- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A day after watching his offense revert to its struggling midseason form, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs outlined a plan to review all aspects of personnel and schemes so that changes can be implemented this offseason.

The coaching staff will meet from Jan.4, two days after Sunday’s finale against the Minnesota Vikings, until probably Jan.7. Evaluations will be presented to owner Dan Snyder and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato as the team begins formulating a plan for 2005.

Although Gibbs offered no names, the continued struggles on offense likely will put wide receivers Rod Gardner, Darnerien McCants and Taylor Jacobs under close scrutiny. Also, salary-cap considerations could contribute to a hard look at left tackle Chris Samuels.

Gibbs indicated all elements of the team will be subject to review. However, certain compliments he issued — for veteran leadership and the defense, for example — established where change is unlikely to occur.

“By the end of the week, we’re going to have laid out where we stand as a football team,” Gibbs said.

Of greatest concern is Gibbs’ once-famed offense, which has devolved into a plodding, conservative attack reminiscent of 2001’s “MartyBall.”

This year’s longest gain was running back Clinton Portis’ 64-yard touchdown run on the second play of the opener. No.1 wide receiver Laveranues Coles is on pace to top 90 catches and finish with less than 1,000 yards. And only the Chicago Bears have scored fewer points (217) than the Redskins (219).

In fact, barring an outburst this weekend, these Redskins will score fewer points than Marty Schottenheimer’s team in 2001 (256).

“That starts with me,” Gibbs said. “We’re going to have to take a long, hard look at everything we do on offense, every part of our offense and every part of our scheme.”

Gibbs said he won’t consider changing Washington’s fundamental one-back philosophy, but he added he’s open to tinkering with the play-calling. That said, the Redskins have been tinkering pretty much all year.

“We’re trying to be progressive,” Gibbs said. “Our philosophy is we’d like to be balanced. We’d like to get big plays, and we’d like to run the football. I think that will kind of stay true to form. But we’re looking at everything as we go.”

Washington had been showing signs of progress in recent weeks, but Sunday’s 13-10 loss at Dallas seemed to be a major step back. The Redskins generated just 233 yards, their fifth-lowest total of the season, and a review of this season’s NFL scores showed that in only about 2 percent of the contests did the winning team score 10 or fewer points.

Players yesterday acknowledged their scoring problems but didn’t sound overly concerned. They mostly credited the Cowboys with playing aggressive, sound defense.

“Really and truly, I’m not making any sort of excuses. I think they did a real good job defensively,” quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. “We had just a few plays here or there, at critical times, we were unable to convert.”

Gibbs agreed: “I would say [it was] two very good defenses rockin’ and sockin’.”

Still, with Washington (5-10) making little if any progress from last season, something’s got to change. Gardner will draw the most scrutiny among players because he hasn’t produced in four years. The 15th overall pick in 2001, Gardner has just 50 catches for 641 yards this year. Because one year remains on the five-year, $7.7million contract he signed as a rookie, he could be cut or traded.

McCants, meanwhile, signed a three-year, $4.5million extension last spring but has been inactive in nine games. Jacobs, a second-round pick in 2003, caught two passes at Dallas but has just 13 on the year. Both players are emblematic of the Redskins’ failure to find a legitimate No.3 target.

Of course, an injury to Coles has played a role. Coles signed a seven-year, $35million contract in 2003 to be the deep threat, but a toe injury has hampered him both seasons. Club officials still haven’t determined whether he will undergo surgery.

Erratic pass protection also is a factor. Although Samuels hasn’t been bad, he’s a non-Pro Bowl player making Pro Bowl money — $6.5million in salary and bonuses in 2005. Center Cory Raymer, meanwhile, has had a rough year, and guards Randy Thomas and Derrick Dockery have been up and down.

Next week, all of them will go under Gibbs’ microscope.

“We’ve got to pick the right players,” Gibbs said. “And then we’ve got to be geared up [for], ‘Where can we help the team the most?’ By the end of next week, that’s our goal, to have it all listed. We’re going to present that to the scouts and Dan and Vinny, and then we’re going to progress from there.”

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