Defense Is Looking To Make a Killings

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 8, 2005

The Washington Redskins' upstart defense may have found its next rags-to-riches story in unheralded lineman Cedric Killings, who is working his way into the rotation. Killings, a journeyman who was discarded by San Francisco, Cleveland, Minnesota and Carolina before signing here, was Washington's defensive player of the week Sunday and will try to build off that effort tomorrow at Denver.

Killings signed with the Redskins last December after spending most of the 2004 season out of football and was re-signed in March. Many believed he would not make the team out of training camp, but he got considerable playing time against Seattle, made four tackles and several subtle contributions.

"He did a lot of things in occupying the run blockers that allowed Lemar Marshall to run and hit the way we want our middle linebackers to play," said Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. "It was nice to see another young guy step up and play the way [defensive coordinator] Greg Blache wants them to play. He had a really strong game."

Killings is thrilled just to be earning an NFL paycheck after so many setbacks. "It's a challenge to stay focused and keep that hardworking attitude not knowing when that next opportunity is going to come," Killings said of his time out of the league.

Wary of Blocking Tactics

Denver's running game is the envy of many teams, with a bevy of backs producing 1,000-yard seasons over the years, but the team's blocking tactics have also long drawn scrutiny. Many opponents have said the Broncos use illegal crack-backs to aid their cut-back running scheme, and the Redskins defense has taken note.

"The size of their linemen allows them to cut back blockers a little more," safety Ryan Clark said, "and crack-back a little more. So we've got to be aware of that and know it's coming, but you have to play football."

The problem could be most acute for the linemen, who are vulnerable low, particularly around their knees.

Hall, Harris Not Expected

Place kicker John Hall (doubtful -- quad) and cornerback Walt Harris (doubtful -- calf) are not expected to play tomorrow, Coach Joe Gibbs said. Running back Ladell Betts (upper thigh strain) and cornerback Shawn Springs (shin) were held out of yesterday's practice as a precaution, Gibbs said. Both are probable and scheduled to play, Gibbs said. . . .

Of the 43 teams to start a season 4-0 since 1990 -- when the current playoff format was adopted -- 35 went on to qualify for the postseason (81 percent). Washington is 3-0. . . .

Top wide receiver Santana Moss could get another punt return chance this weekend. "I look forward to getting those opportunities periodically," Moss said. . . .

Washington's hard-hitting secondary is often overlooked, but Seattle's top two receivers -- Darrell Jackson (knee) and Bobby Engram (ribs) -- are both doubtful for this week's game after playing the Redskins on Sunday. . . .

The large wristband worn by demoted linebacker LaVar Arrington on his forearm -- containing plays similar to what a quarterback has worn -- had garnered some attention but is not unique, Williams said. Blache makes up the detailed "cheat sheets" every week and all players are open to use it, with a few doing so each week, Williams said. . . .

Running back Clinton Portis, a former Bronco, called Denver wide receiver Rod Smith's cell phone during a game a few weeks back to chide Smith for being concussed by a big hit. "I called and told him I hope he's all right," Portis said, "but if he's not, to know he got knocked out."

Smith, a friend of Portis's, has threatened to "knock him out" if given a chance tomorrow, and Portis said a recent call from Smith, which seemed intended for a female, convinced him the Pro Bowler is still woozy. These two surely will have much to joke about during pregame warmups.

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