- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The Washington Redskins' defense is so good, cornerback Fred Smoot said before the season opener, that the Redskins could win even if the offense scored only seven points.
Neither the Redskins' offense nor their defense was that good Monday night.
The offense couldn't score any points and the defense in preseason considered one of the strongest in the league couldn't stop its opponent in a humbling 37-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field.
Few players were around to break the quiet at Redskin Park yesterday in the wake of the deflating, nationally televised rout. Quarterback Shane Matthews, tackle Jon Jansen and receiver Derrius Thompson stopped by. None of the starters on the defense, manhandled by a usually pedestrian Eagles offense, was present on the players' day off.
That left coach Steve Spurrier to do most of the ruminating on the defeat and what lies ahead for his team.
"It's one thing to lose, [but] we weren't even competitive," said Spurrier, who suffered his worst loss since Nebraska crushed his Florida Gators 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl seven seasons ago.
The numbers on both sides of the ball were grim, surprisingly so for the defense.
The Eagles averaged six yards a carry, and quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 26 of 38 passes (to 10 receivers) for 292 yards, two touchdowns and a 108.7 rating. The Eagles scored on five of their six possessions in the first half three drives covered at least 65 yards en route to a 23-7 lead.
Spurrier conceded yesterday that he's "a little bit" surprised that his veteran-laden defense, which has forced just one turnover and recorded only three sacks, hasn't been more effective.
"The Arizona game, we didn't dominate them [defensively], but we played pretty decent," Spurrier said of the Week 1 victory. "Last night our defensive coaches and I were very disappointed. We've talked like we're going to be real good. But obviously that doesn't mean very much. Hopefully, we can start being known better as players than for talking about it."
The Redskins' defense is full of well-known players. Linebackers LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter and Jessie Armstead have eight Pro Bowls among them. Cornerback Champ Bailey has been to the Pro Bowl the past two years. End Bruce Smith is second all-time in sacks in the NFL. Smith and tackle Dan Wilkinson were first overall picks in the draft. End Renaldo Wynn also was a first-round selection.
But so far, all this talent, plus renowned coordinator Marvin Lewis the NFL's highest-paid assistant has produced a defense that has given up more points than all but five other teams.
Couple the defense's poor start with a dreadful night by Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun offense, which has scored fewer points than all but 10 others league-wide, and it's no wonder that the mood at Redskin Park has shifted as markedly as the Redskins' place in the standings.
The Redskins were atop the NFC East after their 31-23 victory over the Cardinals but now technically are in last place; among the four 1-1 teams they have the only loss to another team in the division.
"I'm very disappointed that our guys didn't play with a lot of effort," Spurrier said in a television interview. "Unless we start playing with a lot more effort, it could be a long year."
That long road starts Sunday. The Redskins must travel across the country during a work week shortened by the Monday night game and face a San Francisco 49ers team that was 12-4 last year and is 8-2 in its past 10 home games.
The Redskins get a bye the next week, but that is followed by tough tests on the road against the Tennessee Titans and the Green Bay Packers sandwiched around a home date with the unbeaten New Orleans Saints. Washington faces the Indianapolis Colts at home Oct.27, plays three straight on the road, comes home to meet the NFC champion St. Louis Rams and travels to Dallas to face the Cowboys just four days later.
That's a formidable schedule for a team with a underachieving defense and an offense that generated just 197 yards and 10 first downs and never penetrated the Philadelphia 40-yard line Monday. Falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter didn't help an offense that's still full of players inexperienced in Spurrier's system and/or the NFL.
"We got behind early and had to throw, and I don't know if we're good enough to stand back there and throw about every time," Spurrier said.
All of the regulars on offense except Matthews are in their first year in Spurrier's scheme. Matthews, center Larry Moore and guards David Loverne and Brenden Stai are new to the Redskins. And Thompson, tight end Zeron Flemister and fullback Bryan Johnson are raw.
But Jansen didn't blame Monday's woes on a lack of familiarity.
"We have a lot of new pieces, but we have a lot of smart guys and a couple of our quarterbacks [Matthews and backup Danny Wuerffel played for Spurrier at Florida] are very familiar with the offense," Jansen said. "We just didn't play well."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide