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News & Notes: Coaches Turn to Young Players In Finale


With the Redskins beset by injuries in the final weeks, head coach Mike Shanahan has increasingly turned to young, inexperienced players to fill roles.

In Sunday's 17-14 loss to the New York Giants, cornerback Kevin Barnes started at safety for the second week in a row.

Defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon, linebacker Rob Jackson and cornerback Byron Westbrook saw playing time in passing situations.

On offense, rookie wide receivers Terrence Austin was involved in the fourth quarter, catching two passes for 41 yards in addition to working on special teams throughout the game.

"If you're part of the 53-man squad or part of the [practice squad], and you're activated, you're going to get a chance to show what you can do," Shanahan said last week. "I think that's what has happened. We've had a number of defensive players step up and a couple of offensive players get their opportunity. You evaluate them and you like what you see. It definitely helps their chances for next year."

Barnes finished the game with four tackles, but he was involved in several key defensive plays.

On one first quarter drive, Barnes made three touchdown-saving plays.

He tripped up running back Brandon Jacobs on a 27-yard run down the right sideline. A few plays later, he leveled quarterback Eli Manning with a shoulder tackle on a run up the middle. Then Barnes broke up Manning's pass to wide receiver Derek Hagan at the goal line.

The drive ended with a Giants field goal.

Later, Barnes leveled tight end Kevin Boss, breaking up Manning's third-down pass along the right sidelines. He finished the game with four tackles.

Said Barnes: "Every chance I had I threw my body in there [to make tackles]."

Shanahan acknowledged last week there were risks giving playing time to so many young players.

"[With young players], you're going to see people playing extremely hard, but you're just hoping they're playing very smart," Shanahan said. "A lot of times, they get too excited and they want to hit somebody and they forget their assignment.

"The [veteran] starters that are playing, they have to play at a little better level than they've played at before. They've got to play they're best game as well."

For the youngsters, London Fletcher was a guiding presence on the field.

"We're a no-excuse defense," he said. "We don't make excuses and we don't care about who's out and who's in. It's really just a 'next man up' situation. We had Kevin Barnes, who had to play safety for us this week and last week and he did a good job. We have some young linemen who played well for us."


Graham Gano missed his 11th field goal attempt of the season on Sunday, a 30-yarder in the first quarter. The attempt sailed wide left.

Mike Shanahan has stuck with his kicker this season despite Gano's inconsistency.

Gano has missed 24-of-35 field goal attempts this season, including two from 20-29 range and three from 30-39 range, but also has kicked three overtime game-winning field goals.

Said Shanahan: "I talked to him on the sideline and said, 'Hey, you just have to stay focused and believe in yourself. You can't miss a field goal at that length. It is automatic. You are too good.'

"It has got to be mental and not physical...The mindset has to be very, very strong if you are going to be a kicker in this league."

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