Redskins brimming with confidence as they confront Jets

Team's powerful effort vs. Giants has offense feeling it's unstoppable

September 26, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Remember when the Washington Redskins feared for their job security and the New York Jets appeared to be a favorite for the Super Bowl?

Funny how perspective changes in the NFL after the Redskins have showcased Arena Football-style flash and the Jets have rested their offensive hopes on journeyman quarterback Rick Mirer.

The Redskins (1-1), who endured a 21-point fourth-quarter collapse in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, have more than restored their confidence with a 50-point performance against the New York Giants a week ago.

Armed with the NFL's top-ranked offense, the Redskins probably won't be celebrating seven touchdowns this time, but they have plans for a high-scoring Meadowlands encore as they face the third-worst defense in the league in the winless Jets today at 1 p.m.

"We have so many weapons, it's unbelievable," said receiver Michael Westbrook, who claimed the Redskins could have put up 70 points against the Giants.

"What are you going to do to stop us? The only thing that can stop us is ourselves."

After two games, the Redskins have a near offensive triple crown, with the NFL's top-rated passer (Brad Johnson) and leading rusher (Stephen Davis) to go along with the conference's leading receiver (Westbrook).

Yet the success has been a product of personnel and play-calling. Against the Giants, the Redskins never duplicated a formation in their first three series. That kept New York off-balance.

The Redskins opted to throw 12 times on 19 first-down situations in the first half. That kept the Giants guessing.

And the first-unit offense scored on six of its 11 possessions. That kept their opponents behind.

"They look after the first two ballgames to be very highly efficient," Jets coach Bill Parcells said. "They seem to be able to spread the ball around, and that's something we did well last year, so I can identify with that.

"If they keep this pace up, they'll be the Minnesota Vikings of 1999."

The Redskins have scored 85 points, 16 more than record-setting Minnesota had at this point last season. It also took the Vikings until the fourth game to crack 100 points that season; the Redskins could reach that plateau today in their third.

Still, coach Norv Turner called the Jets' defense the best the Redskins will face, including preseason, though that sounds like locker-room material for his players.

The Jets, who rank 28th out of 31 teams in defense, have allowed opponents to convert on 57 percent of their third downs, which is surpassed only by Cleveland's 66 percent, and have given up an average of 147 yards rushing and 243 yards passing. Plus, New York will be without the cornerstone of its 3-4 alignment in nose tackle Jason Ferguson, as well as cornerback Otis Smith.

So expect the Redskins to attack with Davis up the middle and pick on Smith's coverage area. But if New York begins to pinch its safeties over to help the running game and its corners, the Redskins will use the speed and size of tight end Stephen Alexander on deep routes in the middle of the field.

"We put defenses in a bind," Alexander said. "They can't double-cover everybody. They have to play us honest. It's going to be exciting to see how people try to match up against us. If everybody keeps healthy and keeps making plays, it can be pretty explosive."

Maybe the Jets should take some notes from the Redskins' offense. But New York would still be stuck with journeyman quarterback Rick Mirer, who will be making his second start for the injured Vinny Testaverde.

"The Vinny thing is over with now. It's a dead issue," Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "We have Rick Mirer as our quarterback and leader. I have a lot of confidence in Rick."

It's debatable whether the Jets should put their confidence in a quarterback who hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since 1996, who has played for four teams in the past four years, who had thrown an interception in every appearance until last week and who has led only one scoring drive in the past 62 possessions, an NFL-low 1.6 percent over the last three years.

The Redskins, however, have motivated themselves with another impressive statistic: The past two Parcells-coached teams to start the season 0-2 -- the 1996 New England Patriots and the 1998 Jets -- both advanced to at least the AFC championship game.

"We have to play as if Testaverde was in there," Redskins defensive end Marco Coleman said. "The personnel doesn't make a difference. The job remains the same."

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