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Here's a little tid bit I got of si.com

Despite annual spending spree, Redskins look worse off

LANDOVER, Md. -- Last year, as an NFL rookie head coach, Steve Spurrier came into the league with gums ablazing, saying in his typically down-home, plain-spoken style that he expected his Washington Redskins to win the NFC East.

This time around, Spurrier scaled back the rhetoric considerably, admitting his revamped Redskins -- the NFL's biggest wheelers and dealers this offseason -- should play first and talk second. When pressed, the Ol' Ball Coach would only acknowledge being "cautiously optimistic" about his team's chances in 2003.

Talk, don't talk. Whatever. It really doesn't matter, does it?

If talking got it done -- or even big splashy offseason shopping sprees for that matter -- the Redskins would be a playoff perennial. But that, dear D.C. football fans, is not a phrase anyone has used to describe your guys since Joe Gibbs headed for Tobacco Road and a career in NASCAR team ownership.

It's still early, but halfway through Washington's preseason, I don't think the Redskins are the same inconsistent 7-9 team we saw last season. Nope. I think they're worse. Maybe by a healthy margin.

Proving that last week's 20-0 egg-laying at Carolina was no fluke, Washington went out Saturday night and underwhelmed the hometown fans as well, losing 20-13 to New England </football/news/2003/08/16/noble_injury_ap/>. Trust us, it wasn't that close, especially in the first half when it was primarily the Patriots' first team against the Redskins' No. 1's.

"We're not a well-oiled running machine by any means right now," said Spurrier, who's getting a bit too used to these shell-shocked postgame sessions. "It wasn't very pretty for our offense. Hopefully we'll learn from it and go on. We did practice well this week. But right now we practice better than we play the game."

Shoddy 'Skins

Most Turnovers in 2002:

Team Int. Fum. Total

St. Louis 27 18 45

Minnesota 23 18 41

Washington 20 20 40

Carolina 22 18 40

Pittsburgh 22 14 36

Then again, in practice it's the Redskins' offense versus the Redskins' defense.

Two things stood out Saturday in the opening 30 minutes before the roster wannabees took over: 1) Washington can't protect second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey if the opponent has much of a pass rush at all, and; 2) Washington's problems in the middle of its defensive line, where all good run defense starts, isn't going to magically go away. It took less than two games but the Redskins' most glaring weaknesses have surfaced and given the league a handy blueprint for how to defeat them.

"We were 2-0 last year at this point in the preseason and had all the answers," Spurrier said. "But this preseason we've got a lot of coaching to do."

Here's all you really need to know about how things went for the Redskins, who did put in a particularly tough practice week after being physically manhandled and outclassed by Carolina:

On its first drive, Washington lost 16 yards, all of which came courtesy of a shotgun formation snap that sailed over Ramsey's head and kept rolling until he fell on it at the 4. Ramsey, upon whom Washington's season depends, went 0-for-2 on the "drive," nearly being picked off by Patriots rookie cornerback Asante Samuel on second down.

New England took over at the Redskins' 40 on its first possession and needed just six plays to rip through the defense for a touchdown. Pats running back Antowain Smith rumbled 13 yards on first down and capped the drive with a 5-yard scoring run on which he went untouched. Smith finished the half with 33 yards on seven carries, a hefty 4.7 average.

With its second possession, Washington's offense showed some life, stringing together three first downs to reach New England's 14. But it was from there that Ramsey, who was hit, harried and hurried repeatedly, threw an awful interception to the Patriots' other rookie cornerback, Eugene Wilson. Under intense heat after audibling into a pass play, Ramsey tried to throw the ball out of bounds and didn't get enough on it to keep it out of Wilson's hands near the left sideline.

"Patrick did some good and bad things," Spurrier said. "That's why he needs to play. He got to throw 24 balls [in playing the entire first half]. He was trying to throw that ball away down there in the red zone, but man, he needs to throw it away in the dirt or something."

The Patriots needed just three plays to capitalize on Ramsey's gaffe, going 90 yards in three plays to grab a 13-0 lead. The score came when New England quarterback Tom Brady hit receiver David Patten in stride for an 85-yard thing of beauty. The Redskins sent Champ Bailey on a cornerback blitz on the play, and Brady burned them. So instead of being up 7-6, as it looked it might be a moment earlier, Washington trailed 13-0 with 6:43 left in the quarter and was knocked back on its heels.

Adding injury to insult, on the play before Brady-to-Patten, Redskins defensive tackle Brandon Noble -- one of their many free-agent signees this offseason -- was carted off the field with a left knee/patella injury. Spurrier said it appeared that Noble would miss "half the year, maybe more."

With Washington already unable to stop anybody from running up the gut (see: Stephen Davis and Skip Hicks last week at Carolina), the injury to Noble leaves the Redskins wide open to criticism that they should never have cut veteran defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson in a salary cap move three weeks ago.

What do you bet Redskins personnel man Vinny Cerato was speed dialing Wilkinson's agent at halftime, begging him to keep his client from signing with either Detroit or Green Bay until Washington gets a chance to up its one-year offer? Or at the very least trying to seal that trade for Denver reserve tackle Lional Dalton?

"Certainly we need to see who we can play there," Spurrier said. "We're certainly looking for help inside."

Though the Redskins made a game of it in the second half, their dropped passes (at least three), key penalties (13 for 89 yards), and poor execution will stand out to Washington's coaching staff when it reviews the game films on Sunday. For whatever reason, Spurrier's second-year coaching results look a lot like his first-year efforts. More than anything else, his team beats itself, and the varied and talented players Washington has accumulated don't seem to quite fit together.

"It's a work in progress," Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen said, somewhat generously. "There are still a lot of things we need to keep working on."

