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QUARTERBACK: Starter — Shane Matthews. Backups — Danny Wuerffel, Sage Rosenfels, Patrick Ramsey.

OK, someone has to be the early front-runner as starter, but it's really going to come down to the preseason games and even then expect both Matthews and Wuerffel to start this season. Both are former Gators who fit the system. Rosenfels is probable odd-man out because the team is committed to Ramsey in long run and doesn't need a second young passer. Ramsey may get some time this year. First rounder is being groomed for 2003, though.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters — RB Stephen Davis, FB Bryan Johnson. Backups — FB Rock Cartwright, RB Kenny Watson, RB Thad Buttone, RB Ladell Betts, RB Robert Gillespie.

Davis comes off his second single-season team record in three years with 1,432 yards, but how he'll do this year with a suspect interior line is debatable. Davis has proven the reliable hub of the offense, but pass-happy Spurrier may overlook him. Johnson is steady blocker with good hands.

TIGHT ENDS/H-BACK: Starter — Walter Rasby. Backups — Zeron Flemister, Robert Royal, Ivan Mercer.

Flemister may flourish in this offense with 30 catches not unreachable. Made strong progress last year in first real chance. Rasby is solid blocker, but vulnerable if the team wants to go younger.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Rod Gardner, Jacquez Green. Backups — Kevin Lockett, Reidel Anthony, Chris Doering, Justin Skaggs, Darnerien McCants, Cliff Russell, Derrius Thompson, Emmett Johnson.

Probably the toughest cutdown of any unit because they're all about the same — fair. Gardner is the leader, but not a real fit in the system. Lockett could be the one to watch, but this offense is liable to use four regularly.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Chris Samuels, LG David Loverne, C Larry Moore, RG Rod Jones, RT Jon Jansen. Backups — G/T Kipp Vickers, G Alex Sulfsted, G Akil Smith, T/G Reggie Coleman.

The Redskins have the best pair of young tackles in the NFL with Pro Bowler Samuels and overlooked Jansen, who should be a Pro Bowler. The problem is a lot of dead space in between. The team lost both guards and center to free agency and took a step back at all three positions. Team may still be looking for a guard. This can't help the passing or running games succeed.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LE Renaldo Wynn, LT Dan Wilkinson, RT Santana Dotson, RE Bruce Smith. Backups — DT Sean Powell, DT Carl Powell, DT Del Cowsette, DE Donovan Arp, DT Otis Leverette, DE Greg Scott.

A lot of change and probably not for the better. Smith will really be a role player trying to get 12 sacks to become the NFL career leader. Arp probably plays just as much, though. Wynn is a decent player, but predecessor Marco Coleman may have been better and was the team leader. Dotson replaces Kenard Lang, who played surprisingly well last year when moving from end. Wilkinson is the only real constant and he's simply a good player. Linebackers will player closer than years past if line can't contain run.

LINEBACKER: Starters — WLB Jessie Armstead, MLB Jeremiah Trotter, SLB LaVar Arrington. Backups — OLB Antonio Pierce, OLB Jauron Dailey, OLB Eddie Mason, OLB Donte Curry, MLB Kevin Mitchell.

The best unit on the team. All three were in the Pro Bowl last year with Trotter (Eagles) and Armstead (Giants) coming in free agency. Arrington is the best player on the team who says he wants to be the NFL Defensive MVP. Don't bet against him.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Champ Bailey, CB Fred Smoot, SS Sam Shade, FS David Terrell. Backups — FS Ifeanyi Ohalete, SS Andre Lott, CB Darrell Green, CB Kato Serwanga, CB Rashad Bauman, CB Mark Washington.

Bailey says he and Smoot will be the NFL's best tandem. They just might be with Bailey coming off his second Pro Bowl and Smoot returning from an impressive rookie year. They can man cover with anyone. Shade and Terrell's duties will change some under incoming defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who would have liked to have made changes. Shade is starting to slow down after steady career while Terrell is still green after starting one season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Brett Conway, P Bryan Barker, PR Champ Bailey, KR Justin Skaggs.

