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Sportsline.com: Redskins report: Inside slant


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Redskins report: Inside slant Aug. 11, 2003

The problems on the Washington Redskins' defensive line don't seem to be going away anytime soon.

The line, in a much-scrutinized first test against the Carolina Panthers, failed badly by allowing former Redskin Stephen Davis to rush seven times for 74 yards in less than a quarter of work. The Redskins ultimately lost 20-0 in their preseason opener.

Davis' final two carries for 13 yards came against the Redskins' second-string, but his first five rushes were more than enough to worry coach Steve Spurrier. His second carry of the game, vintage Davis, went 34 yards after bolting through the left side of the line.

"Stephen must have averaged, what, 20 yards a carry?" Spurrier said. "He was running right through us."

Washington has three new starters on the line this season, after ranking No. 5 in total defense last year. There was skepticism about the line even as training camp started, and then it became a crucial issue when defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson was cut in the first week of camp for refusing to take a pay cut.

Despite the defensive performance, it's important to note that right defensive ends Regan Upshaw and Bruce Smith and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter all stayed home from the preseason game.

Trotter's absence, in particular, was a big. A key reason new nose tackle Brandon Noble was signed was to eat up blockers and allow Trotter to attack ball carriers coming out of the backfield; last year, Trotter often had to fight off a block from the center and then figure out where the rusher was.

Still, the line missed tackles, the linebackers were out of position and the secondary was unable to bring down a burly back like Davis.

A recurring topic in Washington is the possibility of Wilkinson re-signing, but don't bet on it. There was more to his departure than just a difference over his perceived value; there was also an undercurrent of mutual distaste between the parties.

That doesn't mean that Wilkinson won't be back. He wants to keep his family in the area and he's not attracting a lot of immediate interest in free agency. Still, it wouldn't be at all surprising if he accepted less money to play elsewhere.

More likely for Washington is some sort of trade, but those options have yet to emerge.


At Redskin Park in Ashburn, Va. Final camp practices are scheduled for Thurs., Aug. 14.

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