'Skins out to pass a test against run

Seahawks' Alexander provides challenge

Pro Football

September 30, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn issued the challenge loud and clear.

Asked about the defense's success at limiting opposing running backs to fewer than 100 rushing yards, Wynn replied, "This is our field and our home, and we'll be doggoned if we let anybody come in here on our home turf and run 100 yards. We pride ourselves especially in this area against the run, and every guy takes it upon himself to make sure that doesn't happen."

That assertion will be severely tested Sunday when Washington (2-0) receives a visit from running back Shaun Alexander and the Seattle Seahawks (2-1).

Alexander said he is up to the task.

"I was always the kid that loved taking tests because I wanted to see how smart I was, to see if I had the goods," he said Wednesday during a conference call. "And that's how this team is offensively. We love playing against good teams to see how good we are. They are good. They're really good. It's going to be exciting to see how good we are."

Sunday's contest seemingly embodies the classic tug-of-war between the immovable object (the Redskins' defense) and the unstoppable force (Alexander).

Washington is surrendering just 65.5 rushing yards a game, second in the league behind Tampa Bay's 51.7 yards.

Since Gregg Williams became the assistant head coach in charge of defense before last season, only three running backs have reached the 100-yard mark, with two (the Ravens' Jamal Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals' Rudi Johnson) doing so at FedEx Field.

"They run a lot of stuff over there," said Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. "Gregg's very creative in his defensive schemes. ... It's a good scheme, they're well-coached, and I think they're pretty strong guys. It's just hard to run on them."

Seattle's No. 2 ranking on offense has a lot to do with Alexander, the 19th overall pick in the 2000 draft who has gained more yards and scored more touchdowns than any of the other four running backs selected that year in the first round (Lewis at No. 5; Thomas Jones by Arizona at No. 7; Ron Dayne by the New York Giants at No. 11, and Trung Canidate by St. Louis at No. 31).

The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Alexander is second in the NFL in rushing yards (357) and second in rushing touchdowns (five). His 368 yards from scrimmage ranks fifth in the league and accounts for 30.7 percent of the Seahawks' offensive production.

Alexander has enjoyed mild success against Washington. In three meetings, Alexander has rushed for a combined 221 yards, scored two touchdowns, and caught 12 passes for 90 yards.

Redskins All-Pro linebacker Marcus Washington said Alexander's running style reminds him of the Indianapolis Colts' Edgerrin James.

"He's really good at waiting on those holes to open up," Washington said of Alexander. "A lot of times, if it's not there, he will bounce it outside. He can hurt you both ways."

Cornerback Shawn Springs knows Alexander well after spending seven years in Seattle before signing with the Redskins before last season.

"You can't let him get started," Springs said. "Shaun is the type of guy where you might get him a couple of times for a negative run and then he will bust one."

That explosiveness concerns Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who compared Alexander to nitroglycerin.

"There's always a chance he's going to go off on you," Blache said. "You try and minimize his impact because you're not going to stop a great back like that. You try and minimize the big plays that change field position. You try and keep him out of the end zone. You'd like to sit there and say you can shut him down, but that doesn't happen in this business."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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