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Gibbs, Redskins Stay Focused On Needs

By Gary Fitzgerald


March 15, 2006

Despite the Redskins' aggressive approach in free agency, head coach Joe Gibbs emphasized on Wednesday that the team was "very selective" as well.

"We've added some guys there who we felt addressed some specific needs," Gibbs said. "We were very selective in what we tried to do and we felt like we signed guys who really fit."

The Redskins have addressed the wide receiver position in a big way, adding Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd. Veteran Andre Carter bolsters the pass rush at defensive end. Christian Fauria replaces Robert Royal at tight end and Adam Archuleta replaces Ryan Clark at strong safety.

What's next?

The Redskins still have some needs--weak-side linebacker, offensive line depth, nickel cornerback--but Gibbs said he did not anticipate any marquee free agent signings anytime soon. He does expect to continue visits with free agents, however.

Meantime, the Redskins will begin to shift focus to the NFL Draft, scheduled for April 29-30. The Redskins currently have a second-round pick (No. 53 overall), a fifth-round pick, two sixth-round picks and a seventh-round pick.

Despite the lack of draft picks, Gibbs was optimistic the team could find some quality players, even in the later rounds. He added that he hoped to garner some compensatory picks this year for losing cornerback Fred Smoot and linebacker Antonio Pierce in free agency last year.

"We would hope to draft some guys who could make an impact for us," he said. "There all kinds of options you have going into the draft. We're continuing to look at where we feel like we still need to add somebody. I think we have a pretty good idea of what the draft is going to be like as far as positions and depth."

Here's a look at the Redskins' needs as of March 15:

Weak-side Linebacker

The Redskins released LaVar Arrington on March 5, a move that helped give the team some needed salary cap relief but also created a vacancy at weak-side linebacker.

"I think that is a position we will be focused on," Gibbs said. "I think obviously we have the draft coming up and there are still some free agent possibilities. Right now, you have two proven starters at linebacker [in Marcus Washington and Lemar Marshall]. We'll be focused on it and I think that's an area we need to be looking at.

Gibbs indicated that fourth-year linebacker Khary Campbell, who re-signed with the Redskins on March 14, could have a shot at increased playing time at the weak-side sopt. Campbell is also a special teams leader.

"We went after Khary real hard because he is real important to us and he can play linebacker," Gibbs said. "He'll have a chance to [compete] at linebacker, too."

Chris Clemons, Robert McCune and Jashon Sykes could also be in the mix at weak-side linebacker. Since middle linebacker Marshall played the weak-side in 2004, he could be shifted back to that position this year, allowing the Redskins to pursue a middle linebacker.

The draft is thought to be especially deep at linebacker. Chad Greenway (Iowa), A.J. Hawk (Ohio State) and D'Qwell Jackson (Maryland) are regarded as the top linebackers. They should be off the draft board by the time the Redskins pick at No. 53. Other options could be Thomas Howard (UTEP) and DeMeco Ryans (Alabama).

Offensive Line Depth

The Redskins have a solid starting five on the offensive line and barring a restricted free agent offer to Derrick Dockery, the unit should return in 2006.

But Gibbs said he is concerned about the depth. Coaches like backup tackle Jim Molinaro and reserve guard Ikechuku Ndukwe, but they have limited NFL experience.

The Redskins would like to add a lineman who can back up at both guard and center. Cory Raymer served in that role last year, but he was released in a salary cap move on March 10.

"[Offensive line] is the only place where we don't feel like we have real solid depth," Gibbs said. "We have some good young guys there. Somebody who could play both those spots--that would be one area we would have a real interest in trying to find somebody."

Nickel Cornerback

The Redskins released veteran Walt Harris on March 10, leaving the defense somewhat thin at cornerback. Starters Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers are set, but after that there is mostly youth. Harris, who has since signed with San Francisco, started 12 games last year while helping to groom Rogers.

Fourth-year player Ade Jimoh served in nickel and dime packages last year--and coaches praised his development. Gibbs also mentioned youngsters Christian Morton and Dimitri Patterson, both of whom spent time on the practice squad and 53-man roster last season, as corners with promise.

"I think you're always looking for cornerback help, but I don't think we feel real pressure," Gibbs said.

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Nice piece, Gary. :)

As much time as we've spent the last few days/weeks rightfully talking about FA and the team needs the Skins met through it ... there remains work to be done.

The major areas of additional personnel focus are clear, as this piece sets out.

Beyond getting comfortable with the OL depth question, settling on a WLB and shoring up the 3rd corner position ... the major area of focus between now and the end of preseason--and this is likely to be the key to just how far Washington gets this season--is going to be the QB situation.

Specifically, the QB question is whether a healed and refreshed Mark Brunell will, 1) be able to hold off a challenge from Campbell for Opening Day, and 2) assuming he does, whether or not will be able to sustain the level of play necessary to take the team as deep or deeper in the playoffs as in 2005, 3) assuming he wears down again, whether Campbell will be prepared to step in and offer a better alternative.

As it stands right now, the rest of the pieces are largely in place for this to be at the VERY least a dangerous playoff contender. If they get solid QB play as well, we could having nearly as much fun next JANUARY as we did this March. :)

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