First Half Review

The Redskins took an unconventional route to a 3-5 record. For a while it appeared they'd never win. Then they ripped off three straight wins. They stunk then they starred. Go figure. Here's a look back at the good and the bad from the first half.

Worst timing: Marty Schottenheimer naming Fred Smoot the starting corner on the same day Darrell Green officially announced his retirement. Marty could have waited a day, especially since many perceived Schottenheimer having treated Green poorly in training camp.

Best decision: Cutting Jeff George. It's easy to say now it should have been done long ago. But had it been, the Redskins might be further along.

Biggest play: LaVar Arrington's 67-yard interception return for a touchdown against Carolina. Think the Redskins win three straight without that play?

Best moment: After beating New York, players danced at midfield, doused Marty with Gatorade and slapped hands with fans. Been a long time since people were that happy about a win.

Offensive MVP: Running back Stephen Davis. Is there any doubt? But let's quit harping on his carry total from the first few games. The Redskins weren't in any of those games by midway through the third quarter, when the carries accumulate quickly.

Defensive MVP: Defensive lineman Kenard Lang. His play at tackle was pretty good, but his play at end was superb. Perhaps playing tackle toughened him at end. Lang's quickness and determination keeps him involved in every play until the whistle blows. His attitude is outstanding, one reason he'll deserve a nice raise.

Best play call: The 31-yard Kevin Lockett to Derrius Thompson touchdown pass against New York. It's not just that it worked, it's that it showed the Redskins were now confident to open up the playbook.

Worst loss: Dallas on Monday night. Enough said.

Best win: The Giants at home. New York was supposedly in a foul mood after two one-point losses. Yet the Redskins came out swinging and staggered the Giants.

Best development: Tony Banks' play at quarterback. He's posted QB ratings of 94 or better in each of the past four games and is clearly more comfortable running this offense. While everyone likes the long ball, his most mature game came against Seattle. The Seahawks took away the deep pass, but Banks kept drives moving with dumpoffs to backs and tight ends. Solid.

Best development, part II: Marty Schottenheimer's hold on the team. The players, at least some of them, took a while to warm to him. But there's enough who like to work hard and only wanted to see positive results. This team now is taking on his personality.

Best newcomer: Receiver Rod Gardner leads all rookie wideouts with 25 receptions. He's become a playmaker.

Trend to watch: Washington's third-down defense. The Redskins have allowed 44.9 percent of third downs to be converted, which is too high. If they don't fix this, they'll stumble in the second half.

John Keim has covered the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers for eight years and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.


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