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CNNSI on 'Skins

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The ol' ball coach is back for more -- and this time, he's loaded for ... well, let's just say he's loaded.

Key for the Skins in 2003 will be second-year QB Patrick Ramsey, who finished the season as Washington's leading passer, but also spent a lot of time riding the pine. Gone is leading rusher Stephen Davis, but when was the last time Steve Spurrier really needed a bruising back to fuel his offense?

Washington spent the offseason relocating four former New York Jets to the nation's capital, signing G Randy Thomas, K John Hall, return specialist Chad Morton and WR Laveranues Coles. Other additions include CB Alex Molden, RB Trung Canidate, DE Regan Upshaw and DT Brandon Noble.

If these moves pan out, the Redskins should be favored to win the NFC East for the first time since 1999.

Washington finished 20th in offense last year, which overshadowed the team's fifth-ranked defense. Now that Marvin Lewis has departed for Cincinnati, it will be interesting to see if first-year defensive coordinator George Edwards can maintain the momentum.

When the Skins wrapped up offseason workouts in June, Spurrier said, "Certainly I've learned a lot. We were probably a little overly optimistic last year, so we're not going to do that this year. We know we have better players this year. We're going to try to coach better. Hopefully, our play will do most of the talking."

>> Impact Signing

RB Chad Morton -- While the Redskins were busy raiding the Jets' roster, the addition of Morton will prove to be the biggest plus for the Chuck 'N' Duck. Lavy Coles? He won't have half the impact as Morton. Randy Thomas? Nope -- he'll be watching Morton change the course of games.

>> Impact Loss

RB Stephen Davis -- The first big-name casualty of Steve Spurrier's pass-first mentality, Davis was Washington's leading rusher for four consecutive years before being released in the offseason.

>> Fantasy Stud

WR Laveranues Coles -- Of the Redskins' raid of the Jets this offseason, the biggest name to come out of that mess was Coles, who led the team with 89 catches and 1,264 yards last season as he helped Chad Pennington develop into a top-notch QB. He can do the same this season for Patrick Ramsey this year, especially since his size and speed seem to be a better fit for Steve Spurrier's offense compared to Rod Gardner, the Redskins' top wideout last season. He'll need to improve on the five TDs, on the other hand.

>> Fantasy Dud

K John Hall -- Another part of the raid on the Jets, Hall is a relatively erratic kicker, although he did go a solid 24-of-31 each of the past two seasons. He's got a strong leg to make long field goals, but he's not as automatic as you'd like him to be on the closer field goals. Plus, Washington seems to go through two or three kickers a year, which doesn't bode well for Hall, even if he did sign a big contract.

>> Fantasy Sleeper

RB Trung Canidate -- One of the fastest players in the NFL, Canidate lost his spot as Marshall Faulk's backup last year to Lamar Gordon thanks to some fumbling problems. He did have a couple of good games filling in for Faulk in 2001, and given a starting job in Washington, he could finally have that breakthrough season.

>> Redskins will make the playoffs because ...

Patrick Ramsey comes of age -- and that's all anyone needs to know. The second-year QB will have a much better grasp of the offense, which will offset the loss of Davis.

>> Redskins will miss the playoffs because ...

Donald Rumsfeld heads up Washington's top defense department ... and we all know those guys don't play football. The Skins' D has few issues that need to be addressed, but it'll still be at the mercy of Ramsey & Co.


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We saw this article a week or so ago, but it is a good one to recall. This article states what is and should be clear to most football fans. If the offseason moves pan out, we should be favored to win the division. Not just the offseason moves of adding the free agents, but also the offseason moves of developing Ramsey and enjoying relative stability within the framework of what we're doing.

If Thomas is the player he's been and Coles is the player he just was and Hall doesn't miss 17 kicks as we had last year and Morton improves our field position to a league leading, or close to it, number as he did with the Jets, there's little question that the impact of those free agent signings will improve the team.

But, just having those moves work out won't necessarily be what makes this team. In fact, even if those moves work out greatly and we are clearly a better team for it, if we don't improve by record we'll be remembered for having blown it in free agency as was the case in 2000 where we added defense, we improved 26 spots in defense, and people think we didn't succeed with our signings.

There were other factors then that caused the failure of the team and it wasn't the exceptionally successful additions. It was internal. The same success or failure factors are at play now. If Ramsey's development is far enough along, we'll have a remarkably skilled and highly productive offense.

In the end I think our additions will prove greatly successful but I can't believe a second-year QB in a highly QB driven offense can fulfill the obviousness of the statement that if the moves work out we should be favored to win the division. I think Ramsey won't work out quite enough to make that possible this year. Next year perhaps, but this year it would surprise me.

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Agreed Art. While I'm fully expecting Ramsey to have a superb year and establish himself as the best QB from 2002, and put up some very impressive numbers, I'm not expecting him to set the world on fire this year. There's just too much to learn, especially for a second year guy who's still got a relatively steep learning curve to work under in SS's complex, audible-oriented, qb-driven offense.

He'll make plenty of mistakes this year, it'll be hard not to. But if the parts around him stay consistent and SS sticks around for several years to see that Ramsey fully develops, he'll be one of the top qb's in the league in the near future.

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The lack of playmaker on the defensive line didn't hurt the Raiders last year and our line is at least comparable to that line, if not better for depth. For that matter, a lack of a playmaker on the defensive line didn't haunt us in 1999 when our No. 2 offense shredded people even with the No. 30 defense.

I don't think the defensive line is made up to be one in which championships are built around, obviously, but, I don't think having a great defensive line is the end all to winning that some are wont to make it. Obviously we are going to lack a consistent pass rush out of the defensive front. There's no doubt about that. But, if Ramsey is the answer, the offense is set enough so that winning won't be the problem. Getting over the top still likely will.

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