- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

LaVar Arrington wants to be the one to quiet Jeremy Shockey.

The Washington Redskins' linebacker watched the New York Giants' rookie tight end enjoy a career day in the teams' first meeting, a 19-17 Giants victory in which Shockey caught 11 passes for 111 yards.

The Redskins aren't saying how they plan to defend Shockey in tomorrow's rematch, but Arrington conceded that he went to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and asked for the job.

"He's going to have to deal with a bus with [number] 56 on it," Arrington said yesterday. "Hopefully, I'll come out on top if I get the matchup. I'm looking for the matchup. I don't make no bones about it. I let Marvin know, I let coaches know, I want the matchup. Whether we do it or not, I don't know."

Shockey has given teams across the league trouble in his first year out of Miami. With great hands, the ability to avoid and break tackles and a big body (6-foot-5, 252 pounds), the draft's 14th overall selection leads all NFL tight ends and all NFL rookies with 49 receptions and 563 yards.

"He's as good as it gets right now," Arrington said. "He can run. He plays with intensity. He's got a love for the game. And he's got talent to go with all that. That makes it hard to defend a guy like that. But I don't plan on losing on Sunday."

Arrington didn't see Shockey often in the first meeting, even though Lewis' scheme often calls for Arrington to line up over the tight end. Arrington's duties that day and throughout the season have been diverse, and the Giants did a good job of getting Shockey isolated on middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who didn't have the quickness to stay with him.

Trotter is gone now, having blown out his knee in last week's loss at Dallas, and has been replaced by veteran Kevin Mitchell, the Redskins' starting middle linebacker in 2001. Mitchell doesn't expect to spend much time on Shockey but will be ready.

"A lot of times, J.T. had him covered very well, but he looked in the backfield sometimes to see where the ball was," Mitchell explained. "And Shockey will push off sometimes and you lose track of the player when you do that."

Good pass-catching tight ends always present a dilemma for defenses they're generally too quick for a linebacker and too big for a safety. Fortunately, there aren't many NFL teams with a talented pass-catcher at tight end and a scheme to utilize him.

Unfortunately for Washington, the Giants are one of those teams. Shockey is so quick that, like Kansas City star Tony Gonzalez, he can line up as a wide receiver in some formations. And Giants quarterback Kerry Collins always looks for him.

"They look to him more than any other team looks to their tight end," Mitchell said. "So after his first move, you can't assume that he's not getting the ball. He'll move around, and Kerry will look to him."

Shockey's damage in the first meeting included four catches for 41 yards on the Giants' first possession and a tackle-breaking 15-yarder in the second quarter, which converted a third-and-10 and set up New York's only touchdown.

Shockey also had three other third-down conversions two catches and a drawn penalty on Arrington but turned the ball over once when Bruce Smith stripped him.

"A tight end like him causes problems for any defense," said linebacker Jessie Armstead, who gave up one of Shockey's catches. "You look all year, he's been making a lot of guys miss."

Washington's focus on Shockey this week, though, isn't all-encompassing. Defenders say their first goal, as always, is to stop the run. And Armstead said the Redskins in general must figure out how to finish games the loss to the Giants was one of two games in the past three that Washington lost after leading by at least a touchdown in the second half.

"It wasn't just Shockey," Armstead said. "As a whole unit, we've got to find a way to finish the game up. Offense, defense, special teams we've got to learn to close off games in the fourth quarter."

Notes David Loverne is expected to return to the starting left guard spot a week after Alex Sulfsted supplanted him. The long layoff since Thanksgiving Day benefitted defensive end Renaldo Wynn (groin) and Armstead (knee). Another advantage was this week's snow, which reduced the amount of time the Redskins spent on the practice field. Wynn, however, expects to nurse his injury for the rest of the season.

Rookie running back Ladell Betts will resume his duties as a kickoff returner, assuming he is active as expected. Betts leads NFC rookies with a 24.6 average. Mitchell's promotion in place of Trotter means the Redskins must look to others to fill some of his special teams duties. Safety Ricot Joseph did a good job in place of Mitchell on kickoff coverage last week and should get the call again. Mitchell ranks second on the team with 15 special teams tackles.

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