- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is implementing a scheme suited to his current linemen, lessening the club's urgency to sign free agent defensive tackle Sam Adams.

Lewis' plan is to keep offenses guessing by making them react to an ever-shifting four-man front. The tactic requires discipline and extensive knowledge of responsibilities but, if successful, can help Washington's undersized linemen gain an edge.

"We've always adopted the philosophy that if you've got smaller people, you've got to move them," line coach Ricky Hunley said yesterday. "You can't sit there. You're going to get beat to death."

Not all of the Redskins' linemen are small. Tackle Dan Wilkinson is massive (6-foot-4, 353 pounds), and left end Renaldo Wynn is a capable size (6-3, 290) for his spot. But if the Redskins don't sign Adams, an expensive widebody, they must fill a tackle spot with Santana Dotson, Donovan Arp or Del Cowsette each less than 300 pounds.

To compensate, linemen at times will shift just before the snap or switch gaps as they rush. It's a more complex scheme than Kurt Schottenheimer's last season (that set simplified greatly during the 0-5 start), and it should allow the linemen to make more plays.

"Last year you stayed on the line and let the linebackers do everything," tackle Del Cowsette said. "Now it's shoot the gap and use our natural abilities."

Outstanding communication so far makes Hunley believe the plan will succeed.

"This defensive line probably communicates as well or better than any I've been around anywhere," Hunley said. "So even though this guy doesn't know what he needs to do, this guy does, and he tells him."

Some key questions remain, though, such as whether Dotson can play farther inside than he has in the past.

With the Green Bay Packers, Dotson worked alongside Gilbert Brown, a true nose tackle who allowed him to line up exclusively over the guard. Here, Redskins tackles will take turns at nose and over the guard increasing the aforementioned unpredictability but perhaps putting a player like Dotson in an awkward spot.

Hunley, however, wants versatility because it means the best linemen always play regardless of their supposed roles. And Lewis believes players usually succeed in new spots because they have something to prove. Dotson, for his part, agrees with the latter sentiment.

"That's true," he said of Lewis' theory. "You look at it as a challenge. But I don't think [occasional snaps at nose] will be that major. If I was coming from playing an open end all the time and going to play [nose or just off-center], then that would be a big difference, but it's just a shade [over]."

Big chance for B. Johnson

Unheralded fullback Bryan Johnson has enjoyed a sharp offseason and should be an important contributor to Spurrier's offense. Although the 24-year-old has just one NFL start (Week 14 last year), he is the unquestioned first-string fullback, and his combination of speed, strength and blocking should fit well in this creative attack.

"That's something I have, I guess," Johnson said. "I'm a versatile player, so they can use me in different roles. They can spread me out as a wide receiver; they can keep me and I can block; I can catch the ball and run with it."

He added that he isn't worried about the pressure of starting at such a young age.

"This can be a make-it or break-it year, but you've just got to rise up above the pressure and perform," said Johnson, an undrafted rookie from Boise State in 2000. "That's what it's about: making plays."

Extra points

Newly signed offensive lineman Kipp Vickers has been working at right guard, not the left guard position where Washington was looking for alternatives to untested David Loverne. That might change in training camp.

Rookie offensive lineman Akil Smith suffered a mild ankle sprain in the morning session. Dotson (calf), defensive end Bruce Smith (knees), wide receiver Derrius Thompson (hamstring) and safety Andre Lott (hamstring) were on the sidelines.

Cowsette is scheduled to have the cast protecting his surgically repaired wrist removed Friday and have new X-rays taken. He has been working in individual drills but not team activities.

Free agent defensive end Marco Coleman has visited the Jacksonville Jaguars but doesn't expect to sign anywhere soon. The process might extend until training camps are set to open. Free agent wide receiver Michael Westbrook enjoyed his visit with the Cincinnati Bengals but hasn't decided whether to accept their offer.

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