- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

Certification of the Washington Redskins' stout defensive season came in the NFL's weekly statistical release, which showed them moving up to No.6 in total defense.
The unit has improved dramatically from the season's early weeks. Washington gave up 451 yards Sept. 16 to the Philadelphia Eagles and 366 six days later to the San Francisco 49ers, but since then just one team (St. Louis on Nov. 17) has gained more than 328 yards.
Punctuating the rise was Sunday's season-best performance (166 yards allowed) in a 26-10 win over the expansion Houston Texans. Now, as the Redskins finish up against one of the NFL's worst offenses, the Dallas Cowboys', they can prove they deserve the No.6 ranking.
"That's a heck of an accomplishment, considering how tough the year's been," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said this week. "We wanted to be one of the best in the league, and that's been accomplished. I think we can continue to move up if we take care of business this week."
Redskins players needed time to adjust to their fourth defensive coordinator in as many years, Marvin Lewis. A number of players initially balked at the commitment to positioning and accountability that Lewis demands, and it wasn't until the Sept. 29 open date that those players began accepting their duties.
"Hopefully they have an understanding now of how important it is to just do your job," Lewis said. "Good things will happen. If you don't take care of your responsibilities and you don't do things fundamentally sound, then you'll give up big plays and you'll give up plays that will eventually get you beat."
Lewis added that "obviously it doesn't matter what you rank; it's how many games you win," a statement that is particularly poignant as the team prepares for the Dallas rematch.
In a 27-20 loss on Thanksgiving Day, the Redskins held Dallas to 328 yards not much more than their 306.7-yard average. However, 189 of those yards came after halftime as the Cowboys overcame a 10-point deficit to win. And Dallas ultimately finished with 211 rushing yards, its fourth straight effort of more than 200 rushing yards in the lopsided recent series.
Several Redskins pointed to injuries they suffered that day middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson were lost for the season, and several other players were in and out with lesser ailments and said the Cowboys wouldn't enjoy a repeat performance.
"Unfortunately we had a lot of guys get hurt in that game, and they've got the best back in the league, which is Emmitt [Smith, who rushed for 144 yards that day]," linebacker Jessie Armstead said. "Not making any excuses, but we'll be at full health, and we love the opportunity to play them."
Spurrier to shift focus?
Coach Steve Spurrier apparently would like to spend more time overseeing the team in general rather than just the offense in 2003.
Spurrier told ESPN that he plans on making one of his current offensive coaches the coordinator while he shifts some of his attention to defense and special teams. Thus far he has been unique among NFL coaches in his almost total focus on offense particularly quarterbacks and wide receivers and delegation of responsibility elsewhere.
"I can see now why head coaches that call the plays still have an offensive coordinator," Spurrier told ESPN. "And I'm planning on doing that next year. I'm planning on giving one of our coaches that title, even though I'll still be the play-caller and actively more involved with the offense.
"But it would give me more of an opportunity to interact more with the defense and special teams players by having a guy that can sort of run the offense while the head coach is running the entire team."
Spurrier could not be reached for comment after ESPN's interview was made public.
Armstead on top
Armstead is in line to lead Washington in tackles this season, as he did with the New York Giants for five seasons (1996-2000). He currently has 107 tackles, three more than the injured Trotter (104) and eight more than LaVar Arrington (99) with one game to play.
Armstead, 32, was said to be on the downside of his career when he signed with Washington last spring but instead was one of the quickest to adapt to Lewis' scheme.
"I've always led the team in tackles no matter where I've been," Armstead said. "So it was just another thing for me. [Perception of my eroding skills were] other peoples' opinions, and I don't want to get into that. I stayed consistent that's all I can say."

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