Kansas City, Here We Come

CARLISLE, Pa., The number of reunions will be too many to count on Sunday. There's Marty Schottenheimer returning to his old stadium. There's Trent Green facing his old team. There's Dick Vermeil, a pal of the Redskins' coach, returning to the NFL.

Not to mention there's seemingly hundreds of ex-Chiefs on the Redskins (actually, there are 15 in the organization).

When Washington plays at Kansas City at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, the subplots will be intriguing.

''It's like Kansas City in D.C. right now,'' Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards told the Kansas City Star. ''Everything I came to know about Kansas City when I first got here is now in Washington with the Redskins.''

Of course, the Redskins and Chiefs meet for real on Sept. 30, minimizing the drama surrounding this game.

''I still have a lot of friends who will be talking trash,'' Redskins fullback Donnell Bennett said. ''But that's the nature of the business and that's what makes it fun. It's going to be different at first, but we're going there to win.''

But the night mostly will be about Schottenheimer's return. He coached the Chiefs for 10 seasons, turning them into a perennial playoff contender.

He posted a 101-58-1 record, leading the Chiefs to the playoffs seven times. They won three division titles under Schottenheimer, who resigned after the 1998 season.

''I don't see any harm in [looking back],'' Schottenheimer said. ''I think of what I consider one of the greatest venues in football, the fans and as usually is the case with me it goes back to people. The people in the organization, the players that are still there. Those were 10 great years in our lives there. I'll probably have a sense of nostalgia, but that's good.''

''I'm anxious to go play. But once the game starts I don't have time to think about that.''

Instead, he'll be thinking about his young quarterbacks, trying to gauge their progress. Todd Husak, who threw only two passes as a rookie, will start for the injured Jeff George. Husak will play the first half and rookie Sage Rosenfels will quarterback the second.

Schottenheimer doesn't plan on changing anything to lessen the young quarterback's nerves.

''You could run the ball every time,'' he said, ''but you don't develop that way. First and foremost I want to see their decision making in the passing game. I want to see how they manage the play clock and our ability to get the plays run in timely fashion. I don't want them to be standing there with a second to go on the play clock.''

Schottenheimer also wants to see his young players, a number of whom have looked good in practice, particularly receivers Willie Spencer and Justin Skaggs. The Redskins also need to see if safety David Terrell can handle being a starter.

It's also the first chance to fully evaluate first-round pick Rod Gardner, a receiver, and second-round choice Fred Smoot, a corner. Both are contending for starting jobs.

Schottenheimer wants to see the players' react in game situations and contribute on special teams. For many of them, that's their ticket to a roster spot. And they'll receive plenty of time as the starters will play about 10-12 snaps.

Here's a primer on Sunday's game:

WHAT'S NEW ON OFFENSE: The Redskins have adopted a version of the West Coast offense, featuring shorter passes than Washington has used in the past. Look for more variety in the offense, with running backs split wide much more often than under former coach Norv Turner. There's an increased emphasis on play-action passes as well.

WHO TO WATCH: Quarterback Todd Husak. The Redskins must see whether or not he can be an effective backup. Playing against the Chiefs' first stringers will help formalize a better opinion. Expect Husak to be excited, which often leads to high throws. How soon can he settle down? Can he make quick, and correct, decisions? Does he keep his eyes downfield? Those are questions the coaches want answered. Also, keep your eye on two longshots: center David Brandt and running back Kenny Watson. The former is the type of smart, tough lineman loved by Schottenheimer. The latter is a versatile back who could help on third downs.

WHAT'S NEW ON DEFENSE: The corners will play about 10 yards off the ball at times, three yards deeper than in the past. That's been Darrell Green's biggest adjustment. Second-year linebacker LaVar Arrington will play deeper off the line of scrimmage than last season, giving him a chance to use his athleticism. This is a linebacker-friendly defense, with the line mostly trying to blow up plays rather than make them.

WHO TO WATCH: Backup defensive tackles Jerry DeLoach and Del Cowsette. Both have looked good at times during practice and Schottenheimer has singled out DeLoach on occasion. Starter Kenard Lang has not generated much push in practice--he was getting shoved back by center Mark Fischer the other day--but the real test for him comes in the four preseason games. If that continues then either DeLoach or Cowsette could become a bigger part of the line rotation. Dorian Boose and Derrick Ham will replace the injured Bruce Smith (shoulder). Ham made an impact last preseason, but has done exceptionally little this summer.

WHO TO WATCH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt returner Winston October. He's generously listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, but he's slithery. That will serve him well on returns, where he can be fun to watch and one wiggle of his hips can leave much larger men lunging at air. But is that enough? October must break several long punt returns to justify the Redskins keeping him. He's listed low on the depth chart at receiver. And, if he makes the team, he must be capable of helping there in a pinch. Also, players such as Justin Skaggs and Willie Spencer will increase their chances of making the team with their special teams performances. Both are fighting for the final receiving spot.


John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.

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