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Philly Inquirer: Redskins Preview


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Not a hatchet job on the 'Skins or Spurrier. Nothing really insightful or new either.


NFC East Preview

Washington Redskins

Quick Study

By Mike Bruton

Inquirer Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. - Last season, the Washington Redskins were like a tenor singing off-key. The lyrics were fine, as was the melody, but something about the song wasn't quite right.

That's because the team's new head coach, Steve Spurrier, wasn't comfortable with the personnel he had, especially on offense.

When was the last time you saw a Spurrier team resort to handing off to a power back like Stephen Davis?

Davis, who signed with Carolina as a free agent, has been replaced by a sleeker, much faster model - Trung Canidate, acquired in a trade with the Rams. In fact, the Redskins overhauled their roster, bringing in 21 new veterans plus a slew of rookies and first-year players.

Now, if they could just put some bass in their song, the fortunes here at Redskin Park should change.

The talent, according to some, is there. It's a matter of how Spurrier fares now that he has his kind of team, one with speed to burn. It also matters if the Redskins can endure the murderous schedule they face.

"I hope I learned a lot of things last year," Spurrier said from behind sunglasses, grinning like a man who knows he did. "Certainly, we believe we've strengthened our team with the personnel we acquired in the off-season, but we've got to play like it and coach a little bit better."

Spurrier, after experimenting with Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, settled on young Patrick Ramsey as his starting quarterback late last season.

It was the right move, and in a year when the Redskins went 7-9, perhaps a little late.

This time around, Ramsey has the reins of the offense from the beginning. With the acquisition of wideout Laveranues Coles to go with proven receiver Rod Gardner, the Skins figure to light up the sky. Or at least try.

"I think [we] improved a lot," Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Especially when you go by what the coach likes. We have a coach who is in love with speed. Right now, we've got every bit of 15 or 20 guys that can run under 4.4 [in the 40-yard dash]."

Along with Canidate and Coles, that includes kick returner and backup running back Chad Morton, who was snatched away from the New York Jets along with Coles.

And, as Smoot called it, there are others.

"We see speed all day," said Smoot, referring to practicing against the Skins' offense daily, "so when we play the New York Jets and they've got Santana Moss, it's not new to us. Laveranues is just as fast. Cliff Russell is just as fast. Taylor Jacobs is just as fast. So we've got the speed."

Russell, a second-year wide receiver, backs up Gardner. Jacobs, a rookie from Florida, backs up Coles.

Spurrier loves those guys from Florida, where he became one of college football's premier coaches.

As he learned last season, though, the NFL is different, and just being fast isn't going to be enough. The Redskins will have to play smart, something that critics say Canidate didn't always do when he was backing up Marshall Faulk in St. Louis.

Canidate is being seriously challenged for the starting spot by Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson.

There is also a need for help up front.

The Redskins addressed that by signing left guard Dave Fiore from the San Francisco 49ers. They raided the Jets yet one more time to get Randy Thomas, who will start at right guard.

Starting center Larry Moore suffered a knee injury last week but is expected back by Washington's third regular-season game. Wilbert Brown will replace him until then.

"We do have fast receivers," Spurrier said. "Whether or not pass protection-wise we can hold up 40 throws a game, we'll have to find out."

You can bet the Redskins will be winging it until the opposing defenses make them do otherwise. Aside from putting ex-Gators on his roster, it's what Spurrier does.

Much of this obviously will depend on how fast Ramsey can mature. He can throw the ball with the best of them, but he still has lapses that result in poor decisions.

"The thing that makes me more comfortable," Ramsey said, "is it's getting easier and easier for me to see what the defense is doing and to adjust and react to that."

Ramsey says he is getting a feel for the Washington offense. He wants to immerse himself in it to the point that he instinctively knows when he does or does not have the right formation or play called.

The thing he's most excited about is getting a chance several times a game to rear back and to go for the big play.

"That's what we hope," he said. "Any time you acquire speed, you're hoping it creates separation and makes big plays. The theory of this offense is we obviously want to move this offense down the field and get completions, but we all wait for that one big strike."

All the question marks on defense reside up front, where 40-year-old Bruce Smith is seeing time at defensive end, some believe primarily because he is 31/2 sacks away from Reggie White's career record.

The Redskins brought in Regan Upshaw from Oakland to add to the mix at defensive end. Starting defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (from Miami) is also new, but the Redskins have already lost defensive tackle Brandon Noble for the season to a knee injury.

