1 Washington Redskins

There's plenty of coaching brainpower and player talent on board, but now it's a matter of making it all fit together
September 03, 2006

THE BELIEF
The arrival of offensive guru Al Saunders and a few other key high-profileadditions will take the Skins deep into the playoffs.

THE REALITY
Coach Joe Gibbs showed that reports of his irrelevance were greatly exaggeratedlast year when he rallied Washington to six consecutive victories, including awild-card playoff win, before losing to the Seahawks in the divisional round.The Redskins have their share of issues, most significantly at quarterback,where Mark Brunell, who turns 36 in September, has to prove that hisinconsistency late in the season wasn't a sign that he's finished. But if anygroup of coaches can figure out a way to make it work, it's this one, and thereare enough big-time performers--including star safety Sean Taylor--to transformthis team into a serious contender.

After his unit'sstellar performance in 2005, assistant head coach--defense Gregg Williams couldhave become the head man somewhere else, but a bump in salary from owner DanSnyder, reportedly to more than $2.6 million a year (believed to be the mostever for an NFL assistant), persuaded him to stay. His blitz-happy, swarmingschemes work best with an elite pass rusher at defensive end, a do-it-alloutside linebacker and a rangy, physical safety, and Williams believes he hasall three of those pieces in '06.

Free-agentsignee Andre Carter, a 265-pound defensive end, was swallowed up in SanFrancisco's 3--4 scheme, but Williams thinks Carter can apply the same pressureon the passer for Washington that Jevon Kearse did for Tennessee when theTitans went to the Super Bowl with Williams as defensive coordinator. Plus,Williams expects seventh-year outside linebacker Marcus Washington, who'sreaching his prime, to have "a huge year. He can do everything you want alinebacker to do from coverage, rush and run-front alignments." Thenthere's Taylor, who has a chance to become one of the NFL's best players.Disruptive in coverage and run support, and able to blitz from anywhere,Taylor, says Williams, "is the best player I've ever coached, and I expecta breakout season."

On offense,halfback Clinton Portis teamed with another former Miami Hurricane, wideoutSantana Moss, to key an offense that improved to 11th in the league afterranking 30th in 2004, amid whispers that Gibbs, 65, was out of touch with21st-century football.

For all of hiscredentials as an offensive mastermind, Gibbs didn't let his ego get in the wayof bringing in Saunders, who over the past five seasons in Kansas City directedthe NFL's most productive offense. For the first time in his Hall of Famecareer Gibbs will relinquish play-calling responsibilities; look for Saundersto run fewer two-tight-end sets and more two-back and multiple-receiveralignments, and to feature the deep ball prominently. In addition to Moss, whomade his first Pro Bowl in '05, Saunders's new toys include wideouts BrandonLloyd (acquired in a trade with the 49ers) and Antwaan Randle El (a free agentfrom the Steelers).

"If you takewhat we did last year and add what Al brings," Gibbs says, "we couldreally take a step up."

2006SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER
11 MINNESOTA (M)
17 at Dallas
24 at Houston

OCTOBER
1 JACKSONVILLE
8 at N.Y. Giants
15 TENNESSEE
22 at Indianapolis
29 Bye

NOVEMBER
5 DALLAS
12 at Philadelphia
19 at Tampa Bay
26 CAROLINA

DECEMBER
3 ATLANTA
10 PHILADELPHIA
17 at New Orleans
24 at St. Louis
30 N.Y. GIANTS (S)

(M) Monday (S)Saturday

SCHEDULESTRENGTH
NFL rank
T11
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage
.516
Games against playoff teams
6

ENEMYLINES
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE REDSKINS

> Thechemistry on this team is a big concern. They've definitely upgraded theirroster, but it's such a revolving door there that it's tough to say howeveryone will coexist.

> MarkBrunell rarely throws two good balls in a row. He's not a high-percentagepasser. How can he still be an NFL starter?

> Handingthe offense over to Al Saunders will improve the receivers immeasurably. He'sthe best receivers coach I've ever seen.

> AndreCarter could be this year's version of Oakland's Derrick Burgess. Carter, aphenomenal pass rusher who wasn't being used right, gets to show his stuff. Hecan get 14 sacks.

> CarlosRogers is a hell of a corner--big, fast and strong. He could have a monsteryear.

They paid toomuch money [$31 million] for Antwaan Randle El. He makes one big play agame.

BREAKOUTPLAYER
Chris Cooley
TIGHT END

Formerly listedas an H-back, the physical, 6'3" 250-pounder with the weird number (47) andthe wild hair caught 71 passes last season. The 2004 third-round pick out ofUtah State should figure even more prominently in new offensive architect AlSaunders's alignments. "We envision asking him to do the same things TonyGonzalez does in Kansas City," Saunders says. "By the time his careeris over, I think he'll be recognized as one of the premier tight ends in theNFL."

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP
WITH 2005 STATISTICS

COACH
JOE GIBBS (140--76 in NFL), third season with Washington

OFFENSE

SANTANAMOSS
POS WR
REC 84
YARDS 1,483
TD 9

CLINTONPORTIS
POS RB
RUSH 352
YARDS 1,516
TD 11

MARKBRUNELL
POS QB
ATT 454
COMP 262
PCT 57.7
YARDS 3,050
TD 23
INT 10
RATING 85.9

MIKESELLERS
POS FB
REC 12
YARDS 72
TD 7

BRANDONLLOYD--NEW ACQUISITION
POS WR
REC 48
YARDS 733
TD 5

JON JANSEN
POS RT
HT 6'6"
WT 306
G 16

RANDYTHOMAS
POS RG
HT 6'5"
WT 306
G 14

CASEYRABACH
POS C
HT 6'4"
WT 301
G 16

DERRICK DOCKERY
POS LG
HT 6'6"
WT 345
G 16

CHRISSAMUELS
POS LT
HT 6'5"
WT 310
G 16

CHRISCOOLEY
POS TE
REC 71
YARDS 774
TD 7

JOHN HALL
POS K
FG 12-14
POINTS 63


DEFENSE

WARRICKHOLDMAN
POS WLB
TACKLES 23
SACKS 0
INT 0

PHILLIPDANIELS
POS LE
TACKLES 48
SACKS 8

CORNELIUSGRIFFIN
POS LT
TACKLES 35
SACKS 4

JOESALAVE'A
POS RT
TACKLES 31
SACKS 1/2

ANDRE CARTER--NEW ACQUISITION
POS RE
TACKLES 44
SACKS 1/2

MARCUSWASHINGTON
POS SLB
TACKLES 7
SACKS 1/2
INT 1

CARLOSROGERS
POS CB
TACKLES 46
INT 2

SEANTAYLOR
POS FS
TACKLES 70
SACKS 1
INT 2

LEMARMARSHALL
POS MLB
TACKLES 98
SACKS 2
INT 4

ADAMARCHULETA--NEW ACQUISITION
POS SS
TACKLES 70
SACKS 3 1/2
INT 1

SHAWNSPRINGS
POSCB
TACKLES 50
INT 1

DERRICKFROST
POS P
PUNTS 76
AVG 40.4

2005 RECORD10--6

NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL)
OFFENSE 7/21/11
DEFENSE 13/10/9

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PHOTOG. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/WIREIMAGE.COM (MOSS)LONG GONE Already a deep threat, Moss (89) will be even more of one in the new offense brought in by Saunders. PHOTODAVID BERGMANRANDLE EL PHOTODAVID BERGMAN TWO PHOTOS PHOTOHELMET PHOTOS BY DAVID N. BERKWITZ

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