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Hard Knocks Continue For Battered Ramsey

QB Sacked Four Times as Breakdowns on Line Continue

By Nunyo Demasio

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, November 3, 2003; Page D14

IRVING, Tex., Nov. 2 -- Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams sprinted head-first toward Patrick Ramsey as the Washington Redskins' quarterback scanned the field for a receiver. Ramsey has gotten used to such moments this season. So the second-year quarterback reflexively placed his left hand to his chest to brace himself for the wallop.

Williams's helmet smashed Ramsey's left hand like a battering ram, and the quarterback landed on his right (throwing) elbow, forcing him out the game temporarily late in the second quarter.

The Redskins adjusted their maligned pass-protection schemes during a tumultuous bye week. However, for each extra blocker the Redskins uncharacteristically kept back, the Cowboys unabashedly sent another defender to blitz. And as usual, the Redskins couldn't handle the pressure as Ramsey was treated like a punching bag during a 21-14 loss at Texas Stadium.

"I can tell you what they're doing to stop us," said Ramsey, who completed 16 of 30 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. "They keep blitzing and we just have to stop them."

The situation turned so pathetic that Ramsey merely remaining upright after a throw seemed like an accomplishment. He was forced out of the game twice because of hard hits and was sacked four times.

Even when Ramsey threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Jacobs late in the game, a rare bright spot, he still ended up on the turf after a hit.

The Cowboys regularly brought eight of 11 players to the line of scrimmage to hound Ramsey. And occasionally, Dallas sent all but two players as if it was a goal-line stand.

"I can't go into the details," Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're trying to give Patrick protection, but we're having a tough time doing it."

The Redskins entered the game having allowed 25 sacks, second most in the NFL. Ramsey had suffered 22 sacks, which was the third most in the league.

Last season, the Redskins were sacked an average of 2.4 times per game as the offense finished the season ranked 20th. However, the Redskins entered the game allowing an average of 3.6 sacks as opponents increased their blitz because of Washington's inability to counteract.

Last week, owner Daniel Snyder tried to help rectify the situation by flying in the retired Joe Bugel, considered one of the best offensive line coaches in NFL history. For several hours, Bugel -- who oversaw the Hogs under head coach Joe Gibbs -- watched film before returning home to Arizona. Bugel's feedback focused on fundamentals.

On ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" this morning, Chris Mortensen reported that last week Spurrier fired offensive line coach Kim Helton after clashing about the team's pass protection. According to the report, Helton then said he quit before Snyder intervened and persuaded Spurrier to keep the assistant.

In the postgame news conference Sunday, Spurrier denied the report without specifically saying that Helton was fired. "No coach is getting fired," said Spurrier, who hired Helton after becoming Redskins coach in 2002. "If I wanted to I would fire [an assistant]. They're all good coaches. They are all good people."

Under Spurrier's five-year, $25 million contract -- which expires in 2006 -- the head coach has sole authority to hire and fire coaches. Inside the coach's locker room after the loss, Spurrier put his hand around Helton and said something to the assistant.

When asked by reporters, Helton didn't directly deny the report but strongly refuted the aspect about quitting. "I would die standing," Helton said, "before I quit."

The situation is a stark contrast to the offseason, when Snyder signed left guard Dave Fiore and right guard Randy Thomas. The moves created buzz that the Redskins would have one of the NFL's best offensive lines. After the signings, Snyder handed out cigars to his staff. Helton doesn't smoke, but the assistant was so giddy that he puffed away.

"I've never smoked anything in my life and I actually took a puff on a cigar," Helton said minutes after the Feb. 28 signing of Thomas. "So yes, I'm very excited, yes."

According to a Redskins source, tension had grown between Spurrier and Helton because of a difference in approach to pass blocking.

During a 122-27-1 record at the University of Florida, Spurrier utilized five- and seven-step drops with his quarterback remaining directly behind center.

NFL teams maximize protection by doing two things that Spurrier shuns: occasionally utilizing rollouts and keeping extra blockers instead of sending multiple receivers on routes. Spurrier has pointed to the St. Louis Rams as a multiple-receiver, pass-happy offense that thrives in the NFL.

But after Sunday's game, Helton defended Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun system, and said that the challenge wasn't that much different from protecting the quarterback in a ball-control offense. Against the Cowboys, the Redskins kept extra blockers more than usual, but it didn't prevent Dallas from treating Ramsey the way a restless kid treats a rag doll.

"I don't know what to say," Thomas said. "I'm speechless. We have to find a way to do something."

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there has to be something rotten in denmark. I mean what scheme does not have the 3yd dumpoff pass to counteract an 8+ man blitz? There should always be an option on a monster blitz to throw a dump pass right over the top and with the reception open field for at least 5 yards as everyone overpursues.

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The Fun and Gun has no hot reads. Receivers run the patterns called by the QB, either in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage. They do not make an adjustment on the fly even if there is an all out blitz.

The onus is on the quarterback to read the defense pre-snap and audible into the perfect play. This more than anything else-- including the protection-- is the main difference between how the F&G functions verses other offensive schemes.

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