On Sunday, the Redskins will face a quarterback who certainly is no stranger to them. Jake Plummer played his first six years in the league (1997-2002) with the Arizona Cardinals, former members of the NFC East.
The 6-2, 212-pound Plummer will be making his 11th career start against the Redskins this weekend. Although his record as a starter versus Washington is just 3-7, Plummer has given the Redskins fits over the years. In 2000, for instance, it was Plummer who directed Arizona to a 16-15 upset win on Week 10 in a game that basically sunk the Redskins' season.
Plummer, who has the Broncos off to a 3-1 start, is certainly the most mobile quarterback the Redskins have seen so far this season. When it comes to his ability to scramble and put pressure on a defense, Plummer has it all over Kyle Orton, Drew Bledsoe or Matt Hasselbeck, the three quarterbacks the Redskins have seen so far.
Redskins assistant head coach Gregg Williams has been telling his players all week that they need to place an emphasis on containing Plummer and the bootlegs Denver runs so frequently.
"The mobile quarterback has a chance to frustrate you defensively," Williams acknowledged yesterday. "Jake is very mobile and Mike Shanahan is very creative. We have our hands full."
In one of the memorable quotes of the season, Williams added: "They have every bootleg anybody anywhere has ever run."
When Plummer chooses to throw it, he has veteran Rod Smith and emerging star Ashley Lelie as his primary threats. Former Redskin Stephen Alexander is an option at tight end, as is 6-3, 290-pound tackle/tight end Dwayne Carswell, who produced two TDs as a tackle-eligible in last week's 20-7 win at Jacksonsville. Those two short scores came six minutes apart in a second-quarter stretch.
Williams says he expects Shanahan and the Denver offensive coaches will have Plummer ready to throw on the run.
"It looks to me like Mike likes to get him on the move. From a defensive standpoint," allowed Williams, "I'm always more comfortable when the quarterback stays in the pocket and we know where he is. We have to do a good job of just keeping him in the pocket."
Last week at Jacksonville, Plummer was 19-of-26 for 135 yards and the two scoring flips to Carswell. The Denver QB was not intercepted and finished with an outstanding position rating of 110.4, while Mike Anderson carried 23 times for 115 yards.
Williams said one of the keys to Sunday's game in Denver figures to be having a physical secondary that can help stop Anderson, second-year back Tatum Bell and the Broncos' running game.
He added: "The way you rush the passer in this league is stopping the run. You need to stop the run first and get them in those longer down and distances so you get a chance to rush the passer."
Marcus Washington called Anderson and Bell a "thunder and lightning combination."
"Mike Anderson is a hard-nosed runner and can break through arm tackles," Washington said. "Tatum Bell is probably more of a slashing-type running back. We have our work cut out for us."
Added safety Ryan Clark: "They have very good run schemes. It's a straight-ahead scheme, which give the running backs a lot of options for where they can go. It's a straight-ahead scheme, even though it looks side-to-side. Everyone thinks they stretch the field and make you run side-to-side, but they pick their holes."
Overall, Williams says, it's time for the Redskins' defense to produce more turnovers and sacks, even if that's going to be a stiff challenge against a quick quarterback such as Plummer.
"We would hope that we could continue to produce some bigger plays that way," the second-year Washington coach noted. "Turnovers come in bunches. Our missed opportunities in the interception part of it has been somewhat frustrating."