- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

Asked about his team's sudden spending spree on the first day of the NFL's free agency and trading period plus the likelihood of more additions in coming days Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was nearly salivating.
"I think what we're trying to do is get more playmakers," Jackson said. "We want to get guys who can run. And if we can't get the top guy who can run, we want the next [best] guy who can run. We're trying to address our need for speed on our offensive football team."
In running back Trung Canidate, acquired yesterday from the St. Louis Rams for guard David Loverne and a fourth-round draft pick, the Redskins now have one of the most explosive players in the NFL. And by signing free agent guards Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore, they now have potentially one of the best offensive lines, which should give Canidate plenty of opportunities to show his explosiveness.
"We have a home run hitter in the backfield," Jackson said of Canidate, who is expected to become Washington's featured back ahead of Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts. "He has the opportunity to go the distance at any time. That's another threat. We've just added another playmaker to our football team."
A playmaker the likes of which coach Steve Spurrier didn't have in his first season.
Spurrier came to Washington promising to make his Fun'n'Gun offense work in the NFL. But the system that produced so much success and so many stars on the college level sputtered in the pros, in part because Spurrier didn't inherit many players who fit his unique scheme.
With a plodding, bruising running back in Stephen Davis, a pair of big, physical receivers in Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson and a revolving door of quarterbacks, the Redskins ranked 20th in the league in total offense hardly what Spurrier had in mind.
But with Canidate, plus the anticipated addition of a speedy receiver or two, Washington's offense in 2003 should better resemble Spurrier's Florida teams that were so successful.
"I think that's what any coach would do, try to find the guys who have an opportunity to thrive within your system," Jackson said.
Canidate, who turns 26 Monday, long has been regarded as one of the fastest running backs in the game; his time in the 40-yard dash is a scant 4.2 seconds. But the former University of Arizona star was stuck behind Marshall Faulk for three seasons in St. Louis, fell out of favor with coach Mike Martz and totaled just 79 yards of offense last season.
Given the chance to play, though, Canidate put up some impressive numbers. He carried 78 times for 441 yards in 2001, average of 5.7, and caught 17 passes for 154 yards.
"He can do it all," Jackson said. "He'll be a guy we'll be excited about not just running the ball but also catching the ball and having the ability to do something with it after he catches it. We're getting a player with blazing speed."
Skill players like Canidate tend to get most of the attention in Spurrier's system, but yesterday's additions to the offensive line could prove to be even more significant.
The Redskins have started 14 players at guard over the last three seasons, but with Thomas and Fiore, they hope to have solidified the position for years to come.
Thomas, who has started every game in his four-year career, was widely regarded as the top guard available, while Fiore is considered one of the league's hardest workers; he bench-pressed 225 pounds 42 times in succession while with the 49ers, a team record.
Combined with holdover tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen and center Larry Moore, Redskins offensive line coach Kim Helton suddenly has a unit that could rival any other in the NFL.
"I've never smoked anything in my life, and I actually took a puff of a cigar today," Helton said. "I think we've put ourselves in a situation where our young quarterback [Patrick Ramsey] should be very comfortable."
Fiore said he wanted to sign with Washington in part because of the potential he sees for a greatly improved offense in 2003.
"I think they're going to be aggressive and throw the ball down the field," he said. "I think with the group we have up front, we're going to be able to do a lot of different things."

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