Redskins feel heat from Snyder as they hit road for Giants

Jobs could be on line as Turner's team tries to avoid another flop

September 19, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins didn't really worry about Hurricane Floyd. They know a real storm front could be brewing closer to Redskin Park.

If they fail to produce a solid effort today at the Meadowlands against the New York Giants (1 p.m.), the Redskins would fall to 0-2 for just the sixth time in the past three decades. And only one team, the 1984 club, rebounded to make the playoffs.

So if new owner Daniel Snyder maintains the same demanding attitude as in the preseason, the players and coaching staff acknowledge that there may be no haven from some club-altering moves.

"I don't think about it, but I know a lot of players fear [being released]," kick returner Brian Mitchell, who is in his 10th season with the Redskins, said on his weekly radio show.

"When you're not performing, he sends messages. That's the way Mr. Snyder has been successful in his business, and that's the way he said he's going to run the team."

Snyder visited Redskin Park last week and dismissed the possibility of making any major changes after the 41-35 overtime loss to Dallas, saying, "Hey, it's just one game." He even delivered a pep talk to the team.

But don't be fooled. After offensive tackle Joe Patton missed a blocking assignment that led to Brad Johnson being sacked in the preseason, Snyder called for Patton's release.

That's why one Redskins official said that the attitude of the team is still positive, but in a fragile state after its 21-point, fourth-quarter lead crumbled against the Cowboys.

"Everyone wants to jump to judgment off of one performance," said Redskins coach Norv Turner, who became just the 10th coach in NFL history and the first since expansion Seattle's Jack Patera 17 years ago to survive into a sixth year on the job without having led his team into the playoffs.

"We've worked as hard in training camp as any team I've been involved with," Turner said. "These guys have paid a heck of a price to say one game is going to change that."

Against Dallas, the Redskins proved they can throw for an NFL-leading 382 yards against two backup cornerbacks. Washington proved it can score 32 straight points in a game and still find ways to lose.

And the Redskins also proved that they still can't stop the run, giving up 186 yards rushing.

The Giants (1-0), however, could be the best medicine for the ailing Redskins defense. New York ran for 27 yards on 24 carries in a 17-13 win over Tampa Bay last week, recorded just four first downs and didn't come close to scoring an offensive touchdown.

"If I look at this as an opportunity to get on course because you're facing a team that struggled, that's not showing your opponent much respect," Redskins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "We need to show them as much respect as they deserve."

Meanwhile, against an attacking and opportunistic Giants defense, the Redskins' offense will try to repeat its big-play performance in last week's season opener. New York returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns against the Bucs.

The largest obstacle to the Redskins' game plan appears to be Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. Considered one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, Strahan has totaled 29 sacks over the past two seasons, ranking him second in the league.

Now take a look at the scary part: the Redskins will line up rookie right tackle Jon Jansen against Strahan.

"It's riskier for me," said Strahan, who is two inches shorter and 27 pounds lighter than Jansen. "If I don't play well against a rookie, then they're going to start to say that maybe I'm not as good a player as they thought."

To help the rookie from the University of Michigan, the Redskins will probably double Strahan and thereby limit the number of three-wide-receiver sets.

If pressure becomes a problem, the Redskins could opt to rely on their short passing game, hitting wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell on quick slants or sure-handed fullback Larry Centers out of the backfield, which would allow Johnson to get rid of the ball on a three-step drop-back.

"It's a real challenge," Turner said about Strahan. "Matchups are a big part of playing in this league. You have to handle the tough matchups. Jon has to handle it and we've got to help him."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.