|Monday, August 27
Updated: August 28, 9:02 AM ET
Schottenheimer puts his mark on 'Skins
By John Keim
Pro Football Weekly
Spending money wasn't a problem for Washington Redskins last season. Everything else was. The Redskins developed no chemistry, couldn't stay healthy, couldn't find a reliable kicker and failed to achieve any expectations. So Redskins owner Daniel Snyder scrapped his scheme to win with big-name players and instead lured a big-name, no-nonsense head coach in Marty Schottenheimer. Snyder rightly wanted a more disciplined team and, with Schottenheimer, he'll get it.
Schottenheimer quickly established control. He fired former Snyder favorite, personnel director Vinny Cerrato, and drafted wide receiver Rod Gardner over Snyder's original desired choice, Santana Moss. And Schottenheimer got training camp moved back out of town.
"Nobody's calling the shots around here but the big Schott," Redskins defensive end Marco Coleman said.
Schottenheimer cut former starters Tré Johnson, Keith Sims, Mark Carrier and Dana Stubblefield in salary-cap moves. He axed still-productive fullback Larry Centers for, among other reasons, their differing philosophy regarding offseason workouts. Quarterback Brad Johnson bolted via free agency. And, of course, Deion Sanders retired.
Mostly, Schottenheimer opted for familiarity. Eight assistant coaches had worked with him, or played for him, in the past, including son, Brian, and brother, Kurt. He also signed three ex-Chiefs, all of whom are expected to be key players. Washington could have a combined nine new starters. But the Redskins won't have the Super Bowl hype. Not that Schottenheimer isn't thinking big. "I'm not interested in rebuilding programs," Schottenheimer said. "I see a team this year that can compete this year to win a championship."
Running backs: Stephen Davis has rushed for more than 2,700 yards combined the past two seasons, despite injuries that sidelined him for parts of both years. He's the kind of big back Schottenheimer loves to pound up the middle. But he also has the speed to get wide. Davis will play a bigger role in the passing game too. Ki-Jana Carter has played well this summer, showing some of the burst he had at Penn State. The trick for the former first pick in the 1995 draft, after three season-ending injuries, is staying healthy. Fullback Donnell Bennett, an ex-Chief, is not a receiving threat, but the coaches like his toughness. The same goes for fullback Bryan Johnson, a practice squader in 2000 who is challenging Bennett.
Receivers: Michael Westbrook, who missed 14 games with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2000, has had a typically strong camp and appears fully recovered. Despite a disappointing career to date, Westbrook remains a play-making threat. Two years ago he caught a career-high 65 passes. First-round pick Gardner should provide immediate help, thanks to his size and athleticism. Free-agent signee Kevin Lockett, another ex-Chief, is slippery and finds the open spot, a perfect quality for a third-down guy, which, if Gardner shines, Lockett will eventually be. Athletic rookie Darnerien McCants is a project with lots of untapped talent. Schottenheimer likes what he sees in his group of tight ends. Stephen Alexander is coming off a Pro Bowl year and is expected to have an even larger role in this passing attack. Walter Rasby is known as a blocker, but the coaches have been surprised by his pass-catching ability. Zeron Flemister is a young pass catcher who may see action behind Alexander.
Offensive linemen: The Redskins have bookends they can build around in second-year left tackle Chris Samuels and third-year right tackle Jon Jansen. Samuels, who dropped more than 40 pounds since his first training camp, is fundamentally sound in pass protection. He's improved his run-blocking. Jansen is a rock. Center Cory Raymer, who missed last season with a torn ACL, is being pushed by Mark Fischer, who started last year. Guard Matt Campbell has started 58 career games. Guard Ben Coleman battled a sore knee during training camp. Ex-Chief Dave Szott, who signed during camp, is a former All-Pro guard who can play either side. If Szott is healthy, the Redskins' line could be solid. Reserve guards Mookie Moore and Derrick Fletcher struggled in training camp. Campbell and Coleman also can play tackle.
Linebackers:Strong-side linebacker LaVar Arrington struggled as a rookie, playing over the tight end, which he didn't do at Penn State. This season the Redskins have backed him off the ball, hoping to tap his athleticism. He finished with four sacks in 2000 and should have more opportunities to rush the passer. Shawn Barber's speed and instincts should result in big plays on the weak side, something he didn't make many of last season. But he's played well this summer. Robert Jones and Kevin Mitchell are battling for the starting job in the middle. Jones is much more experienced, with 119 career starts to Mitchell's 12. The coaches love Mitchell's work ethic, but Jones makes more plays. Eddie Mason provides depth outside. Schottenheimer calls undrafted rookie Antonio Pierce, who plays the strong side, the "brightest young guy" he's ever been around.
Defensive backs: Champ Bailey has established himself as one of the NFL's top corners. He forced quarterbacks to attack Deion Sanders last season. Darrell Green, in his 19th season, is fighting for a starting spot. Rookie Fred Smoot has played well this summer. Veteran Donovan Greer has challenged for the starting job too. He and Smoot are more physical than Green, who remains faster than both. But Greer hasn't yet done anything to win the job. Safety could be a problem. Strong safety Sam Shade is good against the run, but not the pass. Free safety David Terrell is inexperienced and hasn't tackled well this preseason. That's why the Redskins signed former Ram safety Keith Lyle, who can take over the position if Terrell doesn't step it up. Reserve free safety Josh Symonette is a hard hitter but can't cover.
Material from Pro Football Weekly.