No shortage of targets for Redskins' Shepherd WR ranges far, wide in sharing unhappiness

September 27, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Leslie Shepherd has long been known for his angry outbursts in the Washington Redskins' locker room but his mini-tirade last week at Redskin Park will go down as one of his better performances.

The fifth-year wide receiver started out questioning coach Norv Turner's failure to get the ball to him more this season (11 catches in three games) and wound up criticizing the Denver Broncos' tackling ability, the play of Broncos starting right cornerback Darrien Gordon and the performance last week of Seattle Seahawks starting left cornerback Shawn Springs.

In the middle of all that anger were a few swipes at the way the 0-3 Redskins are playing as they prepare for a 1 p.m. meeting today with the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

"If we don't play much better this week, there will be more fans cheering for Denver in the second half than us," said Shepherd. "If we continue to play like this, we're going to keep on losing."

Shepherd says Washington's chances of winning would be improved if quarterback Trent Green would look his way more often.

"I'm open every week and I'm not getting the ball," said Shepherd. "It's frustrating. I haven't faced a great cornerback yet. Shawn Springs couldn't cover me and this week I'll be going against No. 21 [Gordon]. He's really more of a punt returner. We can do some things on him, but if we don't it won't matter."

When Shepherd was asked if he had talked to Turner about how open he's been, the veteran from Forestville, Md., said: "I'm not talking to Norv about anything. He's the coach and should see it. It's self-explanatory."

Shepherd did say he talked to receivers coach Terry Robiskie this week.

"Terry and I are close friends and he felt he owed me an explanation as to why I didn't get the ball more," said Shepherd. "He knows we sat there last week before the Seattle game and talked about how we would use a certain pass play three or four times. That it would work. Then it doesn't happen and Terry feels he should tell me why."

Next on the Shepherd chopping block was the Denver defense.

"They're not a tackling team," he said. "Their offense carries them. We shouldn't go into that game feeling sorry for ourselves or fearing them. They get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and tie their shoes like everybody else."

It seems that Michael Westbrook has emerged as new starter Green's favorite target.

Westbrook caught seven passes for a career-high 132 yards and two touchdowns last week in the 24-14 loss to Seattle. Shepherd had five catches for 69 yards after having just six receptions in his first two games.

Shepherd said he was so mad last Sunday that "I just walked off the field at the end of the game and didn't say anything to anybody."

Turner said last week he realized Shepherd was "open by 4-5 steps" on one play in the Seattle game, but "Trent just read to the other receiver. That happens a lot."

Shepherd's unhappiness is just one of many problems that continue to swirl around the winless Skins.

They are now on a pace to have 12 kickers this season after signing Cary Blanchard, who will be their third kicker in four games.

Denver (3-0) at Washington (0-3)

Time: 1: 01 p.m., chs. 13, 9.

Line: Broncos by 7.

Vs. spread: Broncos 2-1; Redskins 0-3.

Outlook: Can the Broncos keep winning if QB John Elway can't go because of his hamstring injury? Sure. In coach Mike Shanahan's offensive system, backup Bubby Brister will have more than enough weapons to move the ball against Washington. The Redskins likely will be little more than a speed bump to a team that might have a real chance of repeating as Super Bowl champion, unless Washington can force a lot of turnovers and cut down on its own. If an early Broncos lead forces the Redskins to abandon the run, forget about it. At 0-4, would Norv Turner's days as Redskins coach be numbered?

Notable: Broncos are 19-3 when RB Terrell Davis rushes for 100 )) or more yards.

Injuries:

BRONCOS: Questionable: WR Justin Armour (knee); G David Diaz-Infante (knee); QB John Elway (hamstring); DE Ernest Jones (knee). Probable: LB John Mobley (Hamstring); DT Keith Traylor (ankle).

REDSKINS: Out: S Jesse Campbell (knee); QB Jeff Hostetler (knee-injured reserve); G Joe Patton (knee); LB Twan Russell (foot-injured reserve). Questionable: S Stanley Richard (hamstring). Probable: RB Larry Bowie (knee); WR James Thrash (groin).

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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