Conway was steady last year, converting 26 of 33 field goals, while his kickoffs greatly improved. Barker was consistent, but Dan Frantz will test him in preseason. Bailey is the current leader of several prospects, but the preseason will decide who gets the job. Skaggs is the front-runner to be the kickoff returner.


Overall, it's a pretty fair evaluation I think. Quick question though, why are the Skins risking losing Bailey to injury by playing him at PR? Bad move IMO.

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Good point, Smith. Hard to imagine an NFL team putting their top-flight man corner, with potential game-breaking PR skillz, back there where all those big mean men might hurt him.

Must be a flaw in the Skins brain trust.

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Don't think for a second that we're going to see Champ return anything this year, except maybe a couple interceptions for touchdowns. We have a few young, fast guys that can get the job done. No way they're risking Champ, or even Smoot for that matter.

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1. we should add an experienced interior lineman.

2. based on age, last year's numbers and size/strength, Marco Coleman was not a better investment for the team going forward than Reynaldo Wynn. Plus Wynn is versatile and can play DT in a pinch if there are injuries inside.

3. the analysis above is very superficial because it only comments on players that were here last year and the BIG free agent signings and doesn't account for the impact of any of the draft picks or younger players that may get a chance to contribute here in 2002. Cases in point: Ohalete and Lott at S, Pierce at LB, Russell at WR, Betts/Gillespie as the third down back.

4. the tag that the receivers are 'all the same' and 'fair only' is just guesswork. we don't know what Russell or any of the younger receivers is going to do here in 2002. To say that Cliff Russell and Derrius Thompson are similar players either in measureables or in style is ridiculous. What they are is unproven, just like all the other 260 picks in the draft, including Jabar Gaffney, Antonio Bryant, Reche Caldwell and all the other selections that have been lauded by different articles as being 'breakout' players to watch. :)

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Superficial, yes, but overall not too bad. It blew the DL analysis, though.

Intangibles aside (Coleman's leadership, Lang's humor), this team is at least as well off on the DL this year as they were last. The only question is if Dotson's play has slipped dramatically. If not, then he is an upgrade over Lang at DT. He's bigger, stronger, and more experienced at the position. Lang wore down as the year went on, but people only remember his first half of the season or so when he had a few big games. Towards the end of the season, you rarely heard his name. And, he wasn't going to come back here to play DT.

By any tangible measure, Wynn has to be an upgrade over Coleman. Younger, stronger, bigger, more versatile, and healthier.

I certainly wouldn't rate DL as a strength, but the team did OK last year with less to work with.

And, remember, that whole leadership thing is overrated.:laugh:

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I cringe every time I hear all the cry babies start bawling every time the possibility of using a top flight starter like Champ or Smoot is mentioned.

The thing is, the practice is highly common. Deion Sanders. Tim Brown. Charles Woodson. Troy Brown. Dale Carter. Deltha O'Neal.

All of these guys, at some point, were not only dynamic, game-breaking punt returners, but they were also Pro Bowl players at their regular starting positions.

I DO NOT want to hear anybody whine about the possibility of getting hurt like Jason Sehorn. For one thing, Sehorn was hurt on a kickoff, not a punt return. It's an entirely different animal.

Here's something to think about. Can anybody--ANYBODY--think of one--EVEN ONE--top flight starter/punt returner who has been seriously injured on a punt return? ANYONE? EVER?

I've been watching football a long time, and I simply can't think of an example. I think the fears are unfounded in reality.

I say put your best players on the field in the best position to make plays and win games. Champ Bailey has the ability to be a special punt returner. Give him the damn ball!

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you can overtax your starters if you want to, but the team will pay for it in the end.

pro football is a potentially dangerous game as we all know, and the more plays a guy is out there the greater the chance of injury.

so the question becomes, how much is gained from exposing a core player on special teams?

is one or two kick returns for TD's worth having a lockdown corner go down with an injury?

Not unless it is a playoff game. :)

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Again, give me one example of a starter being "overtaxed" by punt return duties. Exactly which teams have payed for it in the end? Which lockdown corners have gone down to injury while returning punts?

I don't buy it. Punt returning isn't especially taxing. You are talking about 5 or 6 extra plays a game, in most cases.

