- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Washington Redskins' wide receiving corps is being shuffled again.

Recently demoted Derrius Thompson is set to return to the starting lineup Sunday at Green Bay, likely replacing Kevin Lockett. And third wideout Chris Doering has a chance to take the job of former No.1 pick Rod Gardner, though Gardner at worst would remain the frequently used third option.

"Pencil [Thompson] in as a starter this week," coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday.

Asked who else would start, the coach replied: "Either Rod or Chris Doering or all three of them. Depends if we're three wides or two wides."

The latest shuffle furthers Spurrier's apparent efforts to make the receivers as interchangeable as possible, in contrast to many NFL teams that draft and sign receivers specifically to fill No.1, No.2 or No.3 roles.

Spurrier has designed his corps to be constantly evolving, based on how players have performed in recent weeks and especially the latest game.

"Doering and Derrius Thompson graded out the highest of all the receivers [last weekend against New Orleans]," Spurrier said. "We sort of try to start the guys who play a lot like we try to coach them."

Gardner, the 2001 draft's 15th overall pick, leads the team with 21 catches for 331 yards and two touchdowns. He caught four passes for 40 yards against the Saints, but one throw bounced off his hands for an interception.

"Who starts, who doesn't start shouldn't mean a lot," Spurrier said. "We're just trying to emphasize [that] guys play as close as possible to how we try to coach them up."

Thompson first won a starting job in the preseason, which he dominated with 16 catches for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Then Spurrier elevated Lockett after the Sept.22 loss at San Francisco, saying he was running good routes and deserved more snaps. Now Lockett isn't sure why he's back down to No.4.

"I know I didn't play that well; I didn't think I played that badly," Lockett said. "Whether I did enough to be demoted, I don't know. That's obviously a coach's call."

Doering was inactive for the 49ers game despite being healthy, but he since has started twice as the third receiver and caught six passes. Obviously, he appreciates being in a system where falling out of favor doesn't have to last long.

"It's nice to be in a place where they reward guys who play the way they're coached," Doering said. "Guys who play hard and grade out well, it's a good reward system."

Stai no better

Right guard Brenden Stai skipped practice with tendinitis in his left knee and said there hadn't been any improvement since Tuesday. Stai was listed as "doubtful" on the injury report, though he hopes to test his knee in practice today or tomorrow.

Offensive line coach Kim Helton is holding out hope that Stai can play but appears likely to go with Wilbert Brown if Stai can't. Brown played last weekend in place of left guard David Loverne, who has recovered from a bruised thigh.

Brown gave up two sacks against the Saints, but it was a sign that his problems were physical getting overmatched at times by the Saints' big and talented defensive tackles rather than mental.

"I didn't blow any assignments," Brown said. "I took some bad sets on the guy, which made it hard for me. A lot of the things I've done are correctable things. You just have to continue to work."

Status quo

Despite Spurrier's angry postgame news conference last weekend, there will be no changes on defense or special teams.

Washington surrendered several deep passes and two return touchdowns to the Saints, prompting Spurrier to say, "We'll try to find the guys who want to bust their tail and play their assignments." He hinted changes could come at safety and on the coverage units.

But defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said Sam Shade will remain the starting strong safety, and special teams coach Mike Stock said there would be no shifts on kickoff or punt coverage.

At safety, second-year player Ifeanyi Ohalete will continue to take a lot of snaps on passing downs. On punt and kickoff coverage, the focus is for the current players to rededicate themselves.

"The basic things are the things we've been doing well up until this time," Stock said. "We have to do them more effectively and more consistently."

Extra points

Backup running backs Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts both will be active again this week. Defensive end Bruce Smith sat out practice on the artificial surface as a precautionary measure for his knee. He collided with defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson Sunday and said he nearly blew his knee out. Cornerback Fred Smoot (tooth) missed practice but is expected to return today. Danny Wuerffel (shoulder) is doubtful and once again is the third quarterback. Two Saints won NFC Player of the Week honors for their performances against the Redskins: defensive end Darren Howard (defense) and kickoff/punt returner Michael Lewis (special teams). Howard had three sacks Sunday while Lewis scored two touchdowns, one on a kickoff, the other on a punt.

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