- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Former Florida wide receiver Reidel Anthony led a list of seven cuts by the Washington Redskins yesterday as the club got halfway through trimming its roster to meet tomorrow's deadline.
Anthony, who signed a minimum-salary deal on the first day of free agency to reunite with coach Steve Spurrier, departed with less-heralded fullback Thad Buttone, defensive tackle Tim Engelhardt, kicker Jamie Rheem, wide receiver Emmett Johnson, offensive lineman Wayne Smith and running back Jimmy Watkins.
Tampa Bay, the team Washington trounced 40-10 in Saturday's second-to-last preseason game, drafted Anthony in the first round in 1997. But his role on the Bucs diminished after 1998, and by the time he got to Washington he was looking to revive his career.
However, he couldn't keep up with a group of receivers that has seen several relative unknowns emerge, including Derrius Thompson and another former Florida star, Chris Doering. On Saturday Anthony had one catch and was given a chance to return kickoffs, but he couldn't do enough to survive.
Johnson, a physically promising undrafted rookie out of Virginia Tech, was the other cut of reasonable note. Johnson, too, appeared a victim of the extremely competitive group of receivers.
First cuts are part of a busy short week for the Redskins as they ready for their preseason finale Thursday against New England. Washington must jettison another seven players by 4p.m. tomorrow but likely will make the moves today. Final cuts are due by Sunday, and the club opens Sept.8 against Arizona.
Meanwhile, Spurrier started to finalize plans for the first-string offense. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel, the apparent front-runner to start, missed Saturday's win because of an illness. Shane Matthews was productive in place of Wuerffel and might have closed the gap in their race.
Spurrier didn't reveal much about the competition other than to say he might name a starter this week though he also might wait until the week of the opener.
"I don't know," Spurrier said Saturday night. "We'll have to look at it during the week."
The receiving rotation also is uncertain. Thompson and Doering were elevated to the Nos.2 and 3 roles after spectacular performances in the first three games, but they had no catches Saturday.
Spurrier did not seem to blame them, but their roles are being challenged by veterans Kevin Lockett (four catches for 71 yards Saturday) and Jacquez Green (three catches for 24, two punt returns for 27). Also fighting for a roster spot are Darnerien McCants, a prospect maybe worth protecting, and Justin Skaggs, a potential contributor on special teams.
Less hyped battles are taking place at the return roles on special teams. Rookie running back Robert Gillespie seems to remain in front, but his two returns Saturday went for just 18 yards. On punts, cornerback Champ Bailey and Green both looked sharp.
Cuts will be an important factor in deciding the return roles. Gillespie, for example, is on the roster bubble. Green, after missing nearly two games with bruised ribs, seems to be making a late push for a roster spot.
Players had off yesterday. Practice resumes today, and the one key addition will be guard Brenden Stai, who was obtained in a trade with Detroit on Thursday and who is expected to start the opener. The early plan is for young Ross Tucker to move to the left side.
The notable injuries Saturday were to offensive lineman Rod Jones (sprained elbow) and tight end Walter Rasby (sprained knee). Jones' setback appears potentially serious, but both are expected to miss at least the opener. This week will be key in the rehabilitations of left tackle Chris Samuels (ankle), defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back) and cornerback Darrell Green (neck), who all sat out at Tampa Bay.
Washington at least heads into Thursday's exhibition against the defending Super Bowl champions having proved its playoff potential. The Redskins' starters, after struggling a week earlier in a narrow win over Pittsburgh, led a talented Tampa Bay squad 16-7 at halftime before exiting.
In fact, Spurrier's Redskins are almost certain to break a club record before the regular season starts the preseason scoring mark. With 150 points, the Redskins (4-0) are just six points short of their 1975 record in seven games. Washington also can wrap up just its second undefeated preseason (the other being 1985).
Matthews completed eight of 15 throws for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception Saturday. He threw a 23-yard touchdown to Rod Gardner and guided two other scoring drives. All 19 of Washington's points this preseason against opposing starting defenses have come behind Matthews.
"When you play a team like the Bucs, you have to keep them off-balanced," said Matthews, whose 15 NFL starts outweigh Wuerffel's six. "They have one of the finest defenses in the league, and we moved it on them well at times."
Washington's ability to establish the run probably was the biggest positive. The Redskins, after passing about twice as often as they ran in the first three games and averaging just 2.6 yards a carry, posted a 4.6-yard average run against the Bucs' respected starting unit.
"[This offense is] the real deal," Gardner said. "We've played four different teams, scored on all of them what else do you need to prove? The one thing about Spurrier is that regardless of what kind of coverages you play, he always can find a way to pass the ball, run the ball."
And it was a satisfying performance on defense, too, after the starters surrendered scoring drives of 83 and 99 yards to the Steelers. Washington intercepted Brad Johnson on the Bucs' first two possessions en route to forcing seven turnovers.
"We had to prove a point," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "We were tired of the criticism."
Making his debut Saturday was first-round draft pick Patrick Ramsey, who played the whole second half and hit 10 of 20 passes for 117 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He said he pretty much knew the plays despite running little other than the scout team since ending his 16-day holdout. He added that he isn't worried about whether he still has any chance to start at some point this season.
"That's not my focus," Ramsey said. "I don't foresee that. I think Shane played excellent [Saturday], and I think Danny played excellent all preseason. I'm going to focus on myself and this football team. I'm going to try to get better and do all I can."

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