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USA TODAY, Skins Inside Slant


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http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/redskins/home.htm

Inside slant

Expectations for the Redskins in Steve Spurrier's second year provide a heck of a contrast.

Last season, in Spurrier's highly anticipated debut, he was crowing about Washington's potential while everyone else doubted the potential of his re-tread Gators and a patchwork line. This year, Spurrier is muted in his outlook while the outside consensus is growing about what Washington might do.

Fair or not, the over-under for this team's expectations has settled around 9-7—a two-win improvement over last season, thanks to dramatically upgraded talent on offense and an inevitable upgrade over last year's poor special teams.

That would mean a shot at the playoffs, someplace Washington hasn't been since the 1999 season. And that postseason journey is the only one since Joe Gibbs left the club following the 1992 season.

For Washington to play to expectations, a couple of key things have to happen. And the first is that the newcomers must perform as advertised.

That alone will be difficult. Big-name free agents often don't play to form until they've been with a new team for a year. Look at linebacker Jeremiah Trotter last year. He was unsure of his role, then he pushed too hard early on, blowing assignments, then shortly after he adjusted he blew out his knee. This spring, Trotter finally seemed at ease with being a Redskin.

Fortunately for Washington, there is reason to believe the most important of this offseason's pickups will play well immediately. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles has been a pro's pro from the day he set foot in Redskin Park. On the offensive line, outstanding tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen should make the adjustment easier for new guards Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore. And key special teams pickups John Hall and Chad Morton don't face many of the chemistry issues of position players.

Still, predictions of an over-.500 finish rely on Spurrier's offense getting a lot better and the Redskins' defense, now coached by George Edwards instead of Marvin Lewis, staying on the same level. And both sides face major challenges.

On offense, the biggest hurdle is winning with a second-year quarterback. Patrick Ramsey might have a bright NFL future, but a lot of other talented passers have washed out by being thrust in too quickly. His ability to run the offense under such pressure and heavy scrutiny probably will determine whether Spurrier dramatically improves 2002's No. 20 ranking.

On defense, an obstacle to Washington maintaining its play is just how good its play was in 2002. The unit started slow but stiffened as the season progressed, and in the end it ranked an impressive No. 5.

Gone are Lewis and star defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. Left are a strong linebacking corps, a potentially improved secondary and a line full of questions. For the defense to perform, the linebackers must carry the load, new safety Matt Bowen must make an immediate impact, third-year corner Fred Smoot must elevate his play and the line must hold up despite heavy skepticism about its potential.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp opens July 28. The final practices are set for Aug. 14. Fan appreciation day will be held on the first Saturday, Aug. 2.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

—Eric Schaffer, formerly staff counsel at IMG Football, joined the Redskins as a salary cap expert and contract negotiator.

In a way, Schaffer replaces Joe Mendes, whose role was reduced to monitoring the cap and helping in some negotiations by the time he left via mutual decision in early June. However, Mendes had returned to the organization in 2002 as the de facto general manager. His power eventually was ceded to owner Dan Snyder and personnel chief Vinny Cerrato.

Snyder will continue to be involved in contract issues, particularly the significant ones, but it isn't clear whether that's the long-term plan. For now, Schaffer will work on signing Washington's three draft picks.

—The Redskins finalized the overhaul of their scouting staff, which lost a number of people just before and after Mendes' departure. Mike Kelly was hired as a pro scout; former quarterback Cary Conklin and Marcus Dupree were made college scouts; and former assistant coach Foge Fazio was brought in as a part-time consultant.

Fazio last worked for the Redskins in 2000, as the linebackers coach under Ray Rhodes. He then was Cleveland's defensive coordinator the past two seasons before pushed into retirement after the Browns' playoff loss at Pittsburgh.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Certainly I feel like I've learned a lot. We were a little overly optimistic last year, so we're not going to try to do that this year. We're going to say, 'Hey, we know we've got better players; we're going to try to coach better; and hopefully our play will do the talking for us.' " — Redskins coach Steve Spurrier.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Washington has been quiet on the personnel front for more than a month, having frontloaded its offseason acquisitions and even plugged reserve holes relatively early. The big issues right now are getting the draft picks signed and then monitoring the roster's performance in training camp and making changes if necessary.

One player who will be scrutinized is defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, whose $3.5 million salary exceeds his potential at this point in his career. The Redskins would like him to lower that number, but thus far haven't had the leverage to force a pay cut. A solid defensive tackle getting cut by another team could do the trick. Or, Wilkinson arriving at camp in shape and at the top of his game could end any speculation of a pay cut quickly.

An already questionable defensive line will be eased into action because of injuries. Defensive ends Regan Upshaw and Bruce Smith are both coming off of offseason knee surgeries. Upshaw won't get a full practice load for awhile, while Smith, thanks to being 40, is expected to practice modestly regardless of how well his knee feels.

