- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It was only a matter of time, but first-round draft choice Sean Taylor cracked Washington’s starting lineup in last night’s nationally televised showdown with Dallas.

Taylor, the fifth selection overall in April’s draft, got the nod ahead of Andre Lott at free safety.

Taylor shone during preseason but didn’t start the opener with Tampa Bay as the coaches opted for Lott’s two years of NFL experience over the 21-year-olda’s superior athleticism. After the defense dominated the Buccaneers, Lott remained in the lineup last week against the New York Giants, although Taylor played more than he did in the opener.

However, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Taylor — four inches and 35 pounds bigger than Lott — seemed better equipped to cover big Cowboys receivers Keyshawn Johnson (6-4, 214) and Antonio Bryant (6-1, 196).

Dallas also opened with three receivers. The third, Terry Glenn, got free of Taylor in zone coverage for a 26-yard catch on Vinny Testaverde’s first completion midway through the first quarter. Two plays later, fullback Darian Barnes broke Taylor’s tackle on a 14-yard run to the Washington 40. Dallas took a 7-0 lead shortly thereafter.

Tayor limped off the field on the last defensive series of the third quarter, only to return and fail to prevent Glenn’s 26-yard touchdown catch that made it 21-10 with 13:00 to go in the game.

In addition to Taylor, Lemar Marshall made the first start in his three seasons in place of weak-side linebacker LaVar Arrington, who had arthoscopic knee surgery Thursday. And journeyman Ron Warner, whose NFL career began in 1998, made his first career start in place of injured left end Phillip Daniels (groin).

Incidentally, Dallas’ three-receiver formation ended Eddie George’s streak of 130 straight starts, second only for a running back behind Hall of Famer Walter Payton’s 170.

Raymer gets the nod

The Redskins’ offense also had a new starter as Cory Raymer replaced center Lennie Friedman. In the opener, quarterback Mark Brunell tripped over Raymer’s feet and lost a fumble that Ronde Barber returned for Tampa Bay’s only touchdown. But Raymer had gone in only because Friedman and the quarterback had mishandled two snaps.

Friedman had similar trouble last week against the Giants, who also got most of their pressure on Brunell and fellow quarterback Patrick Ramsey on rushes up the middle. Hence, last night’s move to Raymer.

With Raymer at center, Washington’s offensive line featured two members from 1995: then-rookie Raymer and then-left guard Ray Brown. Brown made his second straight start last night at right tackle in place of Kenyatta Jones, who has a tender ankle.

The third player in his second stint with the Redskins, receiver James Thrash, emerged from two quiet weeks to make some plays as the third wide receiver.

Wise old head?

Antonio Pierce started his third consecutive game in place of injured middle linebacker Michael Barrow (knee). It was only Pierce’s 13th start in his four years in Washington, but that still was nine more as a Redskin than outside linebackers Marshall and Marcus Washington, a free agent from Indianapolis, had between them.

Big night for challenges

The Redskins came up winners on three challenges in the first three quarters, including two in the opening 15 minutes, but lost a crucial one on Glenn’s touchdown in the fourth.

In the first quarter, Washington challenged a Dallas interception, and the call was reversed when the officials ruled the ball hit the ground as Dallas cornerback Pete Hunter was making the pickoff. And when Dallas challenged a sideline tiptoe catch by Laveranues Coles, the officials said the evidence was not conclusive enough to overturn the original ruling. Hunter sprained a knee on the play and was replaced by rookie Jacques Reeves.

In the third quarter, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells’ second and final challenge was denied on a catch by Coles on Washington’s touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Battling the odds

The numbers conspired against the Redskins heading into the game. They had lost 12 of their past 13 games against the Cowboys, and Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs had lost his last six games and 10 of his last 12 against his Dallas counterpart, Bill Parcells (when the latter coached the New York Giants). Plus, Gibbs was just 9-13 on “Monday Night Football” during his first Washington tenure. Gibbs was 131-52 the rest of the week.

Inactives

Besides the ailing Arrington, Barrow and Daniels, running back Rock Cartwright, H-back Brian Kozlowski, receiver Darnerien McCants and offensive tackle Mark Wilson were inactive for the third consecutive game. Tim Hasselbeck was the third quarterback again.

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