- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Shane Matthews' pass sailed about 20 yards toward the deep middle of the end zone into a pack of defenders. It looked like an incompletion or an interception until wide receiver Kevin Lockett reached up and snagged it for a score.
Lockett grinned as he trotted back upfield, shaking his head to dispute defenders' claims about where his feet had come down.
"I was in bounds," he said a few days later, wearing the same smile. "The defense will tell you I wasn't, but I was in bounds."
Lockett's grin flashed more and more frequently during the past two weeks as he and the Washington Redskins' offense stood out in offseason practices. The 27-year-old veteran showed signs of blossoming under coach Steve Spurrier, putting himself in line for plenty of snaps in the wide-open set and perhaps a starting job this season.
"I love it," Lockett said. "Anytime an offense like this comes in, if a receiver doesn't get excited something's wrong with him. We're spreading it out, three or four [receivers] at a time, the ball's being thrown in a lot of different places. There's a lot of opportunity."
The former Kansas City Chief was supposed to have even more opportunity last spring when he was reunited with coach Marty Schottenheimer; in fact, he was expected to be a starter until Rod Gardner was drafted in the first round. But Lockett finished with just 22 catches for 293 yards and no touchdowns in Schottenheimer's plodding offensive scheme.
Lockett isn't the biggest receiver at 6 feet, 186 pounds, but he fits Spurrier's scheme with quickness, knowledge of the game and route-running ability. It's ironic that he might emerge as a dangerous target after parting with Schottenheimer, who thought so highly of him.
"It is a little bit, but I think things always work out in your life for a reason," Lockett said. "Them firing Marty and bringing Coach Spurrier in for my career, I don't think I could be in a better situation."
But it wasn't an easy choice for him to stay. Lockett was scheduled to make $1million in new compensation this season, including a $250,000 roster bonus in March that had Washington ready to release him. Rather than test the market, he dropped his base salary to the minimum $525,000 and eliminated the roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus.
"That was a big decision," Lockett said. "Even though I didn't know Coach Spurrier and his staff, just being around them for the first couple of weeks before I had to make the decision, I felt that it was definitely the best choice. I've always said I wanted to play in an offense like this."
Lockett is representative of the Redskins' receiving corps in that he hasn't accomplished much in the NFL but has potential particularly if he can master Spurrier's system, which relies on quarterbacks and receivers being in sync on split-second decisions.
Gardner stands alone with his unquestioned talent and prototypical frame. Otherwise the Redskins have Lockett, several of Spurrier's former Florida stars (Jacquez Green, Reidel Anthony, Chris Doering), a few intriguing young holdovers (Derrius Thompson, Darnerien McCants, Justin Skaggs) and a couple promising rookies (Cliff Russell, Emmett Johnson). Gardner and Green have lined up first-string in most two-receiver sets, with Lockett and Anthony second-string.
"A lot of people haven't seen them play in actual games, but I think they're very talented, the whole corps," Matthews said. "You don't know who the go-to guy is now. We'll find that out over training camp and preseason games. But for the most part, I think the guys we have here can get it done."
Spurrier said he does not plan to have defined No.1, No.2 and No.3 roles the way many teams do because "we've never done that. Those who get open and catch everything will get more balls coming their way."
He added that, although there will be two starters, the reserves will have a chance to supplant them each week.
In the series of practices that ended yesterday, the Redskins' offense looked surprisingly sharp especially because the defense is usually ahead at this time of year. However, Spurrier revealed yesterday that the offense was told which schemes the defense would be using, an aid that will end when practices resume June3.
Nonetheless, Lockett exits the session with a stronger case for playing time and a reason to grin.
"He seems to know how to play the game," Spurrier said. "He seems to know how to ease into the open areas of the defense, things like that. Again, he hasn't had a lot of balls in the real ballgame. He's excited they're all excited."
Note
Spurrier reiterated that there is no front-runner for the starting quarterback job. Sage Rosenfels has been first in the rotation but he, Danny Wuerffel and Matthews all have made their share of plays. Rookie Patrick Ramsey did virtually no team work this week but will move to Washington soon and begin studying in earnest.


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