Gibbs stays guarded about 'Skins attack in preseason opener

Offensive improvement key goal against Panthers

Pro Football

August 13, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - At age 64, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is proving to be as nimble as some of the players 40 years younger than he.

Peppered by the media about his plan against the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener for both teams tonight at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Gibbs offered just enough without revealing too much.

Asked how long the starters will play, Gibbs said: "I'm always reluctant to say because as soon as you tell them something, they're going to shut it off. I always like to go off feel. I like having everybody think they're going to play the whole game."

Asked about unveiling more of the offense's playbook against Carolina, Gibbs replied: "I think we'll just try to use good common sense, what we think could go and what we think shouldn't. I think most teams in the league are that way. You want to do enough to give your offense a chance to perform well, but you're guarded from the standpoint that there are certain things there that you don't want to show."

The play of the offense in a scrimmage last Saturday against the Ravens left much to be desired. The unit had only 25 yards on 15 plays against the Ravens' first-team defense, and quarterback Patrick Ramsey was sacked four times on 12 passing plays.

That's not a positive sign for an offense that flailed its way to the league's 30th ranking last season. But as Gibbs acknowledged, he hasn't installed many plays because some practices at training camp were open to the public and others were scrutinized by the local media.

Ramsey said that while he doesn't expect any never-before-seen plays in the game plan tonight, he thinks the opportunity to move the ball and score points is available.

"Things are going to be a little bit vanilla, but at the same time, we're going to try to be successful with what we're doing," he said. "It's not like we're going out there and saying, `Awww, it's vanilla. It didn't work out.' We're going to go out there and try to make it work."

On the defensive side, linebackers Lemar Marshall and Warrick Holdman will open to their new respective positions of middle and weak-side linebackers, while Shawn Springs, Walt Harris, Ade Jimoh and Rufus Brown will try to hold their ground as the defense's only healthy cornerbacks.

Carolina, which had the league's 13th-ranked offense and ninth-ranked passing attack and nearly qualified for the playoffs after opening the season with a 1-7 record, lost wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad to free agency, but returns running back DeShaun Foster and wide receiver Steve Smith from season-ending injuries.

"It's going to be a tough test for us," said strong safety Matt Bowen, who contributed to the defense limiting the Ravens to 160 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. "There's a lot of areas we can improve in, and this is one of the better teams to do it against because they're one of the better teams in the NFL. They hit hard, they're fast, they're tough, they have a physical running game. So it's going to be a good test for us."

Washington has lost two of the past three preseason meetings with the Panthers, including the past two. But it's only preseason, right?

"It's game that counts as win or a loss," said wide receiver Santana Moss. "Regardless of when you play, if they're counting the score, any guy should have in his mind that you're trying to win the game."

Redskins tonight

Matchup: Washington Redskins vs. Carolina Panthers in preseason opener

Site, time: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 9, CN8/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Panthers by 3 1/2

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