Riding similar path, 'Skins look to take right turn vs. Titans

With Wuerffel at QB, team seeking to halt two-game losing streak

October 06, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - The Tennessee Titans may just be the tonic that the Washington Redskins need.

Seeking to end a two-game losing streak, the Redskins encounter a Tennessee team that is mired in a three-game skid of its own and also spinning its wheels in the mud.

"I think we're catching them at as good a time as any for us," said newly crowned No. 2 wide receiver Kevin Lockett. "Neither one of us has won in the last two or three weeks. Somebody's got to win. The way we see it, it might as well be us."

When the two teams stand on opposite sidelines at the Coliseum at 1 p.m. today, they may be startled at the mirror image they see.

The Titans (1-3) have dropped three consecutive games since a 17-point comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener. Washington (1-2) hasn't won since defeating the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener.

Tennessee's defense is ranked 26th in the NFL as opponents are averaging 356.3 yards of total offense and 32 points a game. Opposing offenses are racking up 358.0 yards and 26.7 points against the Redskins' 27th-ranked defense.

The primary tailbacks on both teams have become forgotten commodities. Eddie George is averaging just 2.7 yards a carry for the Titans, whose 72-yard average ranks 30th in the NFL. Stephen Davis' 4.2 yards a rush helps Washington's 20th-ranked rushing offense 89.3 yards a game), but an emphasis on the passing game has left him behind the scenes.

With weapons like George, quarterback Steve McNair and wide receiver Derrick Mason on offense, Tennessee was regarded as a dark-horse candidate to reach the Super Bowl.

But Mason is out with a separated shoulder, defensive end Jevon Kearse is still recovering from a broken foot and now cornerback Samari Rolle is questionable with a strained right hamstring suffered in last Sunday's 52-25 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

"I did not see this coming," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said last week. "But we have to put it behind us, and we have to go on. We're having some difficulty right now winning ballgames, scoring points and slowing people down."

The turmoil isn't limited to the Titans. Redskins coach Steve Spurrier completed two weeks of his version of musical chairs by selecting Danny Wuerffel as today's starter.

Wuerffel hasn't started since the 1998 season with the New Orleans Saints, but he is desperate to improve on his 71-yard, two-interception, five-sack efforts in two relief appearances of current No. 3 quarterback Shane Matthews.

"Whenever you have a coach that gives you opportunities, it's what all players are looking for," Wuerffel said. "So I'm excited. We'll see what happens."

If Washington still believes it can challenge for a playoff spot, the Titans may be the right opponent to start a new streak against. The Redskins' next three opponents - the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts - are a combined 8-3.

Many Washington players have said that the bye week gave them time to retune their schemes and discover their comfort level within the various systems.

Linebacker LaVar Arrington said the concentration and effort was evident during the two weeks of practice.

"You can see the sense of urgency within the players," he said. "I think the next few teams are catching us at the wrong time because this team is really focused on getting better."

Redskins today

Opponent:Tennessee Titans

Time:1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line:Titans by 5

THREE KEYS TO GAME

1. Establish the run

Stephen Davis has been underused in Steve Spurrier's pass-happy offense. Although Tennessee is allowing opponents to gain just 82.3 yards a game on the ground, Davis' powerful running style will help take pressure off quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

2. Stop Eddie George

George is not the same dynamic runner he used to be, but he is still a threat. If Washington can thwart George, Steve McNair would be forced to pass to an unspectacular wide receiver corps that could struggle without Derrick Mason.

3. Quiet the crowd

Both Bruce Smith and Renaldo Wynn say they believe the Coliseum is the loudest stadium in the NFL. Keeping the fans quiet would go a long way in helping Wuerffel get acclimated to playing under center.

- Edward Lee

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