- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

After ending three weeks of minicamps and coaching sessions, the Washington Redskins yesterday assessed their status with views ranging from cautious optimism to unbridled ecstasy.

The latter sentiments came from none other than LaVar Arrington, who is as excited as he has ever been heading into his fourth season with the Redskins.

“There’s something really good being built here,” Arrington said following Washington’s 11th and last full-squad practice this month. “I can see it. I don’t know who else can see it, but I can see things coming together. I feel like it’s just a matter of time.”

Like many of his teammates, the All-Pro linebacker has felt the good vibes coming out of Redskin Park in recent weeks, not only on the practice field but in the locker room, where an overhauled roster is showing signs of jelling into one cohesive unit.

“I haven’t sensed this type of camaraderie, to be honest with you, since I was in college,” Arrington said. “It feels pretty good to have that going on.”

Clubhouse chemistry aside, the Redskins concluded this three-week practice period with plenty of questions still unanswered, despite occasional flashes of brilliance on the field.

“No, I just feel like we’re practicing,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “That’s all we’re doing is just practicing, making errors and trying not to make them again. Hopefully, we’re making improvement, but it’s a long time before we play. We don’t need to speculate on how the team’s going to do based on one or two coaching sessions.”

These coaching sessions, everyone agrees, are for the offensive players — specifically the quarterbacks and receivers. In Washington’s case, with second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey trying to connect with a revamped corps of receivers, the last three weeks proved invaluable.

“I think I accomplished [what I wanted to],” said Ramsey, who took about 75 percent of the snaps during practice. “There are things I still need to work on. … I feel like the timing’s really good. We’re all getting on the same page. The details will come, but I think we’re getting better at the important things.”

Much as he did in his first offseason with the Redskins, Spurrier threw a lot at his offense, hoping to get a sense of just how much each individual can handle. The coaching staff came away impressed with Ramsey’s progression and raving about the weapons now at his disposal, such as receivers Laveranues Coles and Patrick Johnson and running back/kick returner Chad Morton.

As always, the quarterback drew most of the attention. Though Ramsey appears immensely more polished than he was a year ago, he and Spurrier concede the quarterback still has much to learn.

“Patrick looks like a second-year quarterback,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, we can get him looking more like a fourth- or fifth-year quarterback by the time the season gets here.”

Defensively, Washington has been keeping things much more simple. New coordinator George Edwards, promoted from linebackers coach after Marvin Lewis’ departure for Cincinnati, utilized mostly base sets during practices and spent plenty of time shuffling players into different positions.

For that reason, the coaching staff has been reluctant to make any blanket assessments of personnel, particularly when it comes to the unresolved safety situation. Free agent newcomer Matt Bowen, expected to become a starter, has seen time both at strong and free safety, with returning players Ifeanyi Ohalete and David Terrell rotating in the other starting spot.

This much appears to be certain: After acquiring 16 players through free agency and 17 overall during a frantic offseason, Washington is not in the market for any more players of significance. Though they were interested in signing a safety to play alongside Bowen and a veteran punter to challenge incumbent Bryan Barker, the Redskins now seem content to head into training camp as is.

Ohalete and Terrell should battle for the starting spot at strong safety, with Ohalete holding a slight advantage for now. Barker’s only competition will come from recently signed Brent Bartholomew, who has nine games of NFL experience.


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