And "exposing" players to the risks of special teams? C'mon. It's football, for heaven's sake.

I don't get it. Special teams can make the difference between making the playoffs or not.

I'm not sure I agree totally with Joe Gibbs philosophy of holding out Darrell Green from those return duties. It didn't make sense because Green was a regular on COVERAGE teams. Punt and kickoff coverage is WAY more dangerous than actually returning punts. Now, I have seen returners get seriously injured on returns. But I have NEVER seen a top, Pro Bowl quality returner get seriously injured. EVER. Their vision and their instincts are too good. They know when to go down, when to run out of bounds, and when to go for it.

But then again, Gibbs had either Mike Nelms and Brian Mitchell, who WERE special returners, at the same time.

The Skins presently have no one like that.

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I have a hard time trying to decide which way to lean on this. I mean there haven't been serious injuries to punt returners that I remember but then there is the wear and tear that stuff like this creates. I mean look at Charles Woodson's turf toe or Deions for that matter. I don't know, maybe we should use Darrel since it is his last season and its not like he is any slower or such.

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Putting Skaggs at PR will give him a chance to show his stuff. We should play primarily he and D-mac at that position in the preaseason to see what they do. If they both blow, then we should go with Champ. But if one steps up, then it's a no-brainer.

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I won't pretend to know the answer to this, but can Deion's or Woodson's toe's be attributed specifically to punt return duties?

It seems, to me, that the regular duties of playing cornerback would do A LOT more to aggravate such an injury, not punt returning.

While Skaggs and DMac are fine athletes, I don't believe they are the types to excel at punt returning. They don't have that quick, explosiveness neccessary. While Nelms and Mitchell weren't burners, they did have that attribute.

(I feel pretty strongly about this, in case you haven't figured that out, yet.)

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With Champ already lining up on offense a little in camp, I think his responsibilities have already increased dramatically. How much can you ask one player to do? I'm not saying that he's not capable, but sooner or later his corner play is going to suffer a little, and one little slip on defense can lead to a quick 6 points for the other team.

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Originally posted by Funkyalligator

I don't know, maybe we should use Darrel since it is his last season and its not like he is any slower or such.

I like this idea. Let Champ play some receiver and let Green be the PR. It seemed like every other time Darrell returned a punt he ran it into the endzone (of course half of those were called back for clipping). Green is just unbelievably fast and also has that ability to make that cut or explosion at just the right moment.

Ok- this isn't really a plan for the future, but it'd be fun to watch.

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why can't the Redskins do what they traditionally have done in the past when they have had superior return men, namely find a specialist like most of the other teams in the NFL? :)

Larry Jones, Herb Mul-Key, Eddie Brown, Mike Nelms, Brian Mitchell.................

this team has had a long history of outstanding returners, why do we have to dip into the one area of the team, the secondary where we have young, franchise talents already on the scene to fill these spots?

you mean from the group of Jacquez Green, Anthony, Skaggs, Thompson, McCants, Watson, Gillespie, Russell, etc..........we can't find a capable candidate that can hang onto the football and run 10 or 11 yards on punts, given some decent blocking?

tell me it ain't so :(

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Bulldog, your approach is perfectly legitimate. Perfectly conservative, but legitimate.

But I think Steve Spurrier's philosphy is to constantly press the opponent, whether it's on offense, defense, or special teams.

Why settle for 10 or 11 yards a return if you can find a guy who can average 15 yards or more and be a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

The only guy on your list who might fit that description is Jaquez Green, who might very well win the job outright. But I think Champ and Smoot deserve a chance.

Again, there are tons of examples of Pro Bowl quality position players who have also been Pro Bowl quality punt returners, and not a serious injury amongst them.

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My theory on this is such. Lets say there have never been an injury to a punt returner but lets also say in hte opener vs Ariz our D makes a great stand and we send Champ out there to return, the chance he will get hurt is low, I understand but what if he blows out a knee and goes down for the year, is a 4 yd ave on punt returns worth that, I do not believe. We have a few others that might be able to make the team by returning punts, let someone else take the chance that is not such a huge part of our defense

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