Generally, though, Washington doesn't have many injury concerns entering camp. LB Jeremiah Trotter (torn ACL) was ahead of schedule by the end of offseason practices and hopes to be full-speed early in camp, while reserve WR Cliff Russell appeared healthy from a torn ACL in camp last summer.

DRAFT PICKS

Rd. 2/44, WR Taylor Jacobs, Florida—Looked sharp from get-go. Probably the frontrunner for the No. 3 spot despite a deep, promising corps.

Rd. 3/81, OL Derrick Dockery, Texas—Giant blocker slated for key reserve duty for now. Should be first blocker off the bench at tackle or guard. Eventually could push for LG job.

Rd. 7/232, QB Gibran Hamdan, Indiana—Almost a lock to beat out Brad Banks for No. 3 QB job. Very raw but with good size and skills.

UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter — Patrick Ramsey. Backups — Rob Johnson, Gibran Hamdan, Brad Banks.

Ramsey faces great expectations in his first year as a full starter. Johnson clearly was behind him in offseason practices but could provide a quarterback controversy if Ramsey struggles. Hamdan is a few years off; Banks, despite his college credentials, probably won't stick in the pros.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters — RB Trung Canidate, FB Bryan Johnson. Backups — RB Ladell Betts, RB Kenny Watson, RB Chad Morton, FB Rock Cartwright.

Canidate was considered a steal from St. Louis for a fourth-round pick but didn't perform in minicamp. He gradually improved but certainly could be unseated. Betts is a potential starter; Watson is a former undrafted guy who gets the job done. Look for Morton as a situational guy. Both fullbacks have stats potential.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Zeron Flemister. Backups — Robert Royal, Leonard Stephens.

Flemister is the de facto starter but no one in this group is very impressive. Flemister just doesn't seem to have the passion to be a solid NFL player. Royal looked good in camp last year but sat out the season with a high ankle sprain. Stephens is just a guy.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner. Backups — Taylor Jacobs, Cliff Russell, Darnerien McCants, Patrick Johnson.

Coles wowed everyone from the start in offseason practices. Gardener should benefit from having a No. 1 target ahead of him. Look for both to be 1,000-yard receivers. Jacobs could catch 40 balls as the first backup, but he'll be pushed by Russell and McCants. Johnson is a speedster with some talent but he faces heavy competition.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Chris Samuels, LG Dave Fiore, C Larry Moore, RG Randy Thomas, RT Jon Jansen. Backups — T/G Derrick Dockery, G/C Lennie Friedman, G Tre Johnson, T Rod Jones.

Samuels and Jansen are unquestioned in their ability. Thomas was a great, if expensive, pickup for the right side. Fiore could be a standout if he stays healthy, but he's got an injury history. Moore definitely could be challenged at center by Friedman or, if Washington thinks Dockery can start at LG, by Fiore. Moore seems safe for now, though.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LDE Renaldo Wynn, DT Dan Wilkinson, NT Brandon Noble, RDE Regan Upshaw. Backups — DE Bruce Smith, DE Peppi Zellner, DT Jermaine Haley, DT Del Cowsette.

A group without a clear playmaker. Wynn earns raves from coaches but rarely gets any cheers on game days. Wilkinson is slimmed down but it's still uncertain how well he can play. Noble is a classic blue-collar worker. Upshaw is under pressure to get after the quarterback. He and Smith could see a 50-50 rotation—which might not please either one. Haley got nailed for DUI this summer but should stave off suspension with repeated continuance requests.

LINEBACKERS: Starters — LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter, Jessie Armstead. Backups — Kevin Mitchell, Shemar Finney, Lemar Marshall, Orantes Grant, Antonio Pierce.

Arrington is coming off an 11-sack season but don't look for those numbers again. New defensive coordinator George Edwards will back him off the line of scrimmage and let him have a more free-form role. Trotter should come into his own as a second-year Redskin. Armstead once again faces age questions, but he was solid last year. Veteran Mitchell is the only name in a nondescript group of linebackers fighting for reserve roles.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Champ Bailey, CB Fred Smoot, FS Matt Bowen, SS Ifeanyi Ohalete. Backups — CB Alex Molden, CB Rashad Bauman, S David Terrell, S Andre Lott, S Ricot Joseph.

Bailey might be the NFL's best corner, and he's in a contract year unless Washington negotiates an extension. Smoot was the subject of heavy trade discussions but is much better than recent negative pub. Look for a solid year. Bowen could be a real upgrade at safety, or he could be a miscalculation by Washington's personnel staff. Ohalete could end up a reserve if coaches decide to start Terrell at free safety with Bowen at strong. Molden and Bauman should have a nice battle for the No. 3 corner role.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K John Hall, P Bryan Barker, LS Ethan Albright.

Hall isn't the most accurate kicker but he's a genuine upgrade after Washington's years of botching this spot. He also has a strong leg which is good for kickoffs. Barker, coming off a career-worst year, is trying to beat out Brent Bartholomew. The team still could look for outside help at punter. Albright is a solid vet.

PERSONNEL UPDATE

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED: None.

