- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

The play was an end-around, the kind that if executed properly can leave an opposing defense out of position with bodies twisted and mouths agape.

For a brief moment two weeks ago, the Washington Redskins looked like they were caught in that trap, victims to the Detroit Lions’ well-designed, misdirection hand-off to receiver Az Hakim. Hakim, one of the fastest players in the NFL, raced from the right side of the field to the left, nothing but open space in front him.

Nothing but Demetric Evans.

Evans, a heretofore anonymous defensive end, had read the Lions’ trick play perfectly and put himself in position to stop the speedy Hakim. Which he did. Evans, all 283 pounds of him, dropped Hakim for no gain and dropped jaws all over Ford Field.

“If you ran him in a 40-yard dash [against Hakim], there’s no way he’d win that race,” Redskins defensive line coach Greg Blache said. “Demetric’s a guy who’s not blessed with a lot of natural ability. But he’s got good instincts. He puts himself in position, he works real hard, he studies hard. He’s a guy who’s here because he does what he’s supposed to do.

“He’s a guy you can trust.”

The Redskins have no qualms about putting their trust in Evans, a 25-year-old journeyman defensive lineman who was pressed into service when starting right end Phillip Daniels suffered a groin injury.

They trust Evans, even though he has neither Daniels’ skill nor experience, because of his studious nature, his willingness to learn and his commitment to give his coaches and teammates everything he’s got.

“I’m not one of those guys who has the physical gifts to make plays,” said Evans, who will make his fourth start of the season tomorrow at Philadelphia. “I’ve got to know what’s called, be where I’m supposed to be and make the plays that come my way.”

Evans has clearly shown he knows where he’s supposed to be on end-arounds. One week after his eye-catching stop of Hakim, he was tested again. Cincinnati Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh ran a nearly identical play in Sunday’s game at FedEx Field, and with linebacker Antonio Pierce’s help, Evans once again stuffed it.

The secret, defensive linemen will tell you, is using the proper technique to stop such plays, putting yourself in position and then attacking the ball carrier from the right angle.

Put another way, it’s about brains, not brawn.

“People think it’s all about talent on this level,” Blache said. “Talent is important — and I don’t want to say Demetric doesn’t have talent — but talent is relative. Geometry and physics are constant. He uses all those things to his advantage. He levels the playing field, because he understands where he fits in, he understands his strengths and weaknesses. He puts it all in an equation, and he comes up with the right answer more times than not.”

Evans has always had to rely on his smarts on the football field. A sports business major at Georgia, he went undrafted upon graduating in 2001 but caught on with the Dallas Cowboys and wound up playing in all 16 games his rookie season. He spent one more season in Dallas, but was cut in 2003 and found himself out of the game altogether.

Some players would have sought to catch on with another team right away, but Evans knew he wasn’t NFL material. At least not yet. So he returned to his home in Dallas, worked out on his own and made plans to re-learn the game in a most unlikely place — with the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe.

Playing in Europe can be a pride-swallowing experience for American players, especially those who came from high-profile college programs as Evans did. The facilities are decidedly minor league, the fans can’t understand why players are allowed to touch the ball with their hands and the culture shock is, well, shocking.

None of that mattered to Evans. He was perfectly willing to swallow his pride if it meant another shot at the NFL.

“I’m not a real prideful player,” he said. “Some guys might be — it depends on the individual. I knew that [playing in Europe] was what it was going to take for me to get back in the game, and it happened. Going to NFL Europe was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.”

The Redskins certainly believe so. They signed Evans over the summer, invited him to training camp and then watched him make play after play during a stellar preseason.

“We did our stats at the end of the preseason, and he was our most productive defensive lineman,” Blache said. “He didn’t impress your with his speed or his strength, but he did things right. He got himself in position to do things right.”

Said assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams: “You know, he’s just a hard worker. He wants to be coached. He understands what it is to be on the streets. You’ll see him make plays that even some of the better athletes in the league can’t make, because he does it with technique. He’s been a real, solid technician.”

With Daniels likely to miss several more games while recovering from his groin pull, Evans figures to remain in the starting lineup for some time.

Which should really come as no surprise. The Redskins have an ever-growing list of journeyman defenders now making names for themselves on the league’s second-ranked unit. To a list that already includes Pierce, safety Ryan Clark and defensive tackle Joe Salave’a, you can add the name of Demetric Evans

“It’s been a blessing,” he said. “It’s like being part of a family.”

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