Five keys for the Redskins

Reviving the Redskins

Nfl Preview

September 08, 2005|By Edward Lee

1. Getting steady play from Ramsey

Not disregarding the impact of running back Clinton Portis or the addition of speedy wide receivers Santana Moss and David Patten, everything on offense will start with the quarterback.

Patrick Ramsey, who has started 23 games the past three seasons, has an opportunity to prove to coach Joe Gibbs and Redskins fans that he can be an effective quarterback.

To do that, Ramsey must cut down on his interceptions -- he had four in 51 attempts this preseason -- and strike the right balance between firing the ball into a tight spot and lofting it over a defender.

2. Developing a rhythm between Portis and the offensive line

Last year, Portis' first carry as a Redskin was a memorable 64-yard dash for a touchdown in the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After that, however, the game-breaking runs disappeared, and Portis' body took a beating as the coaching staff wanted him to run between the tackles in the counter-trey style of John Riggins and Earnest Byner.

The return of offensive tackle Jon Jansen from a season-ending ruptured Achilles' tendon makes the line menacing, but switching the blocking schemes to get Portis to the outside may be the linchpin to the ground game. If the line can get Portis outside, he probably can outrun the linebackers and the secondary.

3. Using the speed of Moss and Patten

In the preseason, Ramsey connected on passes of more than 20 yards to receivers Moss and Patten six times. By contrast, the Redskins recorded pass plays of 20 yards or more just 27 times in 16 games last year.

If Moss and Patten can fly and stretch the defense, Ramsey, who has recently shown a tendency to underthrow the ball, can keep opposing defenses honest by throwing deep.

If they're not open, H-back Chris Cooley, Portis and wide receiver James Thrash might be able to find holes vacated by the secondary as it scrambles to catch up with Moss and Patten.

4. Finding a role for Arrington

LaVar Arrington, who missed 12 games last season with a knee injury, could be one of the most exciting players in the league. But he has chafed under defensive coordinators who have specific, strict assignments for their players.

Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach in charge of the defense, is one such coordinator, but he also has demonstrated a willingness to adapt his schemes to take advantage of his players. Arrington's role in Williams' mix of defensive packages will be one to watch this season.

5. Creating turnovers

Washington finished minus-1 last year in take-away-giveaway ratio. In Gibbs' 12 previous seasons as coach of the Redskins, the team averaged a take-away-giveaway ratio of more than five.

The defense registered just two take-aways -- both interceptions -- this preseason, while the offense committed 10 turnovers. The impetus is on both units to greatly improve on that ratio or risk missing the playoffs for another season.

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