Bailey shuts down wideouts

Redskins corner Champ Bailey shrugs off his latest assignment. This is what he expected when he entered the NFL. After all, Bailey considers himself one of the game's best corners. So covering the other team's wideout, no matter where they line up, is no big deal to him. But it is to the Redskins.

One of the keys to the Redskins' five-game winning streak has been the play of Washington's corners. And the best among that group is Bailey.

Which is why the Redskins have assigned him to cover the opposition's top wideout four times during this streak.

Each time Bailey has responded, including Sunday when he held James Thrash to four catches for 32 yards. One of those catches occured against zone coverage when Bailey was elsewhere.

Bailey has covered Seattle's Darryl Jackson (one catch for 46 yards), Carolina's Muhsin Muhammed (two for 27 yards), Denver's Rod Smith (three for 25 yards)caught one pass, and Philadelphia's James Thrash (four for 32 yards).

''I expect it now,'' Bailey said. ''If they don't tell me to do it, then it's because the other team doesn't have a stud receiver.''

Not every corner can play this scheme, Schottenheimer said. Some feel more comfortable just being on one side, getting used to looking at the quarterback from a particular angle.

Schottenheimer said Fred Smoot and Darrell Green could handle this role as well. But he chooses Bailey, who excels in this scheme.

''It's more of a mental thing than anything else,'' Schottenheimer said.

It helps that Bailey is smart, too, and can adjust. Once Sunday, Bailey covered Thrash as he went in motion, a sign he was playing man coverage.

But when Thrash ran his route, Bailey broke off into the flat to play zone. His presence held Duce Staley to a two-yard reception.

Chances are Washington won't use this strategy against Dallas, which has two quality receivers in Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail.

Still, the Redskins know their defense has a chance because of how Bailey, and the corners, have played.

''The ability to play man to man coverage and tight coverage plays an important role in what we do,'' Schottenheimer said.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.

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