- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

Can the Fun 'N' Gun reload?
The 38-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Aug.3 sent a buzz through fans and NFL opponents on whether Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier's renowned college system can work in the pros. Detractors said it came against reserves. Proponents said 479 total yards against anyone was impressive.
Even Spurrier conjectured on whether the Redskins' preseason opener was a harbinger of the coming season. Washington visits the Carolina Panthers tonight at Ericsson Stadium still looking for its quarterback, right guard and receiver rotation.
"We look forward to going down there and see if we can play two weeks in a row decently," Spurrier said. "I don't know if we can or not. We might sit around and think we're real good right now after that game with the Niners. I hope not. I hope we can play with some intensity."
Certainly, Spurrier silenced offseason second-guessers who doubted his Florida offense would succeed. Given the Redskins are still weighing three unproven quarterbacks and have no standout receiver and a suspect interior line makes beating the 49ers reserves for 24 second-half points a tepid victory.
However, the offense seemed energized by its first test.
"It worked for one game," quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. "We have to prove it over 16 games, but I think we can. [Spurrier] understands defense more than offense. The key is to know what defense is out there and have the best play for that defense."
Said quarterback Shane Matthews: "It's going to be like that a lot this year. We plan on putting up a lot of points. We're going to score more than they have in the past."
Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener joked of drinking mai tais on the bench if the offense was going to score 40 points regularly. The Redskins may come close against the Panthers, who open the preseason after 15 straight losses last year. Washington struggled to beat Carolina 17-14 in overtime last season to end its 0-5 start, but then, the Panthers faced the Redskins' last-ranked offense.
Spurrier wasn't fancy in his pro debut. He simply moved the ball around with 45 passes. When the 49ers played a nine-man front on fourth-and-one, the Redskins threw despite a large lead. Washington still needs to improve its run blocking after gaining only 45 yards on 21 carries, but the offense will be pass-oriented this season.
"The offense is more than certain routes," Rosenfels said. "Coach Spurrier adds his own little spice to it that only he has in his mind. There's new stuff every day. The way his mind thinks is different than most coaches. You can copy his plays, but you can't copy his mind."
Matthews will play the first half with Spurrier expecting 20 pass attempts before Danny Wuerffel relieves after throwing three touchdowns against San Francisco.
"[Spurrier] probably threw that number out," Matthews said. "It could be 12, it could be 30 depending on what they're doing defensively."
Defensively, starters will go about three series, with Gardener debuting after joining the team Tuesday. Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis expects better third-down defense after starters permitted consecutive conversions in the 49ers' second drive.
"We were very, very basic on third down and let the guys rush," he said, "and we have to do a better job with the first group."
Still, the starters didn't allow any points in their two series. San Francisco averaged five yards per carry, but Gardener will plug the right side gap. The 49ers finished with just 230 yards overall.
Cornerback Darrell Green will start for Champ Bailey, who suffered a dislocated left pinky. Bailey could have played if it were a regular-season game, but the Redskins opted to remain conservative. Green is competing for the nickel back job over rookie Rashad Bauman and appreciates the rare start in his final season.
"When you've played this long and afforded these opportunities, you revel in it," the 20-year veteran said. "I'd like to give a good performance. I don't take anything for granted."
Note Republican Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. will join practice with the Redskins on Monday. Watts was a two-time Orange Bowl Most Valuable Player at Oklahoma when winning the 1979 and '80 Big Eight Championships. The Sooners quarterback later started for Ottawa and Toronto in the Canadian Football League from 1981 to '86 and was the 1982 Grey Cup MVP.


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