Quick start turns early talk to playoffs; Centers: It's 'wide-open'; offense leads 5 categories; Redskins notebook


ASHBURN, Va. -- Can the Washington Redskins, who were 6-10 last season, truly think of contending for a Super Bowl after a 2-1 start?

"Why not the Redskins?" fullback Larry Centers said. "That's the way I look at it. It's pretty wide-open."

With usual NFC favorites Minnesota, Green Bay and San Francisco losing their aura of invincibility this year, many of the Redskins see a window of opportunity to make their best run under sixth-year coach Norv Turner.

The Redskins have proven they can score, tying a club record of 112 points after three games that was established by the team's 1991 Super Bowl champions. They lead the NFC in five of seven offensive categories.

"We're as good as any team in the league," guard Tre' Johnson said. "I think we're a good enough team now where teams have to look to stop us."

Still, the Redskins must find a way of stopping their opponents from scoring, too. The defense has allowed an average of 410 yards per game and has not held a team below 20 points this season despite facing such quarterbacks as the New York Giants' Kent Graham and the New York Jets' Rick Mirer.

"[The playoffs are] something we're very serious about," Turner said. "But it's not about talking. It's about getting ready each week."

J. Williams released

For the second straight week, a member of the kickoff team had to clean out his locker.

The Redskins released backup safety Jamel Williams and filled his spot by signing safety Toby Wright, who has started 44 games in his five-year NFL career.

In his third season with the club, Williams had a team-leading four tackles this season for the kickoff unit, which has come under scrutiny by allowing 23.9 yards per return, the seventh-worst average in the NFL.

Wright, 28, started three games for St. Louis in 1998 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The University of Nebraska product finished with 21 tackles.

Special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel said Williams wasn't responsible for the Jets' 81-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-20 victory.

Bailey, Green make grade

The Redskins might rank next-to-last in pass defense, but few could pin the blame on cornerback Champ Bailey.

The seventh overall pick in this year's draft has matched up against two Pro Bowl receivers -- Dallas' Michael Irvin and the Jets' Keyshawn Johnson -- in his first three weeks, and teams have not consistently attacked the rookie's side.

"I don't know what the deal is," Bailey said. "It's shocking to me."

Bailey's teammate, cornerback Darrell Green, also garnered recognition, receiving a game ball after recording an interception for an NFL-record 17th straight season.

"I told our team: When he got his first interception, Champ Bailey was 4 years old," Turner said.

"That puts things in perspective."

Turnabout on turnovers

The Redskins share the NFL lead with the Kansas City Chiefs with a plus-six turnover ratio. That's a remarkable turnaround from last season, when they had a minus-eight ratio.

A majority of the change can be attributed to quarterback Brad Johnson, who hasn't thrown an interception in 89 passes.

"There's no question that Brad is the best quarterback we've had since I've been here," Turner said.

"Our quarterback has not thrown many passes that had a chance of being intercepted."

Pub Date: 9/28/99

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