- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

A crisp practice yesterday made evident this offseason’s strides by the Washington Redskins’ offense, particularly second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Ramsey looked sharp in both individual and team drills as the Redskins held their third-to-last practice of the offseason. A quarterback who played erratically as a rookie and looked tentative in early May’s minicamp made a variety of strong throws, demonstrating nice timing with his revamped receiving corps and an improving ability to beat the defense.

“We’re starting to do some things,” coach Steve Spurrier said after practice. “Patrick is learning how to get out of a bad play and do some things. Until you do it in the real games, it’s all just practice, but he’s certainly much more prepared than he’s ever been. Hopefully by Sept.4 [the opener against the New York Jets], he’ll totally be as prepared as he can be.”

An upshot of Ramsey’s growth is the apparent distance he has put between himself and backup Rob Johnson, whose physical talent raised the specter of a quarterback controversy when he signed in early March. Ramsey’s year in the offense is starting to show.

“None of us are where we want to be, but we’ve certainly gotten better, and I think we can get better in training camp,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey pointed to his “decision-making and pre-snap routine” as areas that have improved the most in 16 offseason practices, while offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said the young passer “is beginning to see the field” — reading defenders to predict the coming coverage.

“I think he’s grown by leaps and bounds,” Jackson said. “I’m not [saying] that he does everything perfectly, but he doesn’t need to yet. We’re not in training camp; we’re in coaching sessions and minicamp.”

Jackson went on to applaud Ramsey’s growing ability to shake off a bad play and focus on the next play — a trait that started to emerge late last season after the rookie was rattled in his first and second starts (getting sacked 13 times with seven turnovers in those two games).

But just as crucial has been the way Ramsey has handled the perception that he is the linchpin for Washington’s success or failure in 2003. The thinking goes that all Washington’s spending and widespread improvements will mean little if Ramsey isn’t ready for the massive challenge of winning in his second season.

“I think I have to do a good job; I think everybody has to do a good job,” Ramsey said. “This is a team sport. Everybody says this is a quarterback-driven offense. [It may be] quarterback-driven, but everybody has a role. If any of these guys don’t do their job, it’s not going to go smoothly.”

Spurrier has consistently disputed the notion that Washington’s success hinges on Ramsey.

“People may say that, but we all know that’s not true,” Spurrier said. “Teams can win without even featuring the quarterback, as we’ve seen the last couple years. … We give the quarterback the freedom to throw the ball around, and I think we have the receivers here and the offensive line to make it happen.”

New receivers Laveranues Coles and Taylor Jacobs have continued to sparkle in recent workouts while holdover Cliff Russell, who missed his rookie year with an ACL tear, has come on strong. A strong camp competition should emerge between those three and Rod Gardner, Darnerien McCants and Patrick Johnson. The latter three also have been solid this offseason.

The receivers are just one part of the unit’s growing optimism. Conversations with a variety of coaches, players and team officials reveal genuine excitement for how Spurrier’s offense will rebound from its difficult NFL debut in 2002, when it ranked just 20th in the NFL.

“I think we’ve gotten better, in my opinion, from practice [number] one to practice 16 today,” Jackson said. “Our quarterback is more comfortable. Our line is beginning to be solidified. There are pieces that last year we felt we didn’t have, and they’re beginning to really show that they’re going to contribute to our football team. So I’ve been very happy with what’s been happening on offense.”

Notes — Spurrier confirmed that wide receiver Justin Skaggs tore a knee ligament in NFL Europe a week ago. Skaggs was scheduled to undergo surgery yesterday. … Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was absent due to a scheduled checkup in his recovery from ACL surgery. He is expected to return today to practice, where he hopes to participate in team drills for the first time this offseason. … The Redskins will not hire a college scouting director, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said.

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