The Washington Times - November 9, 2011, 09:23PM

Coach Mike Shanahan’s top priority last offseason was fortifying the defense, and that unit has markedly improved. So it stands to reason that Washington’s woeful offense will receive similar treatment next offseason.

If there was any doubt about that, Shanahan basically erased it today when he was asked to revisit what he said in July about putting his reputation on QBs Rex Grossman and John Beck.

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“I believe in both of these quarterbacks,” he said. “I’ve got to give them the right supporting cast. That’s my job. And I’m going to get them the right supporting cast. But both guys can get the job done. It’s my job to get them the type of players surrounding them that can give them a chance to be successful.”

Now, I fully expect the Redskins to draft a quarterback, too, but Shanahan clearly realizes that his team is short on talent at multiple positions on offense. That quote is one you store away and resurrect during the pre-draft process when all the smokescreens and misinformation cloud the outlook.

The Redskins need more offensive talent. Shanahan knows it and he knows he has to do something to rectify the problem. But first, he has eight games to evaluate the players currently on the roster. Yes, it’s a slow process.

***

Beck has no interest in the storyline involving his return to Miami this week. Can’t say I blame him.

“For me, right now, I’m just trying to do the best I can so we can win a football game,” said the Dolphins’ second-round pick in 2007. “I did play there when I first came into the league, but other than that, there’s no [feelings].”

Does he at least have any fond memories of his two-year tenure there?

“Not that I can think of first hand off the top of my head,” he said.

OK, then.

Miami DE Jason Taylor played with Beck on that 2007 team that went 1-15.

“He came in at a tough spot,” Taylor said during Wednesday’s teleconference. “He came in to a situation where we weren’t playing very well. We had a bunch of injuries. We had a new coach, a new coaching staff. Things weren’t always great around here, and he was thrown to the wolves, kind of, in that season – thrown out there and told, ‘Go make something happen. You’re a second-round pick, and everyone wants to see what you have, so go do it.’

“I think he was kind of put into an unfair position a little bit and not really given all the tools he needed to succeed, and that started from the top down.”

***

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was in place under front office chief Bill Parcells when Beck fell out of favor and was eventually favored.

Sparano was asked about Beck during Wednesday’s teleconference, and he came up with an answer that won’t shake anything up.

“A really smart player,” Sparano said. “Very, very bright. Threw the ball well. You know, at the time, when we had John, we obviously had several young players, and then we brought in Chad Pennington, which was the first year there that we had him, but he was a really bright player who had just come off of a season prior to that where he played towards the end of the season, so I got a chance to see him play a little bit there.

“Moved really well. Threw the ball on the move well. But John was always a very curious guy – always wanted to learn, always wanted to soak up as much knowledge as you possibly could and threw the ball very well.”

***

Shanahan’s search for answers on offense has led him past WR Anthony Armstrong to rookie WR Leonard Hankerson. Armstrong has taken his demotion – and Shanhan’s comments Monday – as a challenge. I wrote about this situation and Armstrong’s response in depth for Thursday’s paper.

***

Seven players sat out Wednesday’s practice with various ailments.

WR Santana Moss (hand) and WR Niles Paul (sprained toe) were ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Paul’s absence figures to have a significant impact on the Redskins’ punt protection unit this Sunday. Miami has more than a dozen punt rush looks. Having Paul, who has become an exceptional gunner, out on the edge would force the Dolphins to use two guys outside. Instead, they might be able to get away with single coverage on the outside and cause more problems with the rush.

Just something to store away for Sunday.

***

RT Jammal Brown (left groin) might be sidelined against Miami after missing last week’s second half. “Jammal is normally a pretty tough guy,” Shanahan said. “If he misses plays during a game, you know it’s fairly serious.”

SS LaRon Landry sat out because his left Achilles’ tendon is sore. That’s the injury that cost him all of training camp and the preseason.

FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (knee/toe), ILB Keyaron Fox (skin infection), and OLB Markus White (illness) also sat out.

***

Recently signed RB Tashard Choice (hamstring) fully participated in Wednesday’s practice.

“I’m hoping he gets a good feel for our system this week and can help us out on game day,” Shanahan said. “We’ve got to see what he knows and how quickly he adjusts to our terminology and our system.”

***

DE Kentwan Balmer is thankful for his chance in Washington to restore his reputation. San Francisco drafted him in the first round in 2008, yet he was out of the league this fall.

“With my name comes a lot of baggage,” he said. “A lot of it I brought on myself. The time off was really humbling. It made me realize what my priorities were.”

Balmer wouldn’t elaborate on what was wrong about his priorities, but Shanahan made things clear for him when he arrived at Redskins Park.

“We know he has a lot of talent,” Shanahan said. “We know he fits in well with this scheme. Now we’ll find out if he likes to work and do the things that we think it takes for him to be successful.

“I just tell the person we’re aware of his background and that he’s going to start out with a clean slate. Hopefully he comes in here and does what he’s supposed to do. If he does, great. If he doesn’t, he won’t be here long.”