Incumbent Smith in running
Watching Antowain Smith run the football Saturday night didn't conjure images of Jim Brown or even Curtis Martin, but it did appear Smith gained an edge in his battle with Kevin Faulk to be New England's starting tailback.
Ah, not so fast.
Bill Belichick isn't ready to declare the competition over. Asked yesterday during his media conference call if he knew who might be starting in Philadelphia Friday, the Patriots coach said, "I have not made a decision on that. I haven't really even talked about it. Whatever it is, we will continue to get both players an opportunity to show what they can do in the early part of the game. Who is going to start and how that is going to go, I don't know."
Conspicuously out of the mix Saturday in the Patriots' 20-13 win over Washington was J.R. Redmond, who had practiced during the week but did not dress.
"I thought Antowain ran hard," said Belichick. "I think Antowain has been consistent in the entire training camp and in the first two games, and it can still be better. I think he's running hard."
Smith, who gained 33 yards on seven carries, certainly did a good job following his lead blockers. He burst for a 13-yard gain on his first carry and scored on a 6-yard touchdown run, looking much like the runner who gained 1,157 yards two years ago.
"I think he got pretty much what was there," said Belichick. "We got the touchdown play blocked pretty well. I think it was the second or third play of the game that was blocked pretty cleanly, and he split the line of scrimmage on that. I can't remember him having any negative runs, which is always good. At least we are making positive yardage and hit a couple of big ones here and there -- big in terms of double digit-type runs. I thought our running game overall started to show signs of consistency."
Belichick, who is usually reluctant to reveal what positions have been solidified at this point of the preseason, would only say, "Some positions are a little more defined than others."
Seymour staying put
Belichick said he is not considering moving Richard Seymour back to nose tackle after the Redskins had some success running up the middle. Belichick didn't seem concerned about the play of Rick Lyle of Jarvis Green. The Patriots made the decision to go with a smaller, faster nose tackle, and are moving him around so he attacks from different points, to take advantage of quickness and create some confusion.
"I think it's OK," Belichick said about the nose play. "Like a lot of things, it can be better."
It certainly appeared the Patriots' pass rush was significant, hurrying Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey at least five times in the first half.
"I think at this point you just keep working on everything," Belichick said. "We're not going to know until we get to the regular season when teams start scheming you and trying to take advantage of what they think your weaknesses are."
Rohan Davey was the first quarterback off the bench in relief of Tom Brady Saturday. The second-year player didn't fare that well, not all of his doing, as he spent most of the second half running away from a pass rush. "That was very poor offensive output in the second half all the way across the board, and the quarterback is certainly part of it," said Belichick. "We couldn't make a first down. It wasn't at all what we were looking for. I definitely don't want to single him out and say, well, that was the whole problem. It was a collective problem, and he was part of it." It wasn't until the last drive, when Patrick Pass ran the ball well, that the second offense was able to sustain anything . . . According to the coach, there were just a few bumps and bruises sustained during the game. The most noteworthy injury was to center Damien Woody, who left after about six plays when he was kicked in the leg and suffered a bruise. Woody was supposed to have an X-ray, but no results were announced. He is not a shoo-in to play against the Eagles . . In Woody's spot, former Boston College teammate Dan Koppen played the remainder of the game. "I thought Dan held up pretty good," said Belichick. "I thought it was a good, solid performance."
Could Bethel Johnson be the fastest man in the NFL? He sure looked like it running back a 98-yard kickoff return. Now Johnson, who was not allowed to speak to the media following the game, must clean up his game. On one kickoff, he had a fumble deep in his own territory on which Mike Vrabel had to make what Belichick called "an outstanding play" to recover. "Well, those inconsistencies are what good players have to get out of their game," said the coach. "We've seen Bethel's talent and he has flashed some big plays. That play could have easily gone the other way and been the play that costs you the game. Instead the kickoff return, that was definitely part of the difference in the game." . . . How did the punting competition fare between incumbent Ken Walter and Daniel Pope? Still undecided, according to Belichick. "I think last night was a pretty good indication of where we are and where it has been," he said. "In the first preseason game, in a scrimmage type of situation, in the practices, it's been pretty competitive, it's pretty close. That's pretty much the way it looked to me the way it was last night." . . . Belichick said offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones (double knee surgery) is getting closer but won't likely be ready for Friday night . . . Belichick did shed some light on rookie Dan Klecko. Though he's playing outside linebacker, "in the long run, I think that he is going to end up being more of an inside player for us."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.