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NY DAILY NEWS :Skins hold breath waiting to see what Ramsey can do


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Skins hold breath waiting to see what Ramsey can do

QB has arm but still learning




Redskins QB Patrick Ramsey (r.) with coach Steve Spurrier

ASHBURN, Va. - Here's the skinny from Washington:

All of Dan Snyder's bucks and all of Steve Spurrier's X's and O's will mean nothing if Patrick Ramsey does not turn into a bona fide NFL quarterback.

And with the season opener against the Jets looming, no one on the Redskins seems to be certain that will happen.

"Patrick Ramsey has a whole lot of potential but he hasn't done a whole lot," Spurrier said. "We are a wait-and-see type of team right now."

That is not a very comfortable place for a team with an owner as impetuous as Snyder and a coach as impatient as Spurrier. But the old ball coach, who changes QBs more often than his engine oil and wasn't high on drafting Ramsey in the first place, insists he is sticking with the strong-armed kid for the long haul.

"He is our quarterback, no question," Spurrier said - not that he has much choice.

There are only two quarterbacks on the roster, and since veteran backup Rob Johnson is still learning the Fun 'N' Gun, Ramsey is definitely the man.

That point was reinforced this past weekend when Spurrier was forced to cut Danny Wuerffel after the Redskins had re-signed Spurrier's old Gator guider during training camp. Spurrier wanted to keep Wuerffel. Personnel head Vinny Cerrato didn't. Snyder cast the deciding vote. Spurrier also made sure the media knew how it all came down.

The speculation is that Snyder and Cerrato effectively amputated Spurrier's notoriously itchy trigger finger. It was already unlikely that he'd turn to Johnson, at least early in the season. It is now impossible for the coach to go to Wuerffel if Ramsey starts playing badly in a game.

The odds are better it will not happen as it did in Ramsey's rookie year, when, coming off a brilliant relief effort in Tennessee, he threw four interceptions in his first start against the Saints. After another loss, Spurrier went back to journeyman personified Shane Matthews, only to return to Ramsey for the final three meaningless games.

Ramsey comes off the summer with mixed reviews (1 TD, 1 INT, 71.7 QB rating), partly because of a finger injury sustained in the second preseason game. But he is confident that '03 will be a whole lot better than '02.

"There is no comparison between where I felt I was last year and where I am now," said Ramsey, noting that his 16-day holdout prevented him from quickly learning Spurrier's system. "I was trying to learn as I went. It was a lot more difficult."

There was never any doubt about his arm, which Redskins CB Champ Bailey says is stronger than that of anybody not named Brett Favre. The Redskins have worked hard to improve Ramsey's footwork after he spent so much time in the shotgun at Tulane. And QB coach Noah Brindise says Ramsey's understanding of the offense is "night and day."

The addition of Laveranues Coles to the receiving corps and Trung Canidate to the backfield should give the Skins the speed necessary to make the offense go after last year's plodders. Ramsey has certainly noticed the extra separation he sees in his target area.

Coles, before he clamped his mouth shut this week, thought Ramsey could turn into the Redskins' version of Chad Pennington - that eventually the coaching staff would have enough confidence in that combination to turn it loose, as Herm Edwards and Paul Hackett did last year when Pennington emerged so quickly.

Of course, with an offense that is so tilted toward the pass, the Skins don't have many options. It will be up to Ramsey to pull it off. It will be the Redskins' season if he doesn't.

"I don't want this to come out wrong," Ramsey said earlier in camp. "But I don't feel any pressure because I don't see myself screwing up."

Will Spurrier? That's the question.

Pat's all

Even the Redskins don't know what to expect from Patrick Ramsey:

The plusses

One of the strongest arms in the league, offset slightly because Steve Spurrier's offense is more timing-based.

Toughness. Ramsey went through a lot his first year and finished it on a strong note.

The minuses

Footwork. Ramsey was a shotgun quarterback at Tulane and still can be clumsy in his drops.

Inexperience. As ex-Redskin Joe Theismann said, Ramsey is still "one step above a rookie."

An incomplete summer. A finger injury kept him from getting all the snaps he needed.

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