The Redskins are the only team in the NFC East coming off
back-to-back winning seasons. They're also one of only two
division clubs (Arizona is the other) not to have tasted the
playoffs in that span. They've been a yes, but team--yes we can
win, but we can't go that extra step. Now, in Norv Turner's
fifth year as coach, the Skins are excited about their prospects
for making the playoffs. Before we send them off to the Super
Bowl, however, there are a few other yes, but's to consider.
Yes, Gus Frerotte was in the Pro Bowl two years ago, and he's
got the gun and the savvy to take the Redskins to the next
level. But he had an off year in '97--off in his concentration,
his decision making, all the things you'd think would be on the
rise for a young quarterback.
Yes, wideout Michael Westbrook is a terrific talent, big,
speedy, able to make the circus catch on occasion, but he has
yet to put together a consistent year. He's been hurt in each of
his three seasons. He's had lapses in concentration. There have
been periods in which you wouldn't even know he was on the field.
Yes, newly acquired former Bengals defensive tackle Dan (Big
Daddy) Wilkinson, at 313 pounds with 4.85 speed and only 25
years old, is the kind of specimen you could build a defense
around, and, yes, paired with another import, 315-pound former
49ers All-Pro Dana Stubblefield, could give the Skins their most
formidable inside pair since Dave Butz and Diron Talbert in the
'70s. But Big Daddy arrives with some heavy baggage, his former
Bengals coaches having mentioned privately, and sometimes not so
privately, that he lacked inner fire.
The yes, but's were put to Turner one steamy day in training
camp, and they obviously came as no revelation to him. "I could
give you three or four more," he said. "Yes, Tre Johnson, our
left guard, can be one of the most dominating linemen in the
league, but he has yet to put it together for a whole year, and
he's had three shoulder operations. Yes, Jamie Asher, our tight
end, caught 49 balls last year, but he hasn't been consistent.
Yes, we were counting on Terry Allen to carry our running game,
but he was hurt--and he's 30 years old. Had enough?
"There's one thing about all these yes, but's. They come down to
consistency. If every player steps up and plays at a consistent
level, nothing's impossible. The talent is certainly here."
The players talk about last year, when they talk about it at all,
as if they'd gone 4-12 instead of 8-7-1. Most of them sound as if
they'd rehearsed the same script: The 1997 season is history.
Let's move on.
"People have accused me of not being hungry last year, that for
the first time I had no competition at the position," Frerotte
says. "Well, does Steve Young or Dan Marino have competition?
Your competition is yourself. Last year I tried to be
mistake-free, and you can't play the game like that. This year
I'll be more wide-open, like the old days."
There's nothing really wrong with Turner's offense, which has
always been known for innovation. The new face is second-round
draft choice Stephen Alexander, a breathtakingly fast tight end
from Oklahoma, who will back up Asher and add more zip to the
attack. The big question is a defense that couldn't stop the run
"We probably spent more time looking at film on Wilkinson than we
did on any player since I've been here," general manager Charley
Casserly says. "Earl Leggett, our defensive line coach; Mike
Nolan, the coordinator; myself; and three pro scouts--we watched
tape after tape. No, he wasn't without faults, and yes, we all
felt he could make us better."
Wilkinson agrees. "Number 1, [at Cincinnati] I played end in a
3-4, zone blitz defense where very few people knew what they
were doing," Big Daddy said on July 27, just before his first
full workout in pads with the Skins. "I was slanting and
stunting and taking hits from guys just waiting for me. Now I'm
back home in my right position. Plus, I've never had anyone as
talented as Dana lining up next to me." Then he went out that
day and wreaked havoc, not only with his power rush but also
"What did I see today?" Leggett said after the show Wilkinson put
on. "I saw a very quick first move."
"It shocked me," Nolan said. "What I saw was something I didn't
see in all the tape I studied on him. And I saw it four or five
Nolan was smiling as he said it. If this 628-pound
Wilkinson-Stubblefield transfusion works out the way the
Redskins are hoping, a lot of people around Washington will be
smiling. That's the key. You can build from there. --P.Z.
