4 Washington Redskins The offense is in the hands of Patrick Ramsey, but for how long? That's the key to the season

August 31, 2003

He returned to the nation's capital on a stormy Sunday in early
August, bearing the hopes of a desperate coach and the scorn of a
wary fan base. During his turn as the Redskins' starting
quarterback last year Danny Wuerffel proved two things: 1) He
knew coach Steve Spurrier's offense almost as well as the Ol'
Ball Coach himself, and 2) he wasn't talented enough to run it
effectively in the NFL. That's why they let him go as a free
agent. Nevertheless, after a series of preseason gaffes by
free-agent pickup Rob Johnson, the backup to No. 1 passer Patrick
Ramsey, Spurrier re-signed Wuerffel--the quarterback with whom he
won the 1996 national championship at Florida.

In 2002 Spurrier's first NFL season, the Fun 'n' Gun offense
flopped not only because of poor execution at quarterback and
slow, bulky personnel suited for the power-rushing attack used
previously, but also because Spurrier switched passers as often
as Geraldo changes wives. Into that farce stepped Ramsey, a
rookie whose sterling relief performance in a 31-14 win at
Tennessee in Week 5 suddenly earned him a starting shot. He
lasted two weeks (losing both games) before being yanked for
Shane Matthews, only to return to the lineup for the final three
games (winning the last two). Despite the reappearance of
Wuerffel, offensive coaches insist that Washington's
quarterback-carousel days are over, that Ramsey will have a much
longer leash this time around. "Patrick's the guy, and it's not
open for debate," quarterbacks coach Noah Brindise says. "He's
had 90 percent of the reps in practice. He's looked good
throughout. Since we throw downfield more than most teams, we
need him to be ready. We like our chances, especially with all of
our new weapons."

Many of them came courtesy of owner Daniel Snyder's annual
spending spree. After releasing power back Stephen Davis, the
Redskins lured ascendant wideout Laveranues Coles and return
man-tailback Chad Morton from the Jets, added another free-agent
scatback in Trung Canidate and got one of Spurrier's former
Gators, speedy receiver Taylor Jacobs, with their first pick in
the draft (No. 44).

Now it's up to Ramsey to make it all work. Though he had his
moments last year, Ramsey was uncomfortable at the line--he
played in a shotgun offense at Tulane--and had poor footwork.
Redskins coaches ran Ramsey through dozens of drills in the
off-season, focusing on his footwork, his ability to read
defenses quickly and his options once he's flushed out of the
pocket. Brindise knew the lessons had taken hold when Ramsey
would "watch last year's game film and say, 'Oh, there's that
drill.' He applies the stuff like it's second nature."

"With a year under my belt, I'm much more comfortable now,"
Ramsey says. "I know I'm the starter, that Coach Spurrier and my
teammates have confidence in me." To prove his point, Ramsey
brings up the signing of Coles, a restricted free agent to whom
the Redskins gave a stunning seven-year, $35 million contract.
"It's almost like getting Laveranues was [the team's] way of
giving me a weapon. Why sign him if they don't think I can use
him?"

The addition of free-agent right guard Randy Thomas, another
former Jet, improves the line, but Canidate's durability is
questionable, and the absence of Davis might make it difficult
for the Redskins to sustain drives and take some of the pressure
off the passing game. Ramsey will have to rely on possession
receiver Rod Gardner and tight end Robert Royal to help move the
chains.

The Washington defense, which ranked fifth in the NFL last year
but lost coordinator Marvin Lewis, is dangerously thin along the
front four following the release of tackle Dan Wilkinson in a
salary purge on July 29. Still, with linebacker LaVar Arrington
and shutdown cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot, the defense
has playmakers aplenty.

