Coach Norv Turner ended a couple of the Washington Redskins' final few training-camp competitions yesterday, saying Stephen Davis will start at tailback in the regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys in 10 days and naming Rodney Peete the team's number two quarterback.
The outcomes of those battles had been clear for some time, but Turner had withheld official pronouncements. Skip Hicks, the favorite to inherit the running back job from the departed Terry Allen when training camp began, enters the season as Davis's backup, and Casey Weldon is the third quarterback behind starter Brad Johnson and Peete.
The Redskins, barring injuries, have set their starting lineups on offense and defense for the Dallas game. The club will use Friday night's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Redskins Stadium to make final evaluations, Turner said, before making their final roster cuts Saturday.
"We have a good handle on our starting spots . . . [but] I think there are some decisions, especially on special teams," Turner said following yesterday's practice at Redskin Park.
Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, said yesterday team officials didn't see any players worth signing after NFL clubs made their first set of roster trims this week. But Cerrato said he thinks it's likely the Redskins will add a player or two after the final roster cuts, which NFL teams must complete by Sunday.
Redskins officials say they don't plan to resume contract negotiations with retired defensive end Chris Doleman. Meantime, team sources said the Redskins know completing a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for holdout wide receiver Joey Galloway is a long shot, but they nevertheless think they have a chance. The Redskins have offered Seattle a first-round draft choice and might add a player to their proposal. The Seahawks' contract negotiations with Galloway remain stalled.
Eric Metz, one of Galloway's agents, said this week he believes the chances of a trade would increase if the contract dispute still is not resolved as the NFL's Oct. 19 trade deadline nears. Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks' coach and general manager, told reporters in Seattle he wants to keep Galloway, but he did not rule out a trade.
"I want Joey Galloway here," Holmgren said. "He figures big in our plans this year. You don't ever want to say never, but that's not my intention. I want Joey here."
Hicks had eight rushing touchdowns as Allen's backup last season, but Davis has outrun Hicks during the preseason, averaging four yards per carry in three preseason games to Hicks's 3.4 yards.
"I would imagine Stephen Davis will be our starting tailback," Turner said.
Davis has only 198 carries and 815 yards on his three-season NFL resume but said he thinks he's ready to be the team's featured runner.
"I'm very confident," he said. "I'm very comfortable. . . . I felt I had a pretty good training camp. I did some good things, and I got better. I need to continue to do the things I've been doing and continue to improve. I felt coming into training camp we were even. I didn't think I had an edge on him or he had an edge on me. They told us it was going to be a fair competition, and they'd go with whoever did better."
Hicks said: "I'm not really disappointed. I didn't have as good a preseason as I wanted to, but hopefully I'll get something going Friday and go from there. I never really got going. I don't know exactly what it was."
The Redskins acquired Peete in an April trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to have an experienced backup for Johnson. Peete has made 72 regular season NFL starts, to none for Weldon. Still, Turner had maintained throughout training camp the backup job was open for competition.
Turner said yesterday: "Rodney is our second guy. I think our quarterback situation is the best it's been. Casey's situation is similar to the situation we had with Trent [Green] a couple years ago. I see Casey very similar to the way I saw Trent when he was our third quarterback."
Green went from being the Redskins' third-string quarterback to their starter last season, and team officials say they think Weldon could have just as much success as Green if he is given the same opportunity.
"I was disappointed that I never got the opportunity I thought I was going to get, but Norv has told me he has the same confidence in me he had in Trent," Weldon said. "I feel good I have the confidence of the coaches and my teammates. I like both Brad and Rodney, and that makes it easier."