It's remarkable given Spurrier's offensive pedigree, but the FedEx Field fans Saturday night were in essence treated to a punt-off between Bryan Barker and Brent Bartholomew -- the two Redskins punters who were pitted against one another in a one-game, loser-goes-home format. I'm giving Barker the nod, but that's not exactly the kind of drama that brings the season-ticket holders back wanting more.

About 10 days ago, before the Redskins had played a preseason game and started showing their hand, I sat with Ramsey as he ticked off all the ways Washington could score this year. You wanted to believe him, especially since on paper it was clear that the Redskins had upgraded their offensive talent and especially their speed.

"We have some weapons," said Ramsey, who finished 13-of-24 against the Patriots, with 149 yards passing, two sacks, a ton of pressures, one interception and a 55.7 QB rating. "Whereas last year I think coach had to call plays that if we needed 13 yards to get a first down, I'm not sure we had those guys to pick it up. But this year we got guys who can catch the ball and go create something. They can catch a 5-yard pass and get 13 out of it.

"I don't think we have to be as perfect as far as our passes and as perfect as far as our play-calling because we have so many athletes who can do something with the ball after the catch."

After two weeks of the preseason, I'll concede this much: Ramsey was right about one thing. The Redskins' offense is far from perfect so far. And that's even with everyone playing first and talking second.

Don Banks covers pro football for SI.com.

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Someone outta pull Don Banks' head out of his azz . . .

Perhaps he should take a gander at Rick Tandler and John Keim's commentary on the 'Skins Insiders . . .

Among the points raised in their commentaries . . .

-- on the Carolina game, do you suppose we'd use the pre-season defense we employed against them in the regular season game we'll be playing? . . . hardly . . . we'd put eight men in the box, put Champ on Muhsin (Carolina's only real receiving threat), and dare Rodney Peete to throw the ball . . .

-- on the Patriots game (as with Carolina game), they came with blitz packages to attack Ramsey . . . the 'Skins used a vanilla blocking scheme which didn't game plan for those blitzes . . . once the regular season starts, the game plan will take into account for such things . . .

This could go on . . . but suffice it to say that a lot (though not all) of the perceived shortcomings in those two games can be readily and easily explained away by the fact that it's pre-season . . .

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the Redskins are a difficult team to gauge because of the injuries and the fact they have held guys out the first and second games.

Coles has made only cameo appearances and has had 2 big plays in that limited time.

Canidate has gotten few carries as Spurrier has concentrated on getting Ramsey reps in the passing game. He came on to have a nice effort against New England's first team defense.

I can't explain why but Jansen and Thomas have had their problems in protection the first two games, especially Jansen. He needs to pick up his play. He wants to be a new Hog yet you go back and see a guy like Jim Lachey that gave up 1 sack in like a year and a half :)

Everyone on the OL needs to be more consistent.

Of the younger players, you seem some guys emerging. Cartwright, Jacobs, Royal. That is what preseason is for, to identify guys that step up when the lights are on :)

On defense this team needs work. One factor has been the absence of 2 of the top 3 DEs until Saturday. Smith's limited time in the NE game resulted in a good rush and he had a definite impact on the line. Upshaw remains out.

All this has prevented the team from being able to move Wynn inside to DT for a look see.

One by-product of Upshaw's injury and the continued struggles inside is that LaDairis Jackson is likely going to be a bigger factor for us in 2003 than most had assumed.

He appears back from his injury and ready to contribute. At 260 he might not hold up for 40-50 reps at DE against a power running team, but can be a nice antidote on the third down pass rush and against teams that throw the ball a lot and don't have a top notch back.

At linebacker the team is just getting Trotter back into the mix. Armstead has looked spotty to me but has enough experience behind him to make you believe he will be solid come the regular season.

Arrington is a big question mark. He seems ecstatic about his role in the defense in 2003 but has yet to make any really signature plays in his 3 or 4 quarters of action so far, especially against the run where ALL the linebackers will have to be excellent for us to have a chance.

There is no way the article is right about where this team is talent wise vis a vis last year's team.

Despite the well-wishes of some, most of us had questions that Wuerffel and Matthews were going to produce big numbers for the Skins at any time.

Gardner was the only bona fide starting receiver out of a non-descript group of Green, Anthony, Doering and Lockett.

We lost Russell the first day of camp. His speed was sorely missed.

This team now has good depth at WR, with #2 and #3 draft choices sitting in the wings waiting for a chance to play.

The offensive line is better.

I think all the talk about the backs is overblown. If Watson could run for 534 yards behind the line we put out there in 2002 with the qbs we had, I think he could get to 1,000 this year even in an offense with pass first mentality. The 4.6 yard average wasn't too shabby either :)

He and Canidate are probably the top two backs barring some kind of unexpected breakthrough by Betts in the final two games.

Morton is a spot player. He had his chance and just doesn't have enough size to be a regular player on offense.

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Was Banks watching the same game? Or did he just catch the ESPN highlights?

After the first two drives, the Pats never really even sniffed the end zone. They were pretty much stopped cold, in fact. That supposedly dominant first half by the Pats produced a whopping 13-7 lead, with the Skins moving the ball much better than New England in the second quarter. Projecting the same score or results in the second half during a regular season game is assinine and, frankly, amateurish.

I wonder if Banks was watching Super Bowl XXII and proclaiming -- after the first quarter -- "The Skins look terrible. It's 10-0, and it's not even as close as the score indicates."

What a boob.

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If this kind of scrutiny is valid, then the Raiders will have no chance of returning to the SB this season 'cause they've stunk it up in the preseasons thus far. Only, they stunk it up in last year's preseason as well yet did go the Super Bowl.

And did anyone catch the Dolphins game against the Bucs? Obviously Miami should just pack it in right now. They've got no chance to get to the playoffs.

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