- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

Redskins Notes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington wants sacks. Lots of sacks.
With becoming NFL Defensive Player of the Year his goal, the strong-side linebacker is now rushing passers far more often than during his first two years. Indeed, Arrington needed only five snaps to sack Carolina Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke last night.
"The rewards of getting to the quarterback are great," he said. "That's one reason why I was willing enough to say I'm going to get MVP because sacks do make a difference. I have an opportunity to make some more than I ever have."
Arrington was known for the "LaVar Leap" during his Penn State career because he dove into backfields for highlight-grabbing tackles. But the Redskins have kept Arrington in man coverage under two different coordinators. Arrington reached the Pro Bowl last year despite only one-half sack following four as a rookie.
But incoming defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis will unleash Arrington more often. A combination of Arrington's quickness and the offseason signings of Pro Bowl linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Jessie Armstead will allow the Redskins to send Arrington more often.
"LaVar has the ability to be the best at his position. He has a chance to be one of the best ever to play the game," Lewis said. "We just have to continue to work on the mental retention that it takes."
Arrington delivered several show-stopping moments last season, when the Redskins finished 8-8. His 67-yard interception for a touchdown was the spark that helped the Redskins beat Carolina 17-14 in overtime to break the 0-5 start. There were also two touchdown-saving tackles in a 20-10 victory over Arizona.
However, Arrington's aggressive style also cost him four fines for $35,000, including $15,000 when he hit Philadelphia guard Tra Thomas in retaliation for flagrant contact after a play ended. Arrington missed 1 games with a concussion and sprained shoulder, knee and ankle.
Arrington has shown more maturity during the preseason, though. With the offseason loss of defensive end Marco Coleman, Arrington has become the defensive leader.
"I have to be a leader because I'm a vet who has been here," he said. "I'm one of the older guys. I'm forced to grow up a little more."

Coaching rivalry?
Forget players getting an emotional edge when they play former teammates. Both Redskins coach Steve Spurrier and Lewis could have been the Panthers' coach this season had offseason talks gone differently.
Spurrier spoke with Carolina before taking Washington's five-year, $25million offer in January. Panthers officials said they felt Spurrier already was looking to the Redskins when he visited Carolina. Spurrier would have been a natural fit for the southern team with plenty of Florida Gators fans at Ericsson Stadium.
Lewis also met with Carolina after a deal with Tampa Bay was abruptly withdrawn. However, the Panthers opted for New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox. Lewis then signed a two-year deal with Washington.

Ready to run
Washington's rushing offense remained under scrutiny after it finished with a 2.1-yard average in last weekend's 38-7 win over San Francisco. Uncertainty at guard seems to be the fundamental problem last night Ross Tucker, a 2001 undrafted rookie, and Rod Jones, a struggling free agent pickup, started again on the right and left sides, respectively.
Tucker seems to have potential but remains raw. Washington signed Jones to play right guard, but he didn't fit well at that power-oriented position despite being the largest Redskin (6-foot-5, 355 pounds). Kipp Vickers, a minimum-salary pickup, didn't play last night because of a blockage in his urinary tract.
David Loverne began camp at left guard but was sidelined with an elbow injury. He is playing but remains behind Jones.
Washington is investigating trades and will scan the waiver wire when clubs begin cuts. One possibility is Chicago's Mike Gandy, who nearly was dealt with a future selection last week for rookie Patrick Ramsey.
Regardless, the Redskins must establish a consistent run game to go with Spurrier's potent passing offense. Last night they expected a good test against the likes of defensive tackle Kris Jenkins (a second-year former Maryland standout) and defensive end Julius Peppers (April's second pick overall).
"We obviously need to get both aspects going to succeed in this league," tackle Jon Jansen said. "While we may pass a little more than we have in the past, we still have to run the ball, or else they're just going to drop everybody back and we won't be able to do either."

Extra points
Vickers, cornerback Champ Bailey (finger) and defensive tackle Sean Powell (abdomen) did not make the trip. Defensive end Bruce Smith (knees) did but was not expected to play. He was replaced in the starting lineup again by Carl Powell. Darrell Green started for Bailey. For Carolina, defensive tackle Sean Gilbert was among those who did not play. Receiver Jacquez Green didn't return to last night's game after suffering bruised ribs in the first quarter. Green caught two 7-yarders before being hurt.
Receiver Kevin Lockett narrowly avoided serious injury when hitting the goalpost with his right shoulder on a 22-yard touchdown reception.
Linebacker Antonio Pierce suffered a sprained right ankle.
Washington wore its 70th anniversary home uniforms because Carolina wore white. The Panthers wear white uniforms at home during summer months and then switch to more standard dark uniforms as the weather cools.
Special teams standout Michael Bates returned to Carolina, where he was a five-time Pro Bowl pick, after being cut by Washington in the offseason. Although the Redskins returned most contributors from their standout 2001 special teams, it remains uncertain whether they can replace Bates, a captain and a key player on a variety of teams.


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