- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

The Washington Redskins may shift to a 3-4 defense following offseason moves that seemingly leave them strongest in the middle.
Friday's signing of six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Armstead, the expected loss of defensive tackle Kenard Lang and continued talks with linebacker Shawn Barber are among reasons why the Redskins will consider the 3-4 for the first time. The team used it in certain matchups during the 1980s but never as a primary scheme.
"We just have to see what happens with the whole [free agency] period, what the makeup of the guys is," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said yesterday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Lewis oversaw Baltimore's 2000 record-setting defense led by linebackers that won a Super Bowl. The move to a three-man line would be harder on aging ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman, but the formation is becoming increasingly popular leaguewide following the Pittsburgh Steelers' success with it. Houston and Baltimore also are expected to use it this season.
However, Lewis dismissed speculation that linebacker LaVar Arrington would move inside. Although Barber's re-signing seems improbable after his rejection of a deal Friday and the New York Jets' growing interest, backup Antonio Pierce flashed potential as a rookie and might play inside.
Meanwhile, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said the team will continue pursuing several receivers to upgrade his "Fun 'N' Gun" offense that has been altered little for the NFL, aside from minor terminology changes. Washington is considering former Florida receivers Jacquez Green (Tampa Bay) and Willie Jackson (New Orleans) after signing one-time Gator receivers Reidel Anthony and Chris Doering.
Washington's interest in St. Louis receiver Az-Zahir Hakim appears to have declined. The Redskins also discussed trading for former Florida receiver Ike Hilliard before deciding the New York Giants' second-rounder demand was excessive.
"We may pick up three or four more [receivers]," Spurrier said. "We need some guys to fire at."
Spurrier believes several former Gators who have struggled in the NFL can flourish in their old college system. However, they're not guaranteed jobs.
"I've told our assistant coaches we've got to be prepared to cut some of these Gators, too," Spurrier said. "I was over on the sideline when [Anthony] scored 18 touchdowns in his last year [1996] at Florida. [Anthony] and Ike were big reasons we scored more than anybody in the country that year. I've seen him play. Hopefully, we can create a situation where he wants to get up to that level in Washington."
Former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel said he only hopes for a chance now that he has been reunited with Spurrier. Wuerffel, who won the 1996 Heisman Trophy, hasn't thrown a pass in the past two years for Chicago (2001) and Green Bay (2000). The 1997 fourth-rounder started six games in his first two seasons in New Orleans but has barely played since, other than for NFL Europe's Rhein in 2000.
"I never spend a lot of time on having expectations," Wuerffel said. "Getting the right fit is important, especially in an offense that relies a lot on the quarterback's ability to read defenses and make checks."
Said Spurrier: "I don't believe in going in telling a guy, 'You're No. 1, you're No. 2, you're No. 3.' We'll have a competition. Obviously, from watching [Wuerffel] at the University of Florida, I know he's got the ability to be successful."
Spurrier spent his only day at the combine reviewing prospective quarterbacks and receivers. Washington still may take Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington with its first-rounder or trade for Chicago quarterback Shane Matthews, another former Gator.
Talks for Matthews should restart since the Bears have re-signed quarterback Jim Miller. A conditional late-round 2003 pick is expected. While neither side is showing great interest in the deal, one NFL source close to negotiations said "Where there's a will, there's a way [for its completion]."
Notes Cleveland appears the front-runner for Lang pending a Tuesday visit, though Houston and Denver also are interested. Dallas is seeking tight end Stephen Alexander after recently releasing starter Jackie Harris and losing backup Johnny Huggins in the expansion draft. Houston and Cincinnati also are interested in Alexander. Dallas is considering receiver Michael Westbrook.



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