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Sept. 8, 2004

Redskins will make a run at playoffs

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
The 2004 Redskins have begun this season like all the others since Daniel Snyder became the owner: with a huge amount of hype and hope. However, of all of Snyder’s flashy off-season moves that he has become known for, this season’s may have been his best.

Snyder was able to lure Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs out of retirement. This was no small feat; Gibbs had been gone for 12 years and was an incredibly successful NASCAR Nextel Cup owner, having owned two of the last four Cup champions.

While some feel that the league has passed Gibbs by, but when compared to Steve Spurrier, he will make the Redskins immediately better. Gibbs won over 68% of his career games over 12 seasons of coaching. He was able to assemble a crew of big name coordinators, including Joe Bugel on offense and former Bills coach Gregg Williams on the defensive side.

Offense


Mark Brunell, who was signed from Jacksonville for $40 million over six years, enters as the Redskins starting quarterback, maybe the most scrutinized job in Washington besides the president.

There are concerns about Brunell, 33, who beat out last year’s starter, Patrick Ramsey, during the preseason. Brunell is coming off elbow surgery, and threw just 82 passes last season. However, Brunell led the Jaguars to three AFC Championship games in nine years in Northern Florida and is a former Pro-Bowler.

Brunell has started 117 games in his career to Ramsey’s 16. Ramsey also is coming off foot surgery. Also, Gibbs won all three Super Bowls with experienced. Tim Hasselbeck is a capable third-stringer.

At running back is Clinton Portis, a 22-year-old Pro-Bowler who rushed for over 1,500 yards last year. He is the answer to a back-by-committee in 2003 that failed with Trung Canidate, who is no longer with the team, Rock Cartwright and Chad Morton.

The trade gives Washington the best running back in the division, Eddie George or not. Chris Cooley will start as the half back, replacing Bryan Johnson who went to Cincinnati.

At wide out, the Redskins have arguably the best receiver in the division, Laveranues Coles. He was a Pro-Bowl alternate last year after gaining a whopping 1,204 yards on 82 catches last season. He should be even better with the addition of James Thrash to the receiving group.

John Hall is the kicker, and should do a serviceable job. He is a great place kicker, and can kick far. His career long is over 55 yards.

Losing offensive lineman Jon Jansen will really hurt, so the slow Brunell could be in trouble multiple times a game.

Defense


The linebackers are much improved with the additions of Mike Barrow from the Giants and Marcus Washington of Indianapolis. They, along with defensive star LaVar Arrington, can provide an outstanding pass rush if the defensive line cannot.

However, the defensive line, which struggled badly last year, added Cornelius Griffin and Phillip Daniels. The team released Regan Upshaw last week, giving someone like Jermaine Haley a chance to start. Brandon Noble is back after an ACL tear cost him last season.

The secondary is solid, despite losing Champ Bailey in the Portis trade with Denver. The team also cut Ifeyani Ohalete, who was swooped up by Arizona.

However, the teams number one draft pick, Sean Taylor, has played extremely well in the preseason, and Shawn Springs, a very good player from Seattle, was signed to replace Bailey. Springs, who went to Springbrook High School, will wear Bailey’s #24.

Matt Bowen is the free safety, and is an extremely hard hitter in his fourth season out of Iowa.

Chad Morton will be the kick returner and Tom Tupa was signed to be the punter, coming from Tampa Bay.

Overall


Gibbs’ ability to coach and win three Super Bowls without much continuity at quarterback made him a Hall of Famer. It will not be a smooth transition back into the NFL after over a decade away, but he is a master, and too smart to let this team, with all this talent, fail.

The Eagles will likely win the AFC East, but Washington should make the playoffs and go a couple rounds deep to call this year a good one. 10-6 is what Skins fans should hope and expect, which would get them into the playoffs.

The Redskins open Sunday with a game hosting Tampa Bay (1, FOX), who has eight new starters on offense. The schedule for Washington is not very tough, with them playing the AFC and NFC North divisions.

Washington’s first division game is Week 2 against the Giants. (1, FOX)



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  • Aaron on September 12, 2004
    Joe Gibbs lacked continuity? How so? Wasn't the big thing about the skins in the Gibbs era was that they DIDN'T change at all?
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on September 12, 2004
    I was referring to the quarterback position. Gibbs won 3 Super Bowls with 3 different quarterbacks. I didn't state that correctly. That's my fault.
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