- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

For most Washington Redskins veterans, tonight’s preseason finale at Jacksonville carries little significance with the nationally televised, prime-time regular-season opener against the New York Jets a mere seven days away.

For the handful of young Redskins still battling for a roster spot, however, the game against the Jaguars offers a last opportunity to impress the coaching staff before Sunday’s final roster cut.

“Obviously, we want to win this football game, and my goal is to play well when I do play,” quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. “But I do look forward to playing the Jets. I think we’re all excited about starting the regular season and starting to prepare for the real games.”

Little is riding on tonight’s game for Washington’s starters. Ramsey and the first-team offense are scheduled to play for about one quarter. Several starters on defense, including linebackers LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter, are sitting this one out to allow injuries to heal.

This is a stark contrast to last Saturday’s game against Baltimore, which the Redskins entered after stumbling through a lackluster 0-2 start to the preseason. But after dominating the Ravens in all facets of the game during a 24-3 win, Washington has little left to prove before the season opener at FedEx Field.

“I feel good about where I’m at, especially after last week,” said Ramsey, who went 8-for-13 for 100 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore. “I think we all needed that. I’m not going to be complacent with what happened, but at the same time I do feel like it was a step forward for me.”

If anything, Redskins coaches are more interested in watching the backups play this week. Several jobs are on the line, with the team needing to trim its 73-man roster (including eight with NFL Europe exemptions) to 53 by Sunday.

That translates into significant action tonight for most of the players on the bubble, with the coaching staff paying close attention to details.

“We’re looking to see who our best players are,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’re looking to see who is reliable, who can step in there and know what his assignment is, who plays hard, plays with courage, plays tough, those kind of players.”

Of particular interest to Spurrier will be the play of his two veteran backup quarterbacks, Rob Johnson and Danny Wuerffel. Each will get significant playing time with Ramsey departing so early, and each still has a shot at being named No.2.

“We’ll play Rob Johnson and Danny Wuerffel for most of the game and see what happens,” Spurrier said.

Neither player has looked particularly sharp in his limited playing time thus far. Johnson, who has struggled to grasp the Fun ‘n’ Gun offense, has completed 18 of 36 passes for 238 yards but has thrown two interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Wuerffel hasn’t been on the field nearly as much, going 8-for-13 for 84 yards and an interception. The Spurrier favorite and one-time Heisman Trophy winner was signed one week into training camp to serve as a mentor to Ramsey, but he remains in the running for a roster spot.

“You’ve always got to make yourself valuable to a team, no matter what you’ve done in the past,” Wuerffel said. “That’s all fine and dandy and great memories, but this business is about what are you doing now. I know that I finally have a chance and I need to do well.”

Other backup positions still up for grabs include offensive line, where the final roster spot or two will come from a pool of Brad Bedell, Pita Elisara, Akil Smith and Brandon Winey; defensive tackle, where newly acquired Lional Dalton joins Bernard Holsey, Jermaine Haley, Del Cowsette and Martin Chase in a wide-open rotation; and defensive back, where undrafted rookie Ade Jimoh appears to be the front-runner to make the squad as the No.4 cornerback.

“This is a big week for a lot of those guys that don’t have a lot of experience,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “We look forward to them going out and seeing them compete.”

Note — Before departing for Jacksonville yesterday afternoon, the Redskins stopped in Reston for the annual Welcome Home Luncheon. Last season’s team MVP awards were presented to wide receiver Rod Gardner (offense), linebacker LaVar Arrington (defense) and fullback Bryan Johnson (special teams). About 750 fans attended the event, which benefits the Redskins’ Leadership Council.

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