Keeping Strahan in check falls to Redskins' Jansen

Giants defensive end leads NFL in sacks

NFL Week 7

October 28, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - These days, if you want to get under Michael Strahan's skin, just insinuate that the New York Giants' defensive end is feuding with tackles, or worse yet, show him a computer screen saver with a mock aquarium on it.

Strahan, a three-time Pro Bowl player with more sacks (10.5) in six games this season than he had all of last season (9.5), was led into a room to chat by phone with media covering today's Giants game with the Washington Redskins, and placed near a desk with a computer with the offending animated fish.

It wasn't a good idea.

"Some guy's computer has these fish swimming on it. It's driving me nuts," Strahan said last week.

Strahan, the NFL leader in sacks, has made his way to opposing quarterbacks as if they're carrying laptops with phony guppies on them. And it will be Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen's job to head him off today at FedEx Field.

"He's one of the best defensive ends in the league. If I'm going to accomplish what I want, I have to play him well," Jansen said. "He's on that roll, and right now I don't think there's anybody better than he is. He's got a combination of speed and strength, and he plays the game smart. He knows where his help is, he knows what to do and he's a good player."

Though the Redskins' offensive line, save for Jansen and left tackle Chris Samuels, has been through some upheaval this season, the unit has allowed only 14 sacks, 13th worst in the league, but two places better than the Giants.

Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer indicated that Jansen will have some assistance, both in manpower and in theory, dealing with Strahan, who got a half-sack in the Giants' 23-9 win over Washington three weeks ago at Giants Stadium.

"You've got to try to get your situations and opportunities where you've got somebody who will work in the protection part of it. I don't necessarily mean banging into the guy. I think you're better off letting the pass protector pass protect," Schottenheimer said. "But things like play-action, which tends to slow the rush down a little bit, or taking your protection and turning it toward the guy."

Keeping Strahan at bay is critical to the Washington offense, which showed its first signs of life in the fourth quarter and overtime of last Sunday's 17-14 win over Carolina. Quarterback Tony Banks threw for 346 yards, and rookie receiver Rod Gardner made six catches for 208 yards and a touchdown, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

"They're playing the same way they did when we played them, except for now, they're making those plays. Those balls that were sometimes overthrown are now dropping into receivers' hands," Strahan said. "It took Tony some time to get comfortable at quarterback. For us, this is even a bigger challenge than the first time we played them, because maybe they are playing with more confidence now, especially since they won last week."

Defensively, the Redskins expect to get a big boost to their flagging pass rush (six team sacks, tied for last) with the return of defensive ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman from injuries.

Coleman has missed the past four games with a dislocated elbow, and Smith left the Giants game on the first defensive play with a dislocated shoulder. Both made it through the week unscathed and should provide punch to a unit that has rapidly improved.

"People always say, `You don't know how important a limb is until you don't have it and haven't used it in a while,' " said linebacker LaVar Arrington. "Well, you really don't understand how important Bruce and Marco are until they're not in there. I think it will be a great thing to have them back in the lineup at the same time."

Rookie cornerback Fred Smoot (leg) might miss a second straight game, with the start going to Darrell Green. Tight end Stephen Alexander (high-ankle sprain) is expected to miss today's game.

The other big change for Washington is the addition of kick returner Eric Metcalf, to bolster the punt return unit, which is averaging less than 3 yards per return. Metcalf, a three-time All-Pro, has run nine punts back for touchdown, a league record, and is ninth on the all-time league list for combined yardage, with 16,727 yards.

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