COLOR PHOTO: DOUG PENSINGER/ALLSPORT THERE'S A CATCH The talented Westbrook has proved to be a real grabber--when he and his head are actually in the game. [Michael Westbrook in game]
B/W PHOTO: SCOTT GOLDSMITH Owens [Rich Owens]
Sept. 6 at N.Y. Giants
14 SAN FRANCISCO (Mon.)
20 at Seattle
Oct. 4 DALLAS
11 at Philadelphia
18 at Minnesota
25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 N.Y. GIANTS
8 at Arizona
29 at Oakland
Dec. 6 SAN DIEGO
13 at Carolina
19 TAMPA BAY (Sat.)
27 at Dallas
1997 Record 8-7-1 (second in NFC East) NFL rank
(rush/pass/total): offense 21/11/16; defense 28/3/16
1998 Schedule strength NFL rank: 25 (tie) Opponents' 1997
winning percentage: .473 Games against playoff teams: 6
Green at a Ripe Old Age
If he starts in the Redskins' Week 1 game against the Giants,
Darrell Green will become the oldest defensive back to start an
NFL regular-season opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. On
Sept. 6, Green will be 38 days older than Hall of Fame
cornerback Jimmy Johnson, who started the 1976 opener for the
49ers when he was 38 years and 166 days old. (Johnson, Willie
Brown and Paul Krause are all Hall of Famers.)
Defensive back, Age
pos., team (years, days) Date of opener Notable accomplishments
CB, 49ers 38, 166 Sept. 12, 1976 Played in five
Pro Bowls; 47 career
CB, Raiders 37, 275 Sept. 3, 1978 54 career interceptions;
75-yard TD in Super
CB, Redskins 37, 198 Aug. 31, 1997 In '97 became oldest
player to return
pickoff for TD
FS, Vikings 37, 195 Sept. 2, 1979 NFL career leader in
interceptions, with 81
Defensive end Rich Owens should be salivating at the prospect of
being joined by tackles Dan Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield.
Playing alongside underachievers William Gaines and Chris Mims
last year (both since departed), Owens had 2 1/2 sacks and
seemed to lose the enthusiasm that had earned him the nickname
"Richie Redskin." Lined up beside the accomplished Sean Gilbert
in '96, Owens had 11 sacks.... Run-stuffing outside linebacker
Derek Smith was the first Redskins rookie to start every game
since Andre Collins in '90.... Albert Connell, a fourth-rounder
last year, had eight catches for 124 yards and two TDs in the
final three games of '97. He should get the job of third
receiver vacated by Henry Ellard.... Despite a pulled quadriceps
that limited his practice time, punter Matt Turk finished second
in the NFC with a 45.1-yard average. He was the Skins' first
back-to-back Pro Bowl special teamer since Mike Nelms in '82....
All of Norv Turner's 29 draft picks from 1994 to '97 made the
roster as rookies.
Projected Lineup With 1997 statistics
Coach: Norv Turner
Fifth season with Redskins (26-37-1 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Gus Frerotte 110[PVR*] 402 att. 204 comp. 50.7%
2,682 yds. 17 TDs 12 int. 73.8 rtg.
RB Terry Allen 22[PVR*] 210 att. 724 yds. 3.4 avg.
20 rec. 172 yds. 8.6 avg. 5 TDs
FB Larry Bowie 284[PVR*] 28 att. 100 yds. 3.6 avg.
34 rec. 388 yds. 11.4 avg. 4 TDs
RB Stephen Davis 213[PVR*] 141 att. 567 yds. 4.0
avg. 18 rec. 134 yds. 7.4 avg. 3 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Michael Westbrook 101[PVR*] 34 rec. 559 yds. 3 TDs
WR Leslie Shepherd 135[PVR*] 29 rec. 562 yds. 5 TDs
WR Albert Connell 278[PVR*] 9 rec. 138 yds. 2 TDs
TE Jamie Asher 160[PVR*] 49 rec. 474 yds. 1 TD
K Scott Blanton 209[PVR*] 34/34 XPs 16/24 FGs 82 pts.
PR Brian Mitchell 182[PVR*] 38 ret. 11.6 avg. 1 TD
KR Brian Mitchell 182[PVR*] 47 ret. 23.3 avg. 1 TD
LT Brad Badger 6'4" 298 lbs. 12 games 2 starts
LG Tre Johnson 6'2" 326 lbs. 11 games 10 starts
C Cory Raymer 6'2" 289 lbs. 6 games 3 starts
RG Joe Patton 6'5" 306 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Shar Pourdanesh 6'6" 312 lbs. 16 games 14 starts
LE Kenard Lang 35 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
LT Dan Wilkinson[N] 34 tackles 5 sacks
RT Dana Stubblefield[N] 61 tackles 15 sacks
RE Rich Owens 40 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
OLB Ken Harvey 71 tackles 9 1/2 sacks
MLB Marvcus Patton 135 tackles 4 1/2 sacks
OLB Derek Smith 87 tackles 2 sacks
CB Cris Dishman 64 tackles 4 int.
SS Jesse Campbell 103 tackles 1 int.
FS Stanley Richard 126 tackles 4 int.
CB Darrell Green 54 tackles 1 int.
P Matt Turk 84 punts 45.1 avg.
[N]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 88)