- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

The Washington Redskins’ flashy defensive free-agent acquisitions finally reported for duty.

Paced by strong outings from pricey offseason additions Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta, the Redskins’ stop unit responded to a week of listening to Jacksonville defensive plaudits by recording a season-high four sacks and limiting the Jaguars to 33 rushing yards in yesterday’s 36-30 victory at FedEx Field.

“As a free agent, I know why the Redskins brought me in — to rush the passer — and it was frustrating the first few weeks not to get there,” said Carter, the defensive end who recorded 32 sacks in his first five seasons with San Francisco and finally got on the board as a Redskin with a sack and two hurries of Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich. “All the little progressions and improvements each practice and each game finally added up to results. You just have to have faith that stats, sacks and tackles, will come. Phil [Daniels] was real good telling me to relax, not get all tied up and just let it happen. And tonight it started happening for us and myself up front.”

Many observers had lost faith in the Redskins’ pass rush after the team posted just two sacks in its first three games. The line was clearly missing injured pocket-crusher Joe Salave’a, and the return of Greg Williams’ vaunted pressure package wasn’t anticipated until his return at defensive tackle.

But the maligned front four wasn’t willing to wait that long. Carter spent seemingly the entire afternoon in the Jacksonville backfield. And he and Daniels combined on the play that defined the day defensively.

With 1:19 left in the third quarter and Washington clinging to a 20-17 lead, Carter came off the edge and leveled Leftwich on his release. The resulting wobbler, intended for wide receiver Reggie Williams, fluttered right to Daniels for the first interception of his 11-year career. The Redskins quickly parlayed the miscue into a 27-17 lead.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Daniels said. “I just turned around and there the ball was. I had visions of taking it in for a touchdown, but I didn’t want to do anything stupid, so I just went down and put it in the hands of our offense.”

Praise for the defense might seem odd after Jacksonville scored 30 points. But three of the Jaguars’ scores were the result of short fields gifted to them by the Redskins’ offense, which twice turned the ball over inside its own 35-yard line and was flagged for a costly, if dubious, excessive celebration penalty in the first quarter.

Jacksonville scored in spite of the Redskins defense, which gave up just 307 yards of total offense, most of that coming on three big passing plays. And Jacksonville’s paltry total of 33 rushing yards was directly attributable to the outstanding play of the front four, linebacker Marcus Washington and Archuleta, the strong safety acquired from St. Louis who finished the game with three tackles and a sack.

“As many demands as other people place on me, nobody’s put more pressure on me than I put on myself, so experiencing a few disappointing weeks in a row was tough,” said Archuleta, who led all NFL defensive backs with five sacks in 2003. “Sometimes when you come in as a free agent, you try to push and be something you’re not instead of just being the football player you were born to be. Tonight was better, and I’m going to keep getting better. I’m going to make an impact here.”

The Redskins are expected to get Salave’a back for Sunday’s road game against the New York Giants. And given yesterday’s performance, the defense could be ready to return to last year’s dominant form when Salave’a and sidelined corner Shawn Springs rejoin the unit.

“We admittedly weren’t at our best the first couple of weeks, but a little bit of the grief we heard for not getting more [pressure on] the quarterback was because we saw nothing but max protect for the first three weeks,” Daniels said. “Today Jacksonville chose not to max protect, and they paid for it. Because if you give us one-on-one situations across the front, I have faith that we’ll get there.

“There was a little extra motivation this week for us because all we heard about all week was Jacksonville’s defense this and Jacksonville’s defense that. You weren’t supposed to be able to run on them. We did. They were supposed to be able to run on us. They didn’t. We took a nice step in the right direction on defense tonight.”

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