- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. Washington Redskins quarterback Danny Wuerffel will start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday with a chance to emerge as the front-runner in the three-way competition.
Coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday Wuerffel's start doesn't signify he's the leader for the starting job with two preseason games remaining. However, Wuerffel has thrown four touchdowns and led Washington to five scores in six possessions during two second-half stints in the 2-0 start. Wuerffel rallied Washington to a late tying touchdown in Washington's 37-30 victory over Carolina on Saturday. He'll also start against Tampa Bay on Aug.24.
This will be Wuerffel's first test against starters and Pittsburgh's defense was ranked No.1 last year. Spurrier said the opposing talent level was irrelevant.
"Everybody makes a big deal out of going against the starters, but you have your starters, [too]," Spurrier said. "If they were playing poorly somebody could say Danny was playing with backups. We've all sorta seen who's playing a little bit better, but all three have played pretty well."
Wuerffel continued to downplay the close competition with Shane Matthews and Sage Rosenfels. Wuerffel hasn't thrown a regular-season pass in three years, but in the preseason he has been as successful as he was when he led Florida's Fun 'N' Gun offense to the 1996 national title and won the Heisman Trophy. Wuerffel has completed 24 of 36 for 371 yards. Rosenfels is 15 of 29 for 232 yards and Matthews 17 of 24 for 195 yards and each has two touchdowns and one interception.
"This is a great opportunity, throwing the ball down the field," Wuerffel said. "When you're 5 years old, what you enjoy doing is throwing the ball to somebody who can catch it. I still get to do that. What a good deal."
Rosenfels will play the second quarter against Pittsburgh and Matthews the second half. Rookie Patrick Ramsey may debut in the final minutes. After the game, the top trio will have each played four quarters over three games.
Meanwhile, the Redskins worked left guard Rod Jones at left tackle as Chris Samuels is expected to miss at least two preseason games with a sprained ankle. The Redskins will test several other linemen at left tackle over the next few days, including right tackle Jon Jansen. However, Jones is the front-runner and Kipp Vickers will replace him at left guard and Ross Tucker will remain at right guard. If Samuels isn't ready for the regular-season opener against Arizona on Sept.8, Jones and Vickers would probably play the left side.
"Whoever blocks the open inside rush best is going to have to go [at left tackle]," said offensive line coach Kim Helton. "The last thing in my world is to move Jon to left tackle, but he'll definitely get some sets out there this week."
Helton conceded the shuffling along the line in search of two guards during training camp, coupled with finding Samuels' replacement, has been "disturbing." However, he wasn't disappointed with the line's performance.
"There's 75 points in two games so somebody is doing something right," Helton said. "The pass protection has been pretty good."
Said Spurrier: "It's not unsettled. Our offensive line played pretty doggone well the other night. Our pass protection was very good almost the entire night. The run blocking was decent most of the time."
The Redskins haven't run effectively, though. Running back Stephen Davis gained only 15 yards on seven carries against Carolina. Washington has rushed for 125 yards in two games compared to 798 yards passing.
"We came here to be a good solid run team, but to be a great passing team," Helton said. "The No.1 qualification to being in this offensive line is pass protection. It would be great if we could knock [defensive linemen] over backwards, but we have to find guys that can pass protect."
Notes
Cornerback Mark Washington (knee) is doubtful against Pittsburgh with tendinitis in his knee. Receiver Jacquez Green (bruised ribs) and linebacker Antonio Pierce (sprained ankle) could return to practice today. Safety Andre Lott was excused from practice for personal reasons.


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