- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

Redskins right defensive end Bruce Smith has 186 sacks, the second most in NFL history. Left end Renaldo Wynn arrived in Washington from Jacksonville in March with a six-year, $20.5 million contract.

Saying that Hall of Fame lock Smith and former first-round draft choice Wynn haven't lived up to expectations with only 13 tackles, no sacks and six quarterback pressures between them through three games is akin to deeming the Redskins' 25th ranked defense which has allowed 817 yards the past two weeks mildly disappointing.

"We can get better. I can get better," Smith said. "The pass rush isn't where we would like it to be, but that's not what beat us [Sunday in San Francisco]. They only threw for 125 yards. We had a lot of missed tackles. Anytime that a team runs the ball as well as [the 49ers] ran it in crucial situations, you're going to lose."

Reserve linebacker Eddie Mason, who played with Wynn in Jacksonville, said his buddy has filled his role and been his usual solid self. But Wynn is his own toughest critic.

"It's little things like wrapping up on tackles," Wynn said. "Those are fundamentals you learn in high school, but I didn't do it last Sunday [when, for instance, San Francisco's Terrell Owens escaped his clutches on a 38-yard touchdown run]. The hardest thing for me is getting used to playing tackle on passing downs after just playing end the past couple of years. I have to use my quickness to get past those big guys in there. I haven't had that much run action come to my side, but there are a couple of plays that I should have made and I didn't. I set my bar for 'A-plus' and I'm a 'C,' so I'm disappointed."

The 28-year-old Wynn, who heads inside on passing downs when strong-side linebacker LaVar Arrington moves to left end, said the Redskins' lack of experienced backups has had him on the field for about 15 snaps more than he averaged during his five years with the Jaguars, when he rotated in and out.

Those extra snaps aren't delivering extra production, but new defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis isn't displeased with Wynn, who averaged four tackles a game and a sack every five games in Jacksonville.

"Renaldo is playing about the way I expected," said Lewis, whose Baltimore defense ranked second in the NFL the past three seasons. "The left end isn't going to be flashy in this system."

Still, Ravens left end Rob Burnett averaged 62 tackles and five sacks in Lewis' scheme the past five seasons. And Michael McCrary playing the bigger impact right end spot averaged 88 tackles and 10 sacks.

"Bruce is having a tough time getting there and finishing the snap," Lewis said. "He's got to be patient. I know he wants to do well in this system. He wants to win."

Smith is 39. After recording nine sacks in his first 12 games as a Redskin, he has six in his past 21 games. None of the other players among the top 10 in career sacks played at 39. Only Smith and career leader Reggie White played at 38 and with middling success. But Smith says his current slump is a function of adjusting to Lewis' system.

"This system is a little more complex," said Smith, who thrived in coordinator Ray Rhodes' scheme in 2000 and didn't fare as well last year in Kurt Schottenheimer's defense. "It requires everyone to take responsibility for being where he's supposed to be. If you have to think about what you're doing so much that it causes hesitation, then you're already a step or two behind the offensive guy, and that's all he needs.

"I like Marvin's system, I really do. But we have to get all 11 guys on the same page. Right now, we're not there. We're going to work our tails to get everyone on the same page. It's more mental than physical. We're going to get better. I know that for a fact."

Wynn, who noted that the Jaguars thrived when they switched coordinators in 1998, is even more optimistic about the ends and the entire defense improving.

"These are growing pains we're going through right now," Wynn said. "That's why this bye week comes at a great time. You'll see a different defense next week."

With Tennessee's versatile quarterback Steve McNair and power back Eddie George up next, the defense better be different. And better.

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