With Sunday's 31-16 win over the Jets, Washington improved its record to 4-1, its best start since 1991—a season that ended with a Skins Super Bowl victory. Much of the credit for the fast getaway goes to a stingy defense of no-names, guys like second-year defensive end Rich Owens, a 6'6", 279-pounder who leads the Redskins with four sacks.
"I was 6'4" and 190 pounds when I entered college," says Owens. "Nobody offered me a scholarship." He ended up at Lehigh, a Division I-AA school in the Patriot League, and didn't start a game there until his senior year. But by then he had grown to 6'6" and 235 pounds, with 4.5 speed and a childlike approach to the game. "I didn't know any of the defensive sets," says Owens, who had five sacks and blocked three kicks as a senior. "I just ran around and made plays."
The Redskins selected him in the fifth round of the '95 draft—"I was the first rookie in the entire league to sign a contract," he says with pride—and by the 14th game of his rookie season, Owens was starting. His six sacks in his first seven starts compares well with the early play of the Packers' Reggie White, the NFL's alltime sack leader, who got seven sacks in his first seven career starts.
"Richie's bright-eyed, smiling, happy, likes to play," says Washington defensive coordinator Ron Lynn. "Some people are already anointing him for Canton. He's not quite ready for that, though, unless we play the Hall of Fame Game next July."