- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Players' rededication to the basics of Marvin Lewis' defensive scheme paid off in the Washington Redskins' 31-14 win yesterday over the Tennessee Titans.
The unit went back to learning fundamentals during the Sept.29 open date, which followed a pair of losses in which it yielded 292 passing yards to Philadelphia and 252 rushing yards to San Francisco.
An energized group of Redskins held Tennessee to 289 yards, tripling their season turnover total (four yesterday made six for the year) and nearly doubling their season sack total (four followed five in the first three games).
"It really felt good to come out and play well," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "We knew what type of talent we have on this defense. Everyone was wondering [what was wrong]. Everybody went back to the drawing board, tried to concentrate on the little things and themselves. It's starting to come together."
The unit lapsed briefly in the second quarter after forcing three three-and-outs and a fumble on the Titans' first four drives. Tennessee drove 58 and 71 yards for touchdowns to take a 14-10 edge at halftime.
But the defense dominated the second half, forcing three turnovers (two interceptions by Fred Smoot and one by Champ Bailey), recording three sacks (including the first of the season by Bruce Smith) and limiting Tennessee to no points and 85 yards.
"Week by week it's getting better," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "We're still working at it. The intensity level was there today. Everybody was ballhawking, flying around. Nobody never really got discouraged at any point. We just kept coming. I think that it really showed."
Arrington and Trotter were two of the star players struggling in Lewis' scheme. Used to making lots of plays themselves, they had to adjust to holding down certain positions and trusting their teammates to make plays. That trust started to become evident yesterday, but Trotter said it actually began during the week.
"Guys just took it upon themselves to know what to do," Trotter said. "I told the guys, 'Listen, it's time for me to step up and be a leader. I'm going to try to lead and y'all follow me.' Everyone went out and played well. It was a total team effort."
Manned up
Tennessee attacked Washington with a much different defensive scheme than Philadelphia and San Francisco used in recent wins over the Redskins. The Titans blitzed and played man-to-man coverage frequently, while the Eagles and 49ers used conservative sets with deep zones.
Conservative schemes forced Washington to shelve its preferred big play and piece together long drives something it struggled to do. But the Redskins were able to attack with rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who completed passes of more than 20 yards to four different receivers. Reserve Jacquez Green caught the long ball, a 44-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The playbook, according to coach Steve Spurrier, wasn't trimmed too much for Ramsey.
"[It was] fairly basic, but yet we were running our offense," Spurrier said. "Tennessee played a lot more man coverage than we anticipated. They were mostly zone against Cleveland and Oakland, and they manned up a lot today. We adjusted in there a little bit, but Patrick was very good."
Ramsey contract on track
By being elevated to the starting job after his performance against the Titans, rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey took a big step toward reaching the $14million maximum value of his contract.
Ramsey's five-year, $5.7million deal, for which he held out 16 days of training camp, came with a complex series of escalators. But a fairly simple trigger acts as the gatekeeper to the biggest payouts: he must play in 70 percent of the snaps each season. This year that meant winning the starting job by the fifth game; yesterday was Washington's fourth contest.
A variety of performance barriers remain for Ramsey to earn top dollar, but yesterday's effort (268 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 103.6 rating) certainly was a good start.
Ruined return
Danny Wuerffel waited four years to start another NFL game. Redskins coach Steve Spurrier ended 13 days of speculation on Saturday when he named Wuerffel as the starter for yesterday's game at Tennessee, replacing Shane Matthews. However, Wuerffel's tenure as Washington's No.1 quarterback lasted all of six plays. He scrambled for three yards to the Tennessee 13-yard line to set up James Tuthill's go-ahead 31-yard field goal just 4:57 into the game. Wuerffel was tackled by Tennessee rookie defensive end Carlos Hall and seemed to injure his shoulder.
Rookie Patrick Ramsey came in for the Redskins' next series and was terrific in leading Washington to victory. Ramsey will start on Sunday against visiting New Orleans. The Redskins announced that Wuerffel had sprained his right shoulder. He referred to the injury as a strained muscle and said that at first the team's medical staff had feared that he had broken his collarbone before the X-rays were negative.