VETERANS RE-SIGNED: LS Ethan Albright (cut; $655,000/1 yr, no SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); OL Wilbert Brown (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); DT Del Cowsette (potential ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); FB Bryan Johnson (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); OG Tre' Johnson (UFA; $680,000/1 yr; $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); LB Kevin Mitchell (UFA; $680,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); S Ifeanyi Ohalete (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); LB Antonio Pierce (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr) TE Leonard Stephens (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OL Alex Sulfsted (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); S David Terrell (RFA; $605,000/1 yr).

VETERANS ACQUIRED: S Matt Bowen (RFA Packers; $5.9M/4 yrs, $1.6M SB; 2003 cap: $850,000); RB Trung Canidate (trade Rams); WR Laveranues Coles (RFA Jets; $35M/7 yrs, $13M SB; 2003 cap: $2.3M); OG Dave Fiore (UFA 49ers; $6.33M/4 yrs; $1.5M SB; 2003 cap: $905,000); OG Lennie Friedman (FA Broncos; $475,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB/$200,000 base guarantee); DT Jermaine Haley (RFA Dolphins; $4M/4 yrs, $650,000 SB; 2003 cap: $612,500); PK John Hall (UFA Jets; $7.13M/5 yrs, $1.6M SB; 2003 cap: $850,000); CB Lloyd Harrison (FA; $985,000/2 yrs, no SB; 2003 cap: $455,600); QB Rob Johnson (UFA Buccaneers; $2M/2 yrs, $245,000 SB; 2003 cap: $777,500); WR Patrick Johnson (UFA Jaguars; $680,000/1 yr, $150,000 SB); CB Alex Molden (FA Chargers; $1.5M/2 yrs, $200,000 SB; 2003 cap: $755,000); RB/KR Chad Morton (RFA Jets/awarded to Redskins by arbitrator; $8M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB; 2003 cap: $1.03M); DT Brandon Noble (UFA Cowboys; $6.53M/4 yrs, $1.8M SB; 2003 cap: $980,000); OG Randy Thomas (UFA Jets; $27.63M/7 yrs, $7M SB; 2003 cap: $1.53M); DE Regan Upshaw (FA Raiders; $7.555M/5 yrs, $2M SB; 2003 cap: $1.061M); DE Peppi Zellner (UFA Cowboys; $555,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000).

VETERANS LOST: OL David Brandt (traded Packers); PK Jose Cortez (cut); RB Stephen Davis (cut); WR Chris Doering (not tendered as RFA/Steelers; $450,000/1 yr); DT Santana Dotson (not tendered as UFA); DT Daryl Gardener (UFA Broncos; $34.87M/7 yrs, $5M SB); CB Darrell Green (retired); P Craig Jarrett (cut); OG David Loverne (traded Rams); LB Eddie Mason (not tendered as UFA); QB Shane Matthews (UFA Bengals; $655,000/1 yr); DL Carl Powell (UFA Bengals; $1.73M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB); TE Walter Rasby (cut); S Sam Shade (cut); OG Brenden Stai (cut); WR Derrius Thompson (UFA Dolphins; 3 yrs, terms unknown); OG Kipp Vickers (not tendered as UFA); QB Danny Wuerffel (not tendered as UFA).

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Originally posted by Yusuf06

You're right TC. I was simply amazed seeing that they called him "just a guy" and found it unproffesional. "Camp fodder" would have been more accurate. :D

True but at least they cleared up all those rumors about his transgender tendencies, so I can rest a bit easier now.

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I think the stereotype that younger qb's can't win and that the Redskins will ultimately be dragged down by Ramsey is bogus.

the NFL today is a far different league than it was when that statement held. 25 years ago, quarterbacks called their own plays and good defenses around the NFL had been together for years. younger qb's were at a distinct disadvantage. some guys like Joe Theismann were 28 or 29 when they became starters.

Now, OCs call the plays. quarterbacks entering the NFL often have run pro style passing offenses in college. and league expansion coupled with free agency has thinned out the pool of talent on defense and the consistency of those units from year to year.

not only is it possible for less experienced players to succeed, but they have in fact been doing just that.

anyone remember Kurt Warner and Tom Brady winning Super Bowls in the past few years? :laugh:

anyone remember seeing McNabb, Culpepper, Vick and others take their teams to the playoffs before they were 25? :D

what you need to succeed is a combination of skill and emotional maturity. some guys have both at a relatively young age, more so perhaps than in the past where qbs were expected to sit for 5 or 6 years and learn the game from the bench.

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Ramsey has been watching film all offseason of his performances last season, the kid works hard and has a strong desire to succeed From what I have read the coaching staff is impressed with his progress, I think the league is going to be surprised by this young Skins QB

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Originally posted by Dirk Diggler

I have no problem with the "Just a guy" statement. That's scout lingo and in this case, it's pretty much on point.

Good observation, I don't think anything "mean spirited" was meant.

All in all, this was a decent read.

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