- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

The pressure is now on the successors.

Washington Redskins rookie running back Ladell Betts must prove he can replace Stephen Davis. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey has to show he's the coming cornerstone. Receiver Darnerien McCants gets another chance to perform his Delaware State touchdown dance.

With playoff hopes virtually nil, the Redskins (5-7) will play reserves extensively during the final four games. None will start against the New York Giants on Sunday at FedEx Field, but coach Steve Spurrier will begin evaluating personnel for next season by watching seldom-used players in coming weeks.

"We're going to try to win the game, not just play everybody," Spurrier said. "Ladell hasn't had the chance to carry much. We need to look at him."

Betts was a surprising second-round pick because the Redskins were expected to take a much-needed guard or receiver. Team officials said Betts was overlooked until the 56th overall selection. The front office also was looking for a replacement for Davis, whose contract becomes an unpayable $11.4million against the salary cap before next season.

After a team record three straight 1,300-yard plus seasons, Davis has gained only 726 yards in a pass-oriented offense. That also prompts Betts' late-season tryout.

Davis shrugged off his imminent lessened role that could end his Redskin career, saying only, "What can I say?"

Betts has played sporadically this season. He was inactive for the last two games and for five overall as the Redskins preferred using an extra receiver. Betts even returned kicks for six straight games, including seven for 160 yards against New Orleans on Oct.13. He has 11 carries for 44 yards, including five for 37 yards against Seattle on Nov.3. Still, the Redskins want to know whether Betts is their future starter at a time when many rookies not used to playing a 16-game schedule are typically worn down.

"I've been preparing all year for this time. Hopefully, they'll be satisfied," Betts said. "They pay us a lot of money to be ready, so you have to sit back and be optimistic that your time will come."

Betts gained 3,686 yards with 25 touchdowns in 43 starts at Iowa, playing in 42 consecutive games. Despite being 5-foot-10, the 221-pounder's style is much like Davis' straight-ahead pounding that wears down defenses.

"I try to make people miss," Betts said. "You can't hesitate, because the holes close so fast that you've got to hit it or you're not going to make a yard. I've adjusted to the speed of the game."

McCants also returns to the regular rotation after a brief three-game midseason look. Inactive the first six games, McCants caught five passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns in the three games. However, the second-year receiver displeased Spurrier with poor practice habits and was inactive one game and barely used the past two.

"[Spurrier] gave me my chance before and things didn't work out and he put me back down," McCants said. "By midseason, I pretty much understood his style. They want you to know everything about everything. Before, I knew my position and what to run, but now you have to know all positions. It's a lot more detail. He's searching for perfection."

Ramsey said he expects to be the team's future quarterback after he was drafted as the last selection in the first round. After a three-game midseason stint that grew increasingly worse, he has been idle the past six games aside from two Hail Mary interceptions.

Spurrier may play Ramsey against the Giants and plans to give him at least one start, probably Dec.22 against Houston. Spurrier still isn't certain Ramsey will be next year's starter.

"You always feel like you have something to prove. You want to prove yourself and that you can play the game," Ramsey said. "I'm playing for now to improve. That's been my focus this entire season just to gain some experience."

Throwing four interceptions against New Orleans on Oct.13 and 10 completions against Green Bay on Oct.20 has Ramsey eager for late-season redemption.

"I didn't play very well in the last game I played in, so I'd love to play better and feed off that in the offseason," he said.

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