- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Washington Redskins quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews will split the work in Saturday's fourth preseason game at Tampa Bay after the race to start grew a bit more muddled in Sunday's 35-34 win over Pittsburgh.
Wuerffel is scheduled to play the first half and Matthews the second, coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday. Sage Rosenfels, who led Washington to a comeback victory with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, is not slated to play.
Wuerffel's start at Tampa Bay follows the schedule Spurrier created at the start of training camp. The coach indicated that Rosenfels remains in the battle despite this weekend's plan.
"They've all played very well," Spurrier said. "Their stats are all very close. All of them are very good. Sage jumped right back with [Wuerffel and Matthews with his strong fourth quarter]."
Washington's starters were outplayed on both sides of the ball by the talented Steelers, falling behind 14-0 in starters-vs.-starters action and 17-0 when Pittsburgh's first string exited late in the first half. The Redskins (3-0) trailed as much as 24-0 before their reserves overtook Pittsburgh's backups.
Rosenfels re-entered the game after struggling in his planned second quarter of action. Spurrier attributed the move to Matthews getting shaken up in the third quarter and the Redskins being so far behind. Rosenfels' three scoring throws and 190 yards followed 54 yards and an interception in the second period.
"I was pressing [in the second quarter]," Rosenfels said. "I wasn't comfortable with the way I played. I made two or three bad reads and a couple bad throws. That's not the way I like to play. Fortunately, things turned around there at the end."
Entering the game Wuerffel appeared to be the front-runner, but he struggled in his first stint as a starter, completing just two of five passes for 24 yards and an interception. Helping undermine his one quarter of play were two drops, a botched center exchange and a key penalty.
For the preseason Wuerffel is 26-for-41 for 395 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Rosenfels is 32-for-54 for 476 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Matthews is 31-for-48 for 332 yards, four touchdowns and three picks.
However, none of the three passers played well against an opposing teams' starting defense. Matthews' 7-for-13 effort for 65 yards and an interception at Carolina might be considered the best performance.
"I just try not to get all caught up into [the race]," Matthews said. "If you do make mistakes, [the key is] just trying to forget about them and just keep playing hard."
The makeup of the club's five- or six-man receiving corps is also no clearer following Sunday's game. Reserve Derrius Thompson continued to shine, catching eight balls for 129 yards and two touchdowns to run his preseason totals to 16 receptions for 307 yards and four scores.
Thompson was on the field for just one snap (besides special teams) in the first half, playing behind Reidel Anthony. But his continued production has led Spurrier to plan on starting him at Tampa Bay. The move is not contingent on the status of Jacquez Green, who started the first two games before suffering bruised ribs; Green is expected to play.
"[Thompson is] as good of a young receiver that I've seen since I've been in the league," Matthews said. "Obviously he's very raw, probably hasn't been in a pass-oriented offense like this. But the longer he's in it, the more comfortable he gets. He's so big and strong and fast he's just the prototypical wideout they look for in the NFL."
Similarly impressive has been Chris Doering, who had seven catches for 73 yards and a touchdown Sunday, giving him 16 catches for 210 yards and one score for the preseason. Thompson, Doering and Darnerien McCants (three preseason touchdowns) will force hard choices in a corps that includes Rod Gardner, Green, Kevin Lockett and Anthony.
Washington's biggest concerns exiting Sunday appear to be the starting defense (which gave up 221 yards in the first half) and rushing offense (which, excluding a 26-yard intentional loss by Rosenfels on the game's final play, averaged 3.1 yards).
Although Washington's defense played with energy most of the first quarter when a tackle by LaVar Arrington gave Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart a mild concussion the Steelers eventually drove 83 and 99 yards for touchdowns.
"We did some good things, some bad things," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "I was pleased for the most part with our focus when we came out to tackle and defend the run. [But] we came away from that."
The Steelers' big drives largely could be attributed to several key plays notably a 36-yard pickup on a screen pass to Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and a 32-yard scoring reverse by Antwaan Randle El.
"We need to play better on a long field," Lewis said. "We are not buckling down right now for whatever reason."
In the run game, Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis had one nice pickup, a 10-yarder up the middle in the second quarter, but otherwise saw few holes. Ross Tucker and Kipp Vickers started at guard, a position that remains unsettled. Davis now has rushed 11 times for 31 yards as the Redskins have yet to establish the run.
"Obviously we still have some kinks we have to work out," Tucker said. "We had a couple of decent plays, a couple that weren't as successful. I think it was a case of each guy taking turns messing up."
Washington exited the game without any serious injuries. Offensive lineman Alex Sulfsted played several series with a concussion before exiting; he still had a headache yesterday but otherwise felt OK. Carl Powell, who has become a key part of the defensive line rotation, sprained an elbow but hopes to play at Tampa Bay.
Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels continues to have some swelling in his sprained ankle and should miss at least this week. He is confident he will play in the opener. The club is unsure how soon defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back spasms) will return to practice. Kicker Brett Conway plans to work back slowly from a hip flexor suffered last week and be ready for the opener.

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