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  •   Redskins Could Make Run at Postseason Play

    Redskins Helmet Washingtonpost.com correspondent Gene Wang said in an online discussion Tuesday that the Redskins have the talent to win eight games this season and could make a serious run at the playoffs. Wang is at training camp in Frostburg, Md. covering the team.


    Ft. Lauderdale, Fla: I read the Post's online Redskins section everyday – it's the only way to get information on the team. Last week I read about Brad Johnson favoring his knee in practice. How does he look now, and do you think from what you have seen or heard, there is any problems with Brad's health?

    Gene Wang: Brad's knee was a concern coming into training camp, but it seems to be holding up so far. He went lightly on it for the first few practices, but in the last few days he has been going full speed. He looks confident dropping back, and his throws have been very crisp.


    Olympia, Wash.: With so much talent at fullback; Larry Centers, Mike Sellers, Larry Bowie, Brian Mitchell; how many fullbacks are the Redskins planning on keeping? Bowie and Centers seem to be competing for the starting job, but Mike Sellers is young and a strong blocker, where does he stand?

    Gene Wang: Redskins officials seem to believe there will be enough carries/receptions for all the fullbacks. Centers is the leading candidate to start, but Bowie, who is coming off a broken left fibula in Week 5 against the Cowboys last season, is very capable. Mitchell will continue to help out on third downs, and Sellers, while playing limited time at fullback, is a force on special teams.


    Ocala, Fla.: It seems as though the offensive line has been a problem for several years. What solid evidence do we have that the offensive line will be improved this season?

    Gene Wang: A big problem for several seasons, the offensive line has been upgraded dramatically. Andy Heck is an 11-year veteran who should start at left tackle. Rookie Jon Jansen was an All-American at Michigan, and coaches have him penciled in to start at right tackle. At guard, coaches are hoping that Tre Johnson can stay healthy. He is a punishing blocker, and the Redskins' running game benefits greatly when he's in the lineup. Also, Keith Sims, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Dolphins, is a significant addition.


    Washington, D.C.: Does there appear to be any sleepers in training camp? I'm hearing a lot about WR Nigel Williams – are there any others who stand out?

    Gene Wang: Coaches love Nigel Williams, and so too does Brad Johnson. Johnson compared Williams to [Minnesota receiver] Jake Reed – a big target who gets to balls that other wide receivers might not. Another player making noise in camp is defensive end Marco Coleman. He has been everywhere on defense, and Norv Turner says he loves his work ethic and physical ability.


    Charlottesville, Va.: What is the current outlook on signing Rob Moore? Or any other receiver?

    Gene Wang: The Redskins would love to have Rob Moore, but like the Packers' Antonio Freeman, the asking price may be a bit too steep. Carl Pickens of the Bengals could be had for one of the team's three first-round picks next season, but the organization seems to think he isn't worth that. The Redskins certainly need to address the wide receiver position. They have no proven starters there.


    Ashburn, Va.: I have heard Norv Turner has reduced some of the physical hitting at camp, to avoid injuries like last year. Is this true? If so, how do you think this will impact the teams performance in the regular season? Last year it seemed that they were not prepared for the physical part of the game once the whistle blew, and I am curious about this rumored change in practice philosophy.

    Gene Wang: In one practice, Norv Turner did not allow cameras because he did not want to give the impression that the team was going only half speed. But there has been plenty of hitting overall. The tricky thing about training camp is how to simulate real-game hitting without risking too many injuries. The team has added a bunch of physical players, including Andy Heck, Keith Sims and Marco Coleman, so there is not much concern that the team won't be ready to hit hard by the time the regular season starts.


    Oxford, England: One of the big questions regarding Skip Hicks winning the starting tailback position seems to be his ability to run between the tackles. How has he looked this camp?

    Gene Wang: Skip has moved well in practice so far. He's competing with Stephen Davis for the starting spot, but he has the edge because of his nose for the end zone. Skip enjoys running to the outside, but his team-record eight touchdowns in limited playing time last season shows he can run inside too.


    Oklahoma City, Okla.: There is a lot of talk about the Cowboys being the dominant NFC East team this year, with the Cardinals being the next closest contender. Based on what you've seen in training camp, do you think the new players/management can help move the Redskins back into contention for the playoffs this year?

    Gene Wang: There certainly appears to be a change in attitude in training camp this season. New owner Dan Snyder says he wants to win now, and the players seem to be responding. They have looked better in practice the last couple days than perhaps at any time in Norv Turner's tenure. As for the playoffs, if the Redskins stay healthy – and that's a big if – they could throw a scare into the Cowboys and Cardinals.


    Arlington, Va.: Owner Dan Snyder keeps saying he wants to acquire one or two more "impact" players. Who do you believe are the frontrunners the Redskins are looking to acquire?