"Even now it's not killing me, but as soon as I raised my arm to throw, I had to stop," Wuerffel said after struggling to get his shirt on. "It was certainly bad timing for me. I wasn't in very long, but we moved the ball and got a field goal. I felt good. I was excited and confident about being in there. Maybe sometimes it's not in the cards. You accept the cards you're given. It's unfortunate, but it's an opportunity for Patrick and I couldn't be more proud of him."
Stepping up
Four catches, 58 yards, and two touchdowns. Those were receiver Kevin Lockett's numbers in his first Redskins start and just the seventh of his six-year career.
Lockett's 23-yard scoring catch came on second-and-10 with Washington leading 17-14 with 3:35 to go in the third quarter. He wound up alone on the right side of the end zone as the Titans blew the coverage.
"It was a really great call by Coach Spurrier," Lockett said. "I went inside and kind of got lost in the shuffle. Rod [Gardner] ran a great post route and I got wide-open. It was the easiest touchdown I've ever made."
That wasn't the case for Lockett's 14-yard strike to Stephen Davis 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. The one-time high school passer dropped the long lateral from quarterback Patrick Ramsey, recovered it and hit the wide-open Davis on the right side of the end zone. Lockett said he hadn't dropped a lateral during two weeks of practice.
"It was a gutsy call," said Lockett, who hooked up with Derrius Thompson for a 31-yard touchdown against the New York Giants last Oct. 28 on his only previous NFL pass. "Stephen did a great job of baiting them. When I dropped the ball, it scared me a little bit. But Jacquez [Green] did a great job of blocking the guy who was over me and giving me extra time to pick the ball up and throw it. I knew it was a lateral so if I happened to drop it the play would still go on."
Despite Lockett's solid performance, Spurrier said he wasn't sure the receiver would start Sunday against New Orleans as the Redskins would continue to rotate receivers.
New man on the line
During training camp and preseason, the Redskins had tried David Loverne, Rod Jones, Kipp Vickers and Ross Tucker at left guard. Loverne finally prevailed in the competition, but he had been very inconsistent this season before he apparently suffered a thigh bruise with 1:23 left in the third quarter yesterday. Enter NFL Europe product Wilbert Brown, who had been the No.2 center until Vickers' knee surgery two weeks ago.
"I'm really excited," Brown said after helping the offense rack up 442 yards. "It went pretty good for the first time. As soon as David told me he was hurting, I just stayed ready. He tried to fight through it, but then it was bothering him too much. I was comfortable because I've been a guard for most of my career [at the University of Houston and in stints with San Diego and Tampa Bay]. I felt right at home."
There's no word yet on who is expected to start at left guard on Sunday against New Orleans. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said his sprained right wrist was fine after he used a lighter cast than the one he wore two weeks ago in San Francisco. Wilkinson played about half the snaps as Washington rotated its linemen.
"I was truly happy with how my wrist held up after I hurt it again during blocking drills in warmups," Wilkinson said. "I had to get past that mentally to go forward."
Linebacker LaVar Arrington jammed his right wrist in the first quarter but returned quickly. Tight end Walter Rasby (knee) and linebacker Antonio Pierce (ankle) made their 2002 debuts without incident.
"My knee held up fine, but I was rusty," Rasby said. "I got called for two false starts. I guess I have to get my field ears back on, get used to being on the field again."
One that got away
In the summer of 1995, then-Redskins coach Norv Turner cut a third-year tight end from Maryland named Frank Wycheck in favor of rookie Jamie Asher, veteran Scott Galbraith and youngster Coleman Bell. Wycheck, who caught just 23 passes in two years as a Redskin, had a game-high nine receptions for Tennessee yesterday. The three-time Pro Bowl pick needs just 30 more catches to become the fourth tight end in NFL history with 500. The others are Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome and Denver's Shannon Sharpe, who's a lock for Canton. Wycheck is also just 38 catches shy of becoming the first tight end to catch 60 passes in six straight seasons.
Halfback Ladell Betts, receiver Darnerien McCants, defensive ends Otis Leverette and Greg Scott, tight end Leonard Stephens and guards Ross Tucker and Kipp Vickers were Washington's inactives along with third quarterback Shane Matthews.

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