Redskins at Rams

He wanted them to play smarter last week and they did. Now the Redskins have different things they need to show tonight, starting with how they handle a team built on speed. St. Louis has speed on defense, on offense and special teams. That's why they're so dangerous indoors.

And that speed will give the coaches a chance to see how the players handle all that speed. They also want to see how they handle things in a loud dome, as loud as the place can be for an exhibition game.

But this is an all-around test, unlike what Washington faced a week ago. Chances are, the absence of LaVar Arrington, Phillip Daniels and Mike Barrow will be felt much more tonight.

On the hot seat: Patrick Ramsey. The third-year quarterback needs a strong showing to have a realistic chance of winning the starting job. Ramsey started to show improvement, but this will be an excellent test for him. He needs to show he can handle pressure, knowing where to throw the ball under duress.

Keep an eye on: Defensive end Ron Warner. He's looked better than Regan Upshaw. Is that enough to beat out the veteran? Warner has appeared in six games since first entering the league in 1998, but he's done a nice job this summer.

And another eye on: Right tackle Kenyatta Jones. The Redskins have said they're pleased with what they've seen. But coaches almost always say that. What I want to see is Jones handle a top rusher without consistent help. So far, I haven't seen that. Tight end Walter Rasby is a constant companion on passing downs (which helped create a nice pocket against Miami). But Jones will face Leonard Little at times tonight. It's an excellent chance to see what Jones can do.

Two more: rookie tackles Mark Wilson and Jim Molinaro. Washington needs these players to progress rapidly. Wilson's balance was an issue vs. Miami and must improve, especially when pulling. That's correctable; let's see if those corrections have taken place.

Best subplot: The battle for the backup running back position. If Ladell Betts is healthy, a big if, then the job is his. There's not enough room to keep Rock Cartwright, John Simon and Sultan McCullough. That is, without a surprise cut there isn't. Each of those three has shown flashes of how they can help. Each is limited -- McCullough is the most limited, but he's also the fastest. What matters most? If special teams really plays an issue here, then Simon and Cartwright have the edge. But it's debatable if they'll keep both.

What we'd like to see: Taylor Jacobs string together a few catches. The coaches say he's smart, runs good routes and is fast. So let's see what he can do with the ball.

Other intriguing players: corner Rufus Brown . . . linebacker Khary Campbell . . . defensive tackle Norman Heuer. All have flashed at times, but each remains a longshot.


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