Arrington waits for word on shadowing McNabb

Redskins linebacker again in dark on plan for Eagles

NFL Week 5

October 05, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

LaVar Arrington knows the question is coming. The linebacker has been hearing it ever since he became a member of the Redskins in 2000.

Will he shadow Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb?

"That's like the topic of conversation every time we play the Eagles," Arrington said.

" `LaVar, are you spying McNabb?' I don't even really know if I'm spying McNabb, to be honest with you. We didn't even work on anything where LaVar is lined up over top of Donovan McNabb."

The topic may be tiresome to Arrington and the Redskins - who will travel to Philadelphia for today's 4:15 p.m. game against their NFC East Division rivals - but it's an issue that will be valid as long as the Eagles are led by one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL.

McNabb, who entered the league just one year ahead of Arrington, has compiled more than 10,000 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards and directed Philadelphia to two consecutive NFC championship games in just his fifth season.

Although a broken ankle forced him to miss six games last year, he was named to his third straight Pro Bowl.

McNabb has been so good, he has even caught Washington coach Steve Spurrier's attention.

"He's one of the best in the league," said Spurrier, who usually leaves questions regarding opposing offenses to Redskins defensive coordinator George Edwards.

"Obviously, Donovan's the key to their offense, and we've got to contain him if we're going to have a chance to beat them."

Mobile quarterbacks like McNabb victimized Washington last season. In games against McNabb, the 49ers' Jeff Garcia, the Titans' Steve McNair, the Saints' Aaron Brooks and the Jaguars' Mark Brunell, the Redskins went 1-4, with their only win against Tennessee.

"Containment" is the hot topic when Washington meets the Eagles, but how do you contain a 6-foot-2, 240-pound quarterback who is just as proficient at running with the ball as he is throwing it?

McNabb's ability to run has hurt the Redskins the most. Washington has defeated McNabb and the Eagles in four of the teams' seven meetings, but Philadelphia won both games in which McNabb rushed for a touchdown.

That's why some Washington defensive players say the key will be keeping McNabb - who is Philadelphia's leading rusher with 156 yards on 19 carries - in the pocket.

"If he sees a crease, he's going to go," said defensive tackle Jermaine Haley. "The challenge is we've got to be in our lanes and be consistent. We've got to try to make him beat us more by throwing it than running with it."

That would seem to make sense because McNabb has the third-worst quarterback rating (51.1) in the NFL, completing 49.5 percent (55 of 111) of his passes, getting sacked 13 times and throwing three interceptions.

But Redskins middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter is wary of his former teammate. Trotter, who played with McNabb for three seasons, said the quarterback prefers to throw the ball rather than run with it.

"For Donovan, running is always a second option," Trotter said. "He's looking to get the ball to the open guy. If there's no one open and the opportunity presents itself, then he's trying to run."

This will be the Redskins' first game this season against a mobile quarterback. McNabb said he usually studies film of an opposing defense's work against the likes of McNair or the Minnesota Vikings' Daunte Culpepper.

But with no framework to analyze, McNabb may find more questions than answers.

"They've had times where LaVar has somewhat been my spy, and they've had times where they just played their defense," McNabb said. "You get a mixed bag of tricks."

THREE KEYS FOR REDSKINS

1. Exploit the secondary.

The Eagles boast the top-ranked run defense in the league, but their pass defense is a woeful 31st, surrendering 257.3 yards a game. Facing a secondary that could start three second-year players in place of Pro Bowl starters Bobby Taylor (foot), Troy Vincent (hamstring) and free safety Brian Dawkins (foot), Washington's No. 7 passing attack should find plenty of room for the kind of vertical passing that coach Steve Spurrier relishes.

2. Wide receivers vs. secondary.

Philadelphia's receiving corps of Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell and Billy McMullen doesn't exactly strike fear in opposing defenses, but the foursome could pose problems for a Redskins secondary that is hobbling. Cornerback Champ Bailey is playing despite a chip fracture in his left wrist and a sprained left shoulder. Rashad Bauman strained his hamstring, and rookie Ade Jimoh has been the victim of two long passes for touchdowns.

3. Force turnovers.

The Eagles didn't turn over the ball once last week in their victory over Buffalo, but they still are error-prone, having committed eight turnovers in their first two games. Washington's No. 15 defense, which forced four turnovers in a win over the New England Patriots, needs to maintain the pressure and give the offense favorable field position.

Redskins Today

Matchup:Washington Redskins (3-1) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

Site:Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Time:4:15 p.m.

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

Line:Eagles by 5 1/2

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