- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

When last we saw Patrick Ramsey in Philadelphia, he was being chased all over Lincoln Financial Field by the Eagles’ overzealous defense. The young quarterback at one point staggered off the field clutching his left shoulder after taking one of several hits.

Ramsey, though, was never knocked out of the game. And in the fourth quarter, he was too busy nearly leading the Washington Redskins back from 11 points down — they wound up a failed two-point conversion short and lost 27-25 — to worry about the beating he had taken.

It was the quintessential Ramsey performance: He made mistakes, he took a pounding, he fought back. And though he couldn’t pull out a victory, he won the admiration of teammates and opponents alike.

“We have a lot of respect for Ramsey because of the things he did against us last year,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said yesterday. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a tough kid. He hung in that pocket and he made plays. He made plays with people in his face and never shied away from it. He brought them back. I thought he did a great job.”

One year later, Ramsey returns to Philadelphia as once again the Redskins’ starting quarterback, but this time under far different circumstances. Having spent the last nine weeks on the bench while veteran Mark Brunell struggled to move Washington’s offense, Ramsey finally has been given the keys to the car again.

The question is whether he’s learned how to handle this high-powered vehicle or whether he’ll still be hanging on for dear life once he gets behind the wheel.

At least one close friend and teammate believes Ramsey’s ready.

“I don’t want to say he wasn’t ready for it last year, but he kind of learned on the run,” tackle Jon Jansen said. “In this league, especially with the defensive coordinators that are around now, it’s not an easy task. … I think you’ll see a big difference just in his comfort back there.”

The Redskins believe the Ramsey that leads them onto the field Sunday will be a smarter, more gifted quarterback than the one who looked shell-shocked a year ago. He might as well have giant stickers with phrases like “new and improved,” “running back included” and “now with blockers!” splashed across his jersey.

“I’ve had a year to better understand the game,” he said. “The longer you play, the better you can see things. I feel like I’m seeing things better. Toward the end of [last week’s] game, I was feeling really comfortable, and hopefully that will continue this week. I know it’s a different opponent, a great team, but hopefully we can continue.”

Though few would proclaim Ramsey’s performance off the bench in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals a thing of beauty, the 25-year-old did breathe some life into the Redskins’ putrid offense.

He completed a handful of passes down the field, displaying arm strength and accuracy rarely seen from Brunell. He engineered a pair of drives over 65 yards, one resulting in a field goal and the other in a touchdown.

In short, he gave the Redskins and their fans something that’s been in short supply this season: hope.

“You start a year out, you’re never sure what you’re going to have,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “Who’s going to get hurt? Who’s going to play well? How’s the year going to go?

“As a group, we haven’t been able to get things going on offense. It certainly wasn’t all Mark’s fault, but we felt like this would be a good chance to get Patrick in there and see what he can do for us.”

Ramsey will be given the next seven weeks to prove he has what it takes to be Washington’s long-term answer at quarterback. Of course, he previously was deemed the future of the franchise when former coach Steve Spurrier named him the starter at the end of the 2002 season.

Though he flashed occasional signs of brilliance during his 11 games at the helm last year, Ramsey never fully matured into the quarterback everyone expected. He had a tendency to hold the ball too long, to force ill-advised passes into tight coverage and to audible into the wrong play.

Ramsey’s supporters insist he had little chance of succeeding without a bona fide running back behind him or a sufficient blocking scheme in front of him.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. The presence of Clinton Portis in the backfield and Gibbs’ max-protection scheme should make life a lot easier now. But he also must become a smarter quarterback in the pocket, know when to try to complete a pass and when to just throw the ball away.

“I really don’t have any need to prove anything,” Ramsey said. “I just need to play smart, play within myself and not try to make every single throw 20 yards downfield. That’s something I’m going to work on.”

For all the hype surrounding the Redskins’ change at quarterback this week, Ramsey cautions fans against expecting too much too soon. Ramsey is not a one-man show, and his successes or failures will depend in large part to the performances of those around him.

“It’s not going to be ‘plug Patrick in, and the passing game’s going to work,’” he said. “It’s going to be the guys up front blocking, the receivers doing their job blocking and getting open. That’s really what it comes down to.”

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