Skins tackle mystery of run-and-shoot

November 01, 1990|By Jack Mann | Jack Mann,Evening Sun Staff

HERNDON, Va. -- When all the viewing-with-alarm is done, the 4-3 Washington Redskins haven't lost to anybody who has lost to anybody.

If in fact the Redskins have been spooked -- or spooked themselves -- into the belief that they do not win "big" games, their fans may take comfort in the fact that the fun part of the season is at hand.

There are no "big" games for the next four weeks. The Lions, Eagles, Saints and Cowboys have lost 18 of their 29 games. None of them has beaten a team over .500.

This week's menace, lurking in the Detroit suburbs, is the dreaded Run-and-Shoot offense.

It has run and shot the Lions to only three victories in seven games. In their most recent, against the 2-5 Saints, they needed eight turnovers to prevail, 27-10.

But at Redskin Park yesterday the Lions and their Silver Stretch (in the Silverdome, get it?) formations were being viewed with alarm.

First, the run-and-shoot has no tight ends, a concept completely alien to Joe Gibbs, the old tight end whose offense travels on its tight ends.

"They don't even have any on the roster," reported Redskins defensive tackle Tim Johnson, who faced the Silver Stretch as a Steeler last year. Pittsburgh must have stopped the Lions in a 23-3 victory, but Johnson doesn't think he learned much.

Second, nobody really understands the run-and-shoot. Not even people who have lived with it. "I played two years with it," said the Skins' other defensive tackle, former Lion Eric Williams, "and I still don't understand it.

"I enjoyed practicing against it," Williams said. "But I don't think it'll be much fun playing against it."

With no tight ends and one running back, the Silver Stretch has four wide receivers running around at all times.

And quarterback Rodney Peete runs around, too. He has scooted for a 9.1-yard average and two touchdowns on 23 carries so far. "You have to chase him," Johnson said. "The linebackers have to watch [Barry] Sanders for screens. With no tight end, the only clue you get is from your own guy in front of you. They can trap you, draw you . . . It's an offense that puts pressure on you."

And the extra dimension, Williams said, is the singular talent of running back Sanders, a Pro Bowler by acclaim as a rookie last year.

"I've played against some great ones," said Williams, who started 71 games for Detroit in the past five seasons. "Maybe some of them were faster than Barry. But I never saw anybody who could juke [fake out] five or six guys on one play.

"He must be the most dangerous I've seen. I wonder how anybody would stop him in a normal offense, if he had a fullback blocking for him."

Darrell "Mouse" Davis, the offensive coordinator, has carried his run-and-shoot idea like a traveling tinker, from high school through colleges and into three professional leagues, over 28 years. He would not be amused at the suggestion that his vehicle is abnormal.

"Run-and-shoot," Davis has said, "connotes backyard football. It is a much more disciplined offense, and it is becoming more acceptable.

"But it is not an offense for everybody," Davis said.

The Redskins' only experience against run-and-shoot, Gibbs said, was in the Astrodome two years ago. "They gave us a mix of that and regular stuff," Gibbs said. And they won, 41-7, sending the Skins skidding toward a 7-9 season.

* Williams, subbed for Tracy Rocker early in the game against the Giants, has won a start. He had eight tackles and six assists.

Rocker's toppling offside after Ralf Mojsiejenko had pooch-punted the Giants back to their 3-yard line was not the sole reason for his displacement, defensive line coach Vern Torgeson said.

"I told him that, and I told him not to get down," Torgeson said. "The other man is more experienced and he played a fine game."

Williams last night taped a segment of his "Gridiron Gourmet" show, to be shown on "Redskin Highlights" (Ch. 9) Saturday night.

"I'm cooking my specialty, linguine with clam sauce," Williams said. "It's my only specialty."

* "The 'Redskin Review' wants your autograph," public relations secretary Phyllis Hayes told Kelvin Bryant.

"What for?" Bryant inquired, and laughed.

The fan publication superimposes autographs on its cover photos, and this is Bryant's week. Last week wasn't.

The "third-down back" played only momentarily against the Giants, never touching the ball. None of the Redskins' 35 passes went Bryant's way and he took no handoffs.

Gibbs calls Bryant "the best [receiver] coming out of the backfield I've ever seen." Running backs coach Don Breaux says Bryant is a "great" pass blocker. But in the five games since Stan Humphries became quarterback, Bryant has been virtually unemployed.

"I'm not laughing," secretary Hayes said as she handed Kelvin the sheet to autograph.

"I am," he said, and he was.

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