The Washington Redskins won't make any changes to their starting defensive lineup for their game at Arizona in 10 days, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said yesterday.
"I don't think it would make us better," Nolan said. ". . . You have to have confidence in your people. When you're a young player, you don't need shaky leadership. You need confidence so you can improve."
The Redskins have the NFL's last-ranked defense, and on Monday Nolan had left open the possibility of making philosophical or personnel changes during the bye week. But as the Redskins resumed practicing yesterday following a two-day break, Nolan said he believes the answer is not to get new players, but to get the current players to perform better.
Nolan indicated that he may get linebackers Eddie Mason and Twan Russell and cornerback Tim Denton more involved in situational packages, such as short-yardage, goal line and nickel defenses. But he and other team officials decided against any switches to the basic defense, such as inserting veteran Fred Strickland at middle linebacker, moving Derek Smith back to outside linebacker and playing Shawn Barber only in passing situations. Club officials have been unhappy with Barber's play against the run in his first season as a starter.
"That wouldn't be a good decision for us," Nolan said. "If something happened to Derek, we're confident in Fred. But to disrupt things right now would not be the best thing for us. . . . When you play young people, you take the good with the bad. Shawn is the one that has had the least experience.
". . . The linebackers are good and will get better. They're young. Ideally you might want them to be backups playing behind a guy who's been around for 12 years and is on the way out, and they're on the way in. But we don't have that luxury, and we knew that coming into the season."
Nolan said the Redskins won't make any major changes to their defensive schemes either.
Coach Norv Turner confirmed a report that the Redskins took a new approach to their weigh-ins of players during training camp. A story in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine reported that Redskins players weighed in weekly, and were fined $120 for every pound they were overweight.
"We've weighed our guys in every Thursday since I've been here," Turner said. "The way we did it in training camp [this year] was a little more specific. In the past we focused on five or six guys. This year we focused on the entire football team. I think it got everyone's attention and was good for us." . . .
For the second time in three weeks, quarterback Brad Johnson was named the NFC offensive player of the week. He tied his single-game career high Sunday with four touchdown passes and led the Redskins back from a 21-point deficit to beat the Carolina Panthers, 38-36. He's the first Redskins player to win the award twice in a season since Art Monk in 1991.
"Football is the ultimate team game," Johnson said. "I'm just one piece of this puzzle. If you don't get the wins, you don't get the honors. I'm not in this thing for one win or one award." . . .
Punter Matt Turk said his early-season struggles have resulted from offseason adjustments that he made to his footwork and kicking mechanics. But the three-time Pro Bowler indicated he's not ready to abandon the new style.
"I still feel fine as far as confidence goes," Turk said. "I just have to work at it and stick with it, and get more consistent at it. In the long run, it'll make me better and it'll be better for the team."