    Gene Wang: The Redskins' most pressing concern right now is adding a wide receiver. They have looked at Antonio Freeman, who is disgruntled with the packers, and Carl Pickens, who says he will hold out rather than play with the bengals. Problem is, the front office seems to feel the cost – two first-round picks for freeman and one first-rounder for pickens – is a too much.


    New York, N.Y.: The Redskins have three young starters at linebacker, along with a rookie cornerback and a defensive line that has many questions to answer. Do you feel that the defense has improved during the offseason?

    Gene Wang: The defense has looked competitive in training camp, especially new defensive end Marco Coleman. Coaches can't stop talking about him. Dana Stubblefield had a disappointing season last year, but vows to rebound. moving derek smith from outside to inside linebacker will give him more chances to make plays, and rookie corner Champ Bailey has looked impressive.


    Glen Burnie, Md.: Will Norv Turner lose his job if the Redskins don't make the playoffs? If so who would they hire?

    Gene Wang: New owner Dan Synder has made it clear that he won't tolerate losing this season, and it's a message Norv Turner has heard loud and clear. The removal of Charley Casserly from general manager seems to be the first of many moves Snyder intends to make and may mean Turner is next if he doesn't get the team into the playoffs. As for prospective new coaches, Snyder has been mum on the subject.


    Leonardtown, Md.: I was curious about how Wednesday's Fan Appreciation Day will be handled. I went last year to find that all I got was to stand in line and wait for a few select Redskins players to sign. I hope Wednesday will be better, where all the players take time to sign and pose for pictures.

    Gene Wang: The Redskins have overhauled their entire public relations staff, so how fan appreciation will turn out remains a mystery. Players have been very receptive to signing autographs so far in camp, so at least that appears to be a good sign.


    Boston, Ma.: How does Darrell Green look? Do you see retirement in the near future for this man, or will he just play forever? Let's hope so.

    Gene Wang: Darrell Green continues to defy the aging process, and many felt last season was perhaps the best of his career. He still has a tremendous love for the game and a desire to be the best. There are no signs of retirement in the near future. He jokes he has at least five more productive seasons in his 39-year-old body, and with him continuing to play at such a high level, he just may play live up to that.


    Linthicum, Md.: Which one of the newest Redskins seems most likely to have an immediate impact?

    Gene Wang: Right now, defensive end Marco Coleman is drawing the best reviews for his hustle and intensity. Also, Champ Bailey has made some highlight-reel plays at corner, and tackles Andy Heck and Jon Jansen have been consistent.


    Vienna, Va.: One free agent we don't hear about is Sam Shade. How does he look in camp and what kind of impact do you think he will have in our defense and secondary?

    Gene Wang: Sam brings a more aggressive attitude to the safety position than the team has had in recent seasons. He has made some nice plays in camp, and he has shown he is strong tackler. Definitely an upgrade from last season.


    Philadelphia, Pa.: With so many question marks at wide receiver, has there been any extra effort during camp to spread the ball to Stephen Alexander, Skip Hicks and Larry Centers?

    Gene Wang: The fullbacks and tight ends have been getting a great deal of work in camp. Centers had 101 receptions in 1995, so he figures prominently in the team's pass receiving plans. Alexander has taken over admirably for the departed Jamie Asher.


    San Diego, Calif.: How is Ken Harvey adjusting to his role as a back-up linebacker who will be playing in primarily third down situations? Is there a chance that he will see more playing time based on training camp or game performances?

    Gene Wang: Ken Harvey is an intense competitor, so it's understandable that he's a little miffed about becoming a backup. He seems intent on proving his naysayers wrong this season. He has a great deal of pride, so don't be surprised if he again makes a big impact.


    Betheda, Md.: With all the changes in front office personnel, are there any plans to change the radio team of Frank, Sam and Sonny? Sam is getting farther and farther away from how the game is played today. Is this a spot for Charles Mann or Darrell Green when he retires?

    Gene Wang: Sam, Sonny and Frank are a tradition that should continue for a long while. Charles Mann is immersed in his television work, and Darrell Green says he has no intention of retiring soon, so it is unlikely either one will move into the booth.


    McLean, Va.: Do you think Ken Harvey could move to defensive end instead of him coming in on third downs?

    Gene Wang: That probably won't happen because coaches have been very impressed with the newly-acquired Marco Coleman on the right side. Plus, Harvey is best when pass rushing in space, and having him lock up with much bigger linemen would limit him from doing that.


    San Francisco, Calif.: Do the Redskins make the playoffs this season? And what is your prediction on what their regular season record will be?

    Gene Wang: If they stay healthy, the Redskins could make a run at the postseason. There also is a question as to how well all the new players will mesh together. Right now the Cowboys and Cardinals are the front-runners from the division. As for a final record, I don't think 8-8 is out of the question. but to make the playoffs, they will need to win at least nine games.


    Washingtonpost.com: That's all the time we have with Gene Wang today. Join us again next Tuesday for another edition of Sports Online.


    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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