- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

Washington Redskins defensive ends Renaldo Wynn and Peppi Zellner slide inside whenever coaches call for the nickel set, and there the two are expected to use their quickness to penetrate and harass the quarterback.

Turns out they can play a little run, too.

Washington’s nickel set has been on the field a considerable amount on first and second downs lately, particularly in last weekend’s loss at Carolina. The toughness of Wynn and Zellner was a key reason why the Redskins contained running back Stephen Davis, who needed 28 carries to accumulate his 92 yards.

“A lot times when they see that front, they try to check to a run,” Zellner said this week. “Even last week they tried to do that. But they didn’t get anything out of it.”

Wynn estimated the nickel set has been on the field “20 to 30 percent” more frequently on first and second downs in recent games. Opponents line up in three-receiver sets to get Washington in an ostensibly run-weak defense, then try to power it up the middle.

“If they know we’re going to be in there, I guess I would try to run the ball, too,” Wynn said with a laugh.

Washington probably can expect a similar strategy at times Sunday at Miami, where offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the former Redskins coach, is known for leaning on running back Ricky Williams. If the Redskins are to contain Williams, another stout effort is needed from Wynn and Zellner.

“I’m not going to act like it’s been a piece of cake,” Wynn said. “When you get two 300-pound guards on you and I’m 280, it’s just something you have to overcome.”

Jacobs’ modest role

A second-round draft pick in the spring and the No. 3 receiver until he was injured in the preseason finale, Taylor Jacobs now is establishing a role as a key special teams performer.

Jacobs is being used on punt coverage as a “flyer,” one of the two wing positions where the player is asked to beat one or two defenders and be the first downfield to tackle the return man or down the punt. Defensive back David Terrell is the other flyer.

Although Jacobs has spent only two weeks in the role, he has demonstrated real potential.

“The big thing is they’re having a hard time single-blocking him, and even against a double-team he has succeeded,” special teams coach Mike Stock said. “That’s important, because if they have to double him, that leaves six inside and eight against six [in our favor].”

Stock sees genuine effort on the part of Jacobs, who didn’t sulk when a bruised pancreas dropped him behind Darnerien McCants and Patrick Johnson in the receiver rotation.

“My main focus was just to help the team however I could,” Jacobs said. “I thought I was going to be more at wide receiver, but it just happens I’m at special teams. It’s not a big blow.”

As a receiver, Jacobs has two catches for 23 yards (though one was a 19-yard touchdown), and it appears he’ll have to wait until 2004 to make an impact on offense.

“We just haven’t gotten a lot of balls to all of our receivers,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “When your offense is sort of struggling, it’s hard to get it to more than two receivers.”

Extra points

Running back Rock Cartwright (ankle) ran on the side at practice and hopes to practice today. Return man Chad Morton (ankle) sat out a second straight practice but is expected to play at Miami. Running back Ladell Betts (forearm) took a few handoffs and passes in practice but remains out for Sunday. …

The Redskins have been drinking extra fluids all week to brace for their first game this season in truly balmy conditions. Sunday’s forecast is for the low 80s with high humidity.

“Thank God it’s going to be at nighttime, so it will help a little bit,” Wynn said. “That’s the advantage for a lot of the teams that play in Florida. When I was in Jacksonville, that was one of our main advantages.” …

Wide receiver Rod Gardner will show off his Herndon townhouse for the MTV show “Cribs” in coming weeks. Gardner wasn’t sure when the episode would air but vowed to have his cars detailed and the place sparkling when the cameras turn on.

“I’ll let them know how I do it on a regular-day basis,” Gardner said.


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