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WP: Giants' Brash Tight End Is Defensive Target


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Giants' Brash Tight End Is Defensive Target

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 18, 2003; Page D1


It didn't take long yesterday for LaVar Arrington to tire of questions about Jeremy Shockey. In fact, the first query from reporters about the New York Giants' precocious but irritating tight end drew a good-natured yet firm rebuke from the Washington Redskins' fearsome linebacker.

"To be quite honest with you, we're worried about the Giants, not Jeremy Shockey," Arrington said. "I mean, a lot has been made to do about the guy, but I'm not buying into it. That's pretty much all I have to say. So if anybody wants to ask me about Jeremy Shockey, that's your answer because I don't really have anything else to say about individuals. We're playing the Giants, not Jeremy Shockey."

When an attempt at a follow-up question was made, Arrington held his ground and concluded: "Let's see what Jeremy Shockey does on Sunday."

The Redskins saw plenty of Shockey last season, when the then-rookie had 16 catches against them in two Giants' wins, including 11 in the teams' first meeting. That led Arrington to ask the Redskins' defensive coaches to assign him to cover Shockey in the clubs' December rematch. The Redskins, with Arrington splitting the coverage duties with others, limited the brash rookie to five receptions in that game.

The teams meet for the first time this season on Sunday at FedEx Field, with the Redskins (2-0) having a chance to craft an early-season cushion over the Giants (1-1) and the rest of the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys are 1-1 after beating the Giants in dramatic fashion Monday night, and the Philadelphia Eagles are off to an 0-2 start.

"We know they're going to be hyper because they lost," Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot said of the Giants. "They lost a division game, and losing two division games back to back would really hurt them. We're going to try to hurt them."

Said safety Ifeanyi Ohalete: "They're going to come back and try to put it on us, but we'll be ready for them."

Shockey also is seeking redemption. After making a derogatory remark about new Cowboys coach Bill Parcells in a magazine article, Shockey failed -- for one of the few times in his brief NFL tenure -- to back up his bluster Monday. He had only two catches, including a one-yard touchdown. But he also dropped two throws by quarterback Kerry Collins, including a sure touchdown, and fell on a deep pass that was intercepted.

Those failures made for big news in New York, but even the Giants acknowledge that Shockey has no one to blame but himself. Coach Jim Fassel said yesterday that his concerns about the on-the-field burden that Shockey was creating for himself with his off-the-field antics are what led him to appoint himself the young star's public-relations consultant.

"I think it adds up for anybody," Fassel said in a conference call with Washington-area reporters. "That's why I grabbed control of it at that time. I think there were some mistakes made in terms of allowing him to do certain interviews, and I think he was very naïve as far as thinking he's talking to a buddy and it's not going to be printed. . . . Obviously I wasn't in agreement with some of the guidance he was getting, so that's why I grabbed it. He and his mother agreed that he wasn't doing any of that kind of thing unless I approve of it, and he's been very good about it. It's probably been a distraction, but I think we're over the hump and we've got control of it."

Arrington, outside linebacker Jessie Armstead, Ohalete and fellow safety Matt Bowen likely will split the duty of covering Shockey on Sunday, depending on where Shockey lines up in the Giants' formation and the Redskins' defensive call on that particular play.

"It comes down to competition, really," Bowen said. "He's a good player. Our guys are going to be fired up to play against him. Any time you get to play against a talented player like that, it gets you a little bit more excited."

First-year defensive coordinator George Edwards said the Redskins struggled against Shockey in last season's first meeting in part because "there was the unknown factor of what he could do." The Redskins didn't alter their defensive scheme much in the season's second game, Edwards said, but were more aware of Shockey and played their assignments better.

One of their big concerns Sunday, the Redskins say, is that if they give too much attention to Shockey, it could open up too much space for Giants tailback Tiki Barber or wide receivers Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard.

"We're going to try to disguise our coverages on him and roll different defenders on him," Ohalete said. "But they've got two great receivers and a great back, so we can't just put all our focus on him."

The Redskins are off to their first 2-0 beginning in a dozen years and are ranked second in the NFL in total defense.

"If we can put together another win, that puts us up there in our division," Arrington said. "We should be all right. We had a really crisp practice [yesterday]. It went really well. I think guys are starting to develop a certain amount of confidence and a little bit of a swagger. We looked pretty good out there.

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""If we can put together another win, that puts us up there in our division," Arrington said. "We should be all right. We had a really crisp practice [yesterday]. It went really well. I think guys are starting to develop a certain amount of confidence and a little bit of a swagger. We looked pretty good out there."

God I love to hear that. :)

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