- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier yesterday gave an earnest endorsement of his coaching staff as speculation about the job security of defensive coordinator George Edwards began to intensify.

The Redskins defense, after ranking No.5 last season under Marvin Lewis, has slumped to No.26 this year and has not been able to hold fourth-quarter leads in either of the past two games.

Sources familiar with Redskins management said there has been frustration with several assistant coaches, including Edwards, in the upper reaches of the organization. But Spurrier has contractual control over the makeup of his staff, and he made clear how he feels about his assistants.

“Our assistant coaches are an excellent group,” Spurrier said. “I can assure you they put in as much time and effort trying to put our players in position to make plays as I think any staff in the NFL.”

Asked whether an evaluation is forthcoming, he said any discussion would come “at the end of the season.” He then declined to evaluate Edwards specifically.

“I’m not going to do that publicly,” Spurrier said. “I think you would know that. We’ll talk about whatever we need to talk about at the end of the season. But I think all of our coaches — all of them — have done an excellent job and have tried their best to put our players in position to make plays.”

Edwards is in his first season as an NFL coordinator, getting the promotion from linebackers coach after Lewis departed to coach Cincinnati. Edwards has been hampered by a lack of impact defensive linemen and by his linebackers freelancing. Players generally have supported him in private and on-the-record conversations, citing his lack of experience as a reason for any perceived errors.

“I wouldn’t say he’s [in] over his head,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said yesterday. “George knows what he’s doing. George is young; he’s in his first year as a coordinator. There’s a big difference going [from a position coach to coordinator]. It was like me going from college to the NFL. He’s going to have some tough times.”

OT Jones signed

The Redskins acquired another talented but troubled free agent, signing former New England offensive tackle Kenyatta Jones to a two-year, minimum-salary deal with no signing bonus.

Jones was projected to start by the Patriots but was cut Oct.26 from the reserve/PUP list after being charged with assaulting his house guest and administrative assistant, Mark Paul. Police said Jones poured boiling water on Paul, causing second- and third-degree burns to Paul’s back, shoulder and forehead.

Twice earlier this season, the Redskins signed players fresh from being released by their prior teams. First it was tight end Byron Chamberlain, who was cut by Minnesota after returning overweight from an ephedra suspension; then it was defensive tackle Darrell Russell, whom Oakland jettisoned when the league ended an indefinite suspension for drugs.

Vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said Jones had “just an isolated incident that was checked out thoroughly.”

Jones could contribute in coming weeks with left tackle Chris Samuels nursing a sprained knee that is likely to sideline him at least one game, but conditioning will be an issue. Jones was on the reserve/PUP list after undergoing surgery to repair fractured kneecaps. Both Chamberlain and Russell have had conditioning questions in Washington, too.

“We’ll find out [whether Jones can contribute soon],” Cerrato said. “We’ll see how quickly he can learn things.”

Injury report

Defensive tackle Jermaine Haley was placed on injured reserve to make room for Jones. Haley, who started five of the first six games at nose tackle, will undergo surgery on his fractured thumb, Spurrier said. …

Samuels said he was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right knee today. The early indications remain MCL damage, and Spurrier expects him to be out one or two games. …

Running back Ladell Betts should return to practice this week and play Sunday against New Orleans. Washington will evaluate Betts as its potential feature tailback; a poor close to the season could lead to an aggressive pursuit of a running back in the draft or free agency. …

An MRI apparently revealed wide receiver Darnerien McCants has a bruised knee. There had been some concern about a sprain when the joint began swelling on the plane ride back from Miami. …

Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs shouldn’t miss much time with a mild knee sprain. … Center Larry Moore (foot) and safety Andre Lott (ankle) remain unlikely to play this week.

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