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'D' Looks to Slow Panthers' Smith

In a meeting with his defensive players this week, Gregg Williams showed a video clip of Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith breaking four tackles on his way to a touchdown.

Needless to say, the footage made an impression.

"He's like a running back when he gets the ball in his hands, Williams said. "Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's dangerous. He's powerful enough in his lower body to break tackles. And he's shown the ability to take a game over."

That's quite a compliment for a player who is 5-9 and 185 pounds. Smith leads the Panthers with 57 catches for 870 yards and four touchdowns.

Cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers will be tasked with slowing Smith in this Sunday's Redskins-Panthers matchup at FedExField.

It helps that Springs and Rogers have competed against Santana Moss in practice the last two years. Moss, listed at 5-10 and 190 pounds, plays a similar-style game as Smith. Both are speedsters with remarkable shiftiness in open field.

"You don't shut a Steve Smith down, because they have coaches who are going to put him in position to make plays, and move him around," Springs said. "Their coaches are real creative with him."

How to play Smith on Sunday?

"I just try to be on top of my game," Springs said. "I don't adjust to the receivers I play, I just be me. You know he's going to make a couple plays--you just have to make a couple plays, too."

Beyond Smith, the Panthers have a balanced offensive attack that is ranked 21st overall in the NFL.

In Carolina's 15-0 win over the St. Louis Rams last week, the Panthers compiled 242 rushing yards, with rookie running back DeAngelo Williams gaining 114 yards on 20 carries.

Starter DeShaun Foster, who is questionable for Sunday's game against the Redskins with an elbow injury, leads Carolina with 651 rushing yards on 165 carries. He logged 63 yards on nine carries against the Rams before suffering his injury.

"They got started hot with the running game, and they stayed with it," Williams said. "With their coaching staff, you have to show you have an answer for what they do offensively, or they are just going to do it over and over again."

"They establish their ground game to open up their passing game," said strong safety Troy Vincent, who will not play due to a hamstring injury. It's expected that Adam Archuleta and Vernon Fox will split time in place of Vincent.

Added Vincent: "They know what they're doing and they're confident. They've seen what defenses are trying to do to them--try and take Steve Smith away. Once you do that, it takes men out of the box and it opens up their running game and short passing game. They do a good job of mixing it up."

Then there's wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who is second on the team in receptions with 47 catches for 571 yards. The 11-year veteran is regarded as more of a possession receiver at this stage of his career, but he also brings a fiery personality to the team.

In a Week 11 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was Johnson's 4-yard touchdown catch from Jake Delhomme that sparked the Panthers to a second-half comeback and a 24-10 win.

"Don't count out Keyshawn," Williams said. "He's one of the most competitive, hard-nosed players in this league. He's really added to their chemistry."

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