Stewart, Marino May Pass More Often
Here’s some bad news for Jimmy Johnson and his Miami Dolphins defense as they prepare to welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers:
After a meeting with Steelers coach Bill Cowher and new offensive coordinator Ray Sherman, quarterback Kordell Stewart is ready to improvise more, the way he did when Chan Gailey had Sherman’s job.
``I think I’m OK,″ said Stewart, ranked fourth from the bottom among NFL quarterbacks after two games. ``You want to go 10-for-10 with 300 yards and two or three touchdowns, but it’s not always going to happen.″
If Stewart reaches his numbers, it means that Miami’s Dan Marino, who has passed for only 294 yards in wins over Indianapolis and Buffalo, is liable to get more work. Because if Pittsburgh scores, the Dolphins will call more often on Marino, who has thrown only 50 passes in two games, about 30 fewer than normal.
Stewart’s problems adjusting to Sherman’s conservative style is probably the main reason for the Steelers slow offensive start _ even if they are 2-0.
``Kordell’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, because he knows how much is expected of him,″ Sherman said. ``All I want him to do is relax, because he’ll be fine.″
Miami’s defense has capitalized so far on the inexperience of opposing quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Rob Johnson. Stewart is more mobile and comparatively more experienced. He has 19 NFL starts compared to three for Johnson and two for Manning.
But they’re all novices compared to Marino, who will be starting his 216th game and isn’t ready to take a secondary role.
I think we’re a team that is going to the playoffs,″ he said. ``And I believe I’m going to be one of the main reasons for that.″
In other games NFL Sunday, Detroit is at Minnesota, Green Bay at Cincinnati, Indianapolis at the New York Jets, St. Louis at Buffalo, San Diego at Kansas City, Tennessee at New England, Washington at Seattle, Chicago at Tampa Bay, Baltimore at Jacksonville, Denver at Oakland, and Philadelphia at Arizona.
Dallas is at the New York Giants Monday night.
Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and San Francisco are off.
Detroit (0-2) at Minnesota (2-0)
Are the Lions tossing in the season by replacing Scott Mitchell with rookie Charlie Batch at quarterback?
The way Mitchell was playing they weren’t going anywhere, anyway. But even Batch didn’t think he’d be put into this position so early.
``I think Charlie’s ahead of his time,″ said Bobby Ross, who demoted Mitchell all the way to third string behind Frank Reich. ``Frankly, that’s why we’re doing this.″
Batch has one advantage: Barry Sanders running against a defense that allowed 31 points at St. Louis last week. Another plus for Detroit: Not only will Randall Cunningham replace Brad Johnson at quarterback, but Cris Carter could be out, giving Randy Moss his first start as a pro.
Dallas (1-1) at New York Giants (1-1) (Monday night)
Jason Garrett starts at quarterback for the Cowboys in place of Troy Aikman, out 4-8 weeks with a broken left shoulder. The Giants have 13 sacks in their two games.
Not to worry, said owner Jerry Jones, back in his ``coach″ mode. Jones claims the Cowboys will win at least half the games Aikman misses.
The Giants have won three straight from the Cowboys, scoring 20 points in each. Their loss to the Raiders last week was their fifth in the last six games against AFC teams, but they’re unbeaten in their last nine against the NFC East.
Denver (2-0) at Oakland (1-1)
The first road game for the Broncos, and quarterback John Elway, who was considered doubtful during the week because of a sore hamstring, said he’ll be ready to play.
The Raiders hope for a repeat of last season, when Denver’s first loss came at Oakland, 28-25, as Napoleon Kaufman ran for 227 yards. Kaufman had an 80-yard TD run last week against the Giants as Jon Gruden won his first game as an NFL coach.
San Diego (2-0) at Kansas City (1-1)
This is Ryan Leaf’s first major test, against one of the NFL’s toughest defenses in one of the NFL’s loudest and most difficult venues. Leaf was hospitalized during the week with a viral infection.
Kansas City outplayed the Jaguars from scrimmage at Jacksonville last Sunday, even without Andre Rison and with Rich Gannon at quarterback in place of Elvis Grbac. But the Chiefs couldn’t get the ball into the end zone until late and the special teams gave up two big plays that beat them.
Baltimore (1-1) at Jacksonville (2-0)
The Ravens are likely to be a factor in the AFC Central. Their undersung defense stopped the Jets three times from the 1-yard-line last week and also produced a TD on an interception return by Rod Woodson.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, will be a factor in the AFC as a whole. However, they’re worried that running backs James Stewart and Fred Taylor have carried the offensive load rather than quarterback Mark Brunell and the passing game.
Chicago (0-2) at Tampa Bay (0-2)
Two teams with 0-2 records open the Bucs’ new stadium.
The Bucs have lost at Minnesota and Green Bay, losses that would hardly be noticeable if they came, say, in Weeks 6 and 12. But their offense ranks 25th and a lot of what they did gain came at the end of games that got out of hand early.
The Bears, on the other hand, were supposed to get blown away by Jacksonville and Pittsburgh and lost instead by a total of six points. Curtis Enis, their rookie running back, hasn’t started yet, but has 174 yards and a 5-yard average.
Green Bay (2-0) at Cincinnati (1-1)
The Bengals, who have awful starts this decade, were ecstatic to get an overtime win at Detroit in Week 2, the game that got Mitchell benched.
The Packers are tougher. Although they’re without Dorsey Levens, their top running back, Raymont Harris and Travis Jervey are good enough to share the load. Reggie White demonstrated he can play as well as talk with three sacks last week, and rookie Vonnie Holliday provides pressure on the other side of the line.
Indianapolis (0-2) at New York Jets (0-2)
Chapter III for Peyton Manning, who has six interceptions and a fumble in his first two NFL games. ``He’ll be all right,″ coach Jim Mora said. ``A lot of it was just poor decisions by a rookie.″
Jets’ quarterback Glenn Foley has separated rib cartilage, and might not start. Vinny Testaverde got more practice snaps this week and will take over if Foley can’t go.
Washington (0-2) at Seattle (2-0)
The Seahawks, winners over Arizona and Philadelphia, take on their third straight NFC East opponent. But they’ll know more about themselves after their next three games _ at Pittsburgh and Kansas City and home to Denver.
Can things get any worse for the Redskins, who had Jeff Hostetler walk out, then return after his request to be release wasn’t granted? But he’s still behind Trent Green and Gus Frerotte at quarterback.
Tennessee (1-1) at New England (1-1)
The Oilers got a full home stadium for the first time in two years last week, then lost to Ryan Leaf and the Chargers 13-7. One problem: Eddie George has only 97 yards on 40 carries in two games, perhaps because guard Kevin Donnalley went to Miami during the offseason.
That may not improve against the Patriots, whose defense is carrying them while Drew Bledsoe learns the new offense installed by Ernie Zampese, his third offensive coordinator in three seasons.
St. Louis (0-2) at Buffalo (0-2)
Some Rams suggested after they nearly made up a 14-point deficit against the Vikings last week that they got worn out by Dick Vermeil’s tough practices.
Buffalo’s problem is offense. Rob Johnson, who got a $25 million, five-year deal after starting only one NFL game in his previous three seasons, has been less than scintillating in the Bills’ two losses.
Philadelphia (0-2) at Arizona (0-2)
Arguably the two worst teams in the NFL in this nationally televised Sunday night game.
One reason is the two young quarterbacks, Arizona’s Jake Plummer and Philadelphia’s Bobby Hoying. Plummer, whom Arizonans thought was about to become the next Joe Montana, is last in the NFL in passing, and Hoying is sixth from the bottom. Both can blame bad offensive lines.