- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

Analysis

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier promised an interesting season. He forgot to mention it would be a thriller.
The Redskins avoided a shameful loss when defensive end Carl Powell scored on a 21-yard interception return with 1:09 remaining for a 37-30 victory over the Carolina Panthers last night. Despite the 2-0 preseason start, the Redskins were left wondering whether they have enough depth defensively.
Washington nearly blew a 20-10 halftime lead when the reserves seemed unable to stem Carolina's charge. The Panthers are not playoff contenders, but Carolina took the game more seriously than San Francisco, which treated the 38-7 American Bowl loss to Washington on Aug. 3 like some overseas junket.
The Redskins got a split decision instead of another dominant victory. Then again, Spurrier wasn't expecting a blowout. He merely wanted to see whether the team could play well for a second straight week and whether the offense could continue scoring with its third quarterback in six quarters.
Washington's offense kept Carolina off-balance in the first half. The passing game was diverse enough to keep Carolina guessing what Spurrier would call next. It wasn't perfect; there were enough mistakes to send the Redskins back to Carlisle, Pa., with plenty to correct over the final four days of training camp.
The Redskins opened with an 18-play drive that produced a field goal. They then scored on a touchdown pass on which receiver Kevin Lockett collided with the goalpost after a Panthers defensive penalty gave the Redskins a second chance.
Quarterback Shane Matthews was uneven in his preseason debut. The short game was successful, and Matthews made his share of big plays. However, he also missed several chances. Matthews finished 17-for-27 for 195 yards with two touchdowns and one interception before exiting at halftime.
But Matthews didn't need to shoulder the offense alone. Eight players caught passes in the first half the Redskins' toughest roster cuts will come trying to pare down to six receivers. Reidel Anthony and Derrius Thompson both made big plays, and Chris Doering is proving the perfect possession receiver.
Danny Wuerffel delivered the most stirring effort in the three quarterback competition. Despite little protection in the fourth quarter, Wuerffel led a late tying touchdown drive. Sage Rosenfels was 5-for-9 for 60 yards in the third quarter, producing only one long field goal.
The Redskins continued to struggle run blocking against the Panthers' starting defense. Running back Stephen Davis gained 8 yards on five carries during the opening series even though Washington was able to hold the ball for 9:43 before settling for a 20-yard field goal. Davis finished with only 15 yards on seven carries before offensive tackle Chris Samuels left with a sprained ankle.
The pass blocking was adequate, which is paramount in this offense. However, the Redskins need to spring Davis regularly. He doesn't need to run for 1,300 yards for the fourth straight year, but another 1,000 is needed to prevent teams from only defending the pass.
Washington's starting defense only allowed a field goal, but the reserves were embarrassed. It doesn't matter that they will see little if any time come the regular season. They allowed 20 second-half points to the Panthers' backups.
Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener's debut showed how good this line can be. They regularly pushed the Panthers backward. With massive tackles Dan Wilkinson and Gardener blocking the middle, the Redskins regularly swarmed the outside, with linebackers LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter making plays expected from the Pro Bowl unit.
Carolina's resurgence showed Washington that each week will be a struggle. The Panthers' pregame show included their mascot beating up a Florida Gator wearing a Redskins jersey. Seems everyone wants to welcome Spurrier to the NFL.

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