The linebacking corps of LaVar Arrington, Jessie Armstead and Jeremiah Trotter is a strength. With Smoot and Champ Bailey at the corners, the secondary has a chance to be formidable if the safeties can do their part.

"Matt Bowen is a big part of that," Smoot said. "He was one of the big off-season pickups because any time you've got two good corners you need that presence to make receivers scared to go across the middle."

Bowen, a fourth-year strong safety, was signed as a restricted free agent from Green Bay.

When it's all said and done, it usually takes a team with so many new players four or five weeks into the regular season to jell. The Redskins could be 0-4 or 0-5 by then.

Washington opens at home against the Jets, who will be angry. The Skins then travel to Atlanta, host the New York Giants and New England, and face the Eagles on the road. In Week 6, they play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I think that's what you look forward to," Coles said. "In this league, there are no cakewalks. Everybody you line up against is good. You're capable of getting beat week in and week out. We know from the gate we have to jump out and be on our A game, or else we can start out pretty bad."

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If Larry Moore is out until the 3rd game, then I am missing something, last I heard he was expected back for the opener. As far as the article goes, it is pretty accurate IMO, there was no bias lashing and no homerism. Just the straight hard-line truth. I agree that this Skins team could unfortunately start out 0-4, 0-5 and have another wasted season(even if they charge back later in the season). Right now this team just makes too many mistakes and dumb errors and commits too many damn penalties, bottomline. Take all those factors away and I think our team improves at least 75%.

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The mistakes that we have seen thus far can be corrected with a bit of discipline, and general work from the offense as a whole.

I think maor problems, such as personnel, etc., are relatively non-existent. It is simply a matter of becoming re-acquinted with the actual season, and working past simple mental errors.

This article talks about this team not really jeeling, but I saw quite a biot of that last weekend vs. the pats. Granted, it wasn't a perfect outing, but it was much better than last week's. 364 yards of offense in a game is an offense that jells, bottom line, second string or not.

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OK, I'm entirely on-board with the school of thought that says mental errors can be corrected. That is 100% true. But they haven't. The same mistakes we made in games early last year are still occurring this year. That leads me to believe that Spurrier isn't going to find the magic dust to sprinkle over our guys in the next two weeks.

I mean, I'm sure it's possible that this problem just goes away, but what evidence do we have that makes us think it will?

Under Gibbs, I expected that we would get some breaks each and every game due to the fact that we'd be more mentally prepared than our opponent. You could almost count on committing less penalties and winning the turnover battle. There were exceptions but that's true of any team. This team over the past several years has been the opposite. We've either had to overcome dumb-ass plays to win or play a well-disciplined game that has become our exception...

Sorry about the rant.

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Speedwagon, rants are what extremeskins is all about!

Those are all good points that you made, but I have to mention this: for the past few years, these funda-'mental' errors have been difficult to correct because of the shifting coaching staffs. The more important issues needed to be adressed, mainly creating a team, etc.

Here's why I'm optimistic- Snyder has finaly selected a coach that he hasn't canned because of a losing season. Since he has settled, regardless of the off-season moves, the core coaching unit has remianed. This allows for a bit of continuity this year, and we will inevitably build off of last year's season.

Make no mistake, Spurrier is an amazing football coach. He has been sought after by many NFL teams for years, and the money and timing was right for him to join forces with the skins. He knows the game, just as good as any nfl coach out there, maybe even better. Plus, he is a smart coach, and he may have a plan for everything, including his blatant mediocrity in the preseason. Those southern boys are sly, and they do it without youknowing.

These things will materialize this year. If you look close enough, you can already see a significant improvement from last year.

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Interceptions from Ramsey as a 2nd year QB are to be expected, and with Trung's reputation as a fumbler, we could be on the short end of the stick when it comes to turnovers this year.

I don't think penatlies are that big of a problem if they're not committed at crucial times throughout the game. The Raiders were tops in the league in penalties last year, and their season turned out alright.

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Originally posted by Blazers21

As far as the Jets being angry? They need to look in the mirror and assess the decisions made by the FO. They didn't have to lose all of those players.

Why are we getting so testy? Plain truth is you overpaid. You will see no cost benefit on Sept 4th, and in 2005 you will be in Cap Hell. :laugh:

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1st, Blazers21 is an Eagle fan, not a skins fan. 2nd, one of the major bright spots about this preseason is the play and attitude of Coles. He is going to be huge this year.

I'm sure you guys will say the same about Abraham when he take off next year after your F.O. lowballs him.

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