Lang trying to help pull 'Skins out of 0-4 hole

He's looking to follow solid game vs. Giants with another vs. Cowboys

October 12, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Leave it to Washington Redskins defensive lineman Kenard Lang to give Monday night's game between the 0-4 Redskins and the 0-4 Dallas Cowboys all the pomp and circumstance it so richly deserves.

"Right now, it's almost like we're in the gutter trying to get up to the curb," said Lang. "I guess [the game] is the Gutter Bowl. You've got two teams trying to climb out of it. We're trying to get on a winning streak. We have the same inspiration. Our backs are against the wall, and theirs is, too.

"I'm sure their coach is telling them, `We need to get this first win to get on a winning streak,' just like Marty [Schottenheimer] is telling us. We'll both go out there and play aggressively."

Off his play this season, it would be a pretty safe bet that Lang, 26, in his fifth season, will be somewhere in the mix of the action.

Lang is off to the best start of his career. He leads the team in sacks (1.5) and is second in overall tackles (32) behind middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell, as well as fourth in solo tackles (23) behind Mitchell, and safeties David Terrell (26) and Sam Shade (24).

Lang had a breakthrough game Sunday against the New York Giants, with a team-high 13 tackles, 11 solo, as well as forcing and recovered a second-quarter fumble by Giants rookie running back Damon Washington, all on a sprained ankle and twisted knee.

For a maligned defense that had given up more than 500 yards the previous week to Kansas City, Lang's performance was a shot in the arm.

"Off the field, he [Lang] is a different type of individual. He's a regular card," said Mitchell. "But on the field, he's a wild man possessed trying to make plays all over the field, and that's what we need from him."

That Lang is a card is a given. The 6-foot-4, 281-pound lineman went head-to-head with Giants fans, who heckled him while he was on the bench, getting treatment for his ailments.

"You know they [the fans] talk, saying this and that. I told them to calm down and we'd go to Starbucks after the game and get a croissant and a cappuccino and everything would be fine," said Lang. "They have too much pressure in their lives when they want to heckle players. That's what I told them."

But Lang, who was known far more for his ability to talk than for consistent play, has been Washington's most solid defender, particularly with injuries to stalwarts like linebackers LaVar Arrington and Shawn Barber and defensive ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman.

"His motor does not stop. And he's probably the strongest player on this team," said defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson. "He's smaller, but he's definitely one of the strongest. His heart and his determination are there. When you have all those components, size doesn't matter."

With Coleman (injured elbow) and Smith (dislocated shoulder) out for extended periods, including Monday night's game, Lang, a natural end who was converted to defensive tackle in training camp, has had to shift between the two posts.

The shuttling between defensive line spots has gone off with few problems.

"When I got back there [to end], I got excited. I'm back to my old spot," said Lang. "A lot of teams haven't seen me play end in a while and probably thought that I don't have it anymore. But I went out there and played and it felt like home again. Moving back and forth between end and tackle is second nature to me now."

NOTES: Center Mark Fischer will also miss Monday night's game with a knee ailment. Schottenheimer said Smith and Coleman are likely to be out at least two more weeks each. ... Though a number of free agents worked out this week, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jim Druckenmiller, Schottenheimer said he doesn't anticipate any signings or lineup changes this week.

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