lot of energy. Them big guys don't want to deal with that. He has all the qualities and things that present a problem for an offensive guard."

The one defensive tackle whom Lang studies most frequently is former University of Miami teammate Warren Sapp, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout whose 16? sacks last season ranked just behind Glover. Sapp is a bit more of a widebody (6-2, 303), but Lang still finds that he can use the majority of Sapp's successful techniques.

"Our main thing is we use our hands," Lang said. "It really doesn't matter [about your weight] as long as you use your hands and get on [the blocker's] hands quick."

Coleman, for one, envisions many more big plays by Lang at tackle, whether it's chasing down a quarterback or a wide receiver or simply standing his ground on an interior run.

"You're going to see that all year long, because for one, very few offensive guards are going to stay with him," Coleman said. "And he can handle everything they throw at him. This is no surprise what's going on with the way Kenard's playing. That's what I expected… . I have a lot of confidence in Kenard."

Note Five Redskins visited Washington Hospital Center yesterday in continued support for those affected by last week's terrorist attacks. Jeff George, Walter Rasby, Kevin Mitchell, Shawn Barber and Chris Samuels stopped by the blood bank to thank those who were donating blood, then split into two groups and visited the intensive care unit and one area where burn victims from the Pentagon were being treated.

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