It all comes down to whether the offense, namely Ramsey, can get
off the mark and build up a head of steam before Spurrier gets
itchy again. --J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN RUSSELL/AP WELL-DRILLED Redskins coaches put Ramsey through a rigorous off-season regimen to improve his footwork. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS SMOOT COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

BRUCE SMITH, the 40-year-old wonder, returns for a 19th season,
three sacks shy of Reggie White's NFL record of 198. But midway
through camp he was grousing about the notion of being turned
into a pass-rush-specialist by new coordinator George Edwards.
Smith needs to relax and do what he does best: get to the
quarterback on third-and-long.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"Former defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis will be missed. Because
the Redskins won't score many points, I'd be worried about the
defense under new coordinator George Edwards.... Their
linebackers are all big names, but Jessie Armstead is declining
and Jeremiah Trotter is overrated. LaVar Arrington will have to
be even more of a playmaker than he was last season.... Their
corners are real good: Champ Bailey is among the top five cover
guys, and Fred Smoot is borderline great.... I like Patrick
Ramsey--strong arm, good size--but winning with Spurrier's system
might be impossible. It doesn't give the quarterback a lot of
checks and doesn't use the running back.... Losing Stephen Davis
was big; they don't have a back who can sustain drives....
Laveranues Coles gives Ramsey a legitimate first-option receiver,
but Taylor Jacobs is probably a year away.... Their line has been
overrated the last few years. Chris Samuels regressed last year,
and Jon Jansen has been sliding for a while.... Without a
big-time tight end or back, they'll struggle to move the ball.
And with Rob Johnson and Danny Wuerffel as Ramsey's backups, they
are screwed if he gets hurt."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 4 N.Y. JETS (Thurs.)
14 at Atlanta
21 N.Y. GIANTS
28 NEW ENGLAND

Oct. 5 at Philadelphia
12 TAMPA BAY
19 at Buffalo
26 Open Date

Nov. 2 at Dallas
9 SEATTLE
16 at Carolina
23 at Miami
30 NEW ORLEANS

Dec. 7 at N.Y. Giants
14 DALLAS
21 at Chicago
27 PHILADELPHIA (Sat.)

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 6
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .537
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 7-9
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 13/21/20
DEFENSE 12/5/5

COACH: Steve Spurrier; second season with Washington (7-9 in NFL)

TRUNG CANIDATE[1]

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 63 17 48 2.8

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
4 31 7.8 0

PATRICK RAMSEY

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 125 227 117 51.5

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
1,539 9 8 71.8

BRYAN JOHNSON

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG
FB 398 1 0 0.0

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
15 114 7.6 0

LAVERANUES COLES[1]

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 56 89 1,264 5

ROBERT ROYAL*

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 224 18 224 1

CHRIS SAMUELS

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'5" 303 lbs. 15 15

DAVE FIORE[1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'4" 290 lbs. 3 3

LARRY MOORE

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'2" 302 lbs. 16 16

RANDY THOMAS[1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'4" 301 lbs. 16 16

JON JANSEN

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'6" 306 lbs. 16 16

ROD GARDNER

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 90 71 1,006 8

DEFENSE

RE BRUCE SMITH 49 tackles 9 sacks
RT BERNARD HOLSEY 5 tackles 1 sack
LT JERMAINE HALEY[1] 27 tackles 1/2 sack
LE RENALDO WYNN 41 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
OLB LAVAR ARRINGTON 95 tackles 11 sacks
MLB JEREMIAH TROTTER 91 tackles 1 int.
OLB JESSIE ARMSTEAD 100 tackles 3 sacks
CB FRED SMOOT 61 tackles 4 int.
SS IFEANYI OHALETE 59 tackles 3 int.
FS MATT BOWEN[1] 45 tackles 1 int.
CB CHAMP BAILEY 68 tackles 3 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K JOHN HALL[1] 215 35/37 XPS 24/31 FGS 107 PTS.
PR CHAD MORTON[1] 252 4 RET. 12.8 AVG. 0 TDS
KR CHAD MORTON[1] 252 58 RET. 26.0 AVG. 2 TDS
P BRYAN BARKER 48 PUNTS 40.1 AVG.

[1]New acquisition
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)
*Statistics for 2001 college year

"With Johnson and Wuerffel as the backup QBs, they're screwed if
Ramsey gets hurt."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)