- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis got support from players and coaches yesterday in the flap regarding his use of linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Arrington was visibly frustrated in Sunday's 20-10 loss at San Francisco, both during and after the game, and made several veiled criticisms of Lewis' scheme Monday at Redskin Park.

Last year's defense allowed Arrington to play off the line of scrimmage more frequently, while this one has stricter responsibilities, including playing end from a three-point stance on third down. For Arrington to regain last year's Pro Bowl stature, he has to adapt to the scheme or Lewis has to change it to fit Arrington's tastes.

If it's up to some fellow defensive starters, Arrington should be the one to acquiesce. Several veterans privately said yesterday that Arrington should focus on his role instead of questioning it. One player, after reviewing game tape, said Arrington had more than two dozen blown assignments against the 49ers. The players' overriding sentiment, despite some talk of Lewis' scheme being "complex" in recent days, is that the system works and they need to execute it better.

Meanwhile, coach Steve Spurrier rebuked the criticism of Lewis without specifically mentioning Arrington by name.

"I don't know exactly what they've said, I don't know how they've tried to say it, but obviously if defensive players are complaining, that's not very smart," Spurrier said. "Marvin Lewis has one of the best reputations, is one of the [best] defensive coaches in the NFL. He's got a track record of success. Nobody needs to question what we're doing on defense."

Loverne not so bad

Left guard David Loverne called his recent play "pretty sluggish" and vowed to improve for the next game, Oct.6 at Tennessee. But offensive line coach Kim Helton believes Loverne is getting too much blame for the line's recent struggles.

"I think it would be a mistake for us just to pull David's name out of the pile after that performance," Helton said. "Quite frankly, he probably played equally to everybody else."

Helton feels Loverne is a player of modest talent who "gives us everything he has." The real problem, the coach said, is when highly paid players don't get their jobs done. On Sunday, the struggling big name was Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, who was beaten for two sacks and probably had the worst game of his career.

"You don't get to have a team full of stars," Helton said. "Your best players have to win. You hire those guys to help the ones who are the blue-collar guys."

Loverne got beaten badly on two plays Sunday and committed a costly holding penalty in the fourth quarter, but some offensive linemen in yesterday's position meeting said he actually wasn't bad overall and that the penalty was dubious.

The left guard position remains under scrutiny because the Redskins didn't fill it with a proven player during the offseason and then shuffled personnel during the preseason. However, in light of the club's generally upbeat view of Loverne, a workout yesterday by free agent guard Jeff Blackshear appeared to be for research and/or reserve purposes.

Nonetheless, Loverne hopes to improve. After winning the job at the end of training camp and playing well in the opener, he believes he's making too many mental errors right now.

"I've got to find a way to play more like I did in the first game," Loverne said. "I've got to eliminate a few mental mistakes in the last couple games, study some more, do whatever it takes to get those errors fixed."

One option at left guard who appears buried on the depth chart is Ross Tucker, who was the Redskins' best guard through most of camp but played poorly in the preseason finale against New England and in limited reserve work Sept.16 against Philadelphia. Tucker was inactive for the 49ers game.

Betts, Watson to rotate

Spurrier hasn't decided whether second-round draft pick Ladell Betts will remain ahead of Kenny Watson as the backup running back behind Stephen Davis. Betts was active for the first time against the 49ers and filled that role, but Spurrier expects both to get opportunities to prove themselves in coming games.

"We'll probably rotate around a little bit," Spurrier said. "We got [Betts] a few plays, but we weren't out there enough to get much of a look at anybody."

Betts also got in on one kickoff and ran it back 27 yards. Special teams coach Mike Stock said he will continue to experiment with different players beside Watson as the deep men on kickoff returns. Wide receiver Jacquez Green and Betts did it Sunday after Derrius Thompson did it earlier this season. Watson didn't have any returns Sunday as the 49ers kept kicking it to the other side.

Extra points

Spurrier praised reserve receiver Kevin Lockett for running sharp routes and getting open against the 49ers. Quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel just didn't see him, Spurrier said. Reserve wideouts like Lockett remain in line for more playing time; in the past two games, starters Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson have combined for eight catches for 109 yards.

Other than Matthews (back, shoulder) and tight end Walter Rasby (knee), all the Redskins practiced, Spurrier said. The club will work out again today and tomorrow before taking a three-day break.

Running backs coach Hue Jackson lost a bet and had to wear Lockett's old Kansas State jersey after Southern California, where Jackson was an assistant from 1997 to 2000, lost Saturday to the Wildcats.

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