- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

With Mark Brunell still nursing a strained hamstring, the Washington Redskins are preparing for Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys under the assumption that backup Patrick Ramsey will be their starting quarterback.

“We’ll see how everything goes with Mark,” coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday. “But if you had to guess right now, I’d say [Ramsey] is probably going to be playing a lot on Monday night.”

Brunell suffered a “mild-to-moderate” strain of his left hamstring early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 20-14 loss to the New York Giants, and though he walked around Redskin Park yesterday without a noticeable limp, the veteran quarterback said he has “a ways to go” before he can play.

“I still don’t know,” Brunell said. “I got treatment this morning, and I feel better than I did last night, so that’s good.”

Gibbs said Brunell will need to practice at some point this week if he is going to start against the Cowboys. With an extra day of preparation leading up to the Monday night affair, the Redskins (1-1) won’t conduct their next full workout until Thursday, at which time Ramsey is likely to get the bulk of the snaps at quarterback.

“It will be different for me because I will get some reps in practice, and the last couple weeks I haven’t had any,” said Ramsey, who lost an open competition with Brunell during training camp. “Even if Mark is able to play, I doubt he’ll be able to practice extensively.”

Though Ramsey struggled upon replacing Brunell at the Meadowlands, throwing three interceptions and twice fumbling the ball, Gibbs yesterday expressed confidence in the 25-year-old quarterback.

“I think Patrick’s got everything,” the coach said. “He’s got to continue to work. But I don’t think you’ll find anybody tougher. I don’t think you’ll find anybody with a better arm. And I think he’s smart. We just have to get all of us, including Patrick, to play better.”

Gibbs repeatedly raved throughout the offseason that he had two good quarterbacks in Brunell and Ramsey, but two weeks into the regular season, there are questions about the Redskins’ lack of production at that position.

Even before he was injured, Brunell struggled to move Washington’s offense with much efficiency. His 54.8 percent completion percentage is among the worst in the league, and his 67.3 quarterback rating ranks 14th in the NFC.

Ramsey’s numbers were even less inspiring during his two quarters of action Sunday. Though he threw a 13-yard touchdown to Clinton Portis and connected with Rod Gardner on a 51-yard pass, Ramsey was criticized for making several bad decisions that led to four turnovers. He has not thrown enough passes to qualify for the league rankings, but his 55.6 rating would be 17th in a 16-team conference.

In two weeks, the Redskins have committed an NFL-leading eight turnovers (four interceptions, four fumbles lost). They also have fumbled four other times and recovered, giving Gibbs even more reason to shake his head in disbelief.

“Mentally, you can’t play like that; you can’t make those mistakes,” he said. “We’re so inconsistent over there. We’ll make real good plays, and then we’ll come back and throw the ball someplace where you just can’t throw it or fumble the ball and turn it over.”

With a new coaching staff installing a new system this year, there was a general acknowledgment that it would take some time for the Redskins’ offense to start clicking. The players, however, do not think that is the cause of their early season struggles.

“There’s no reason for us not to be hitting on all cylinders right now,” Brunell said. “Because we’re all pretty new at this offense, there may be some moments when we struggle. But that’s certainly no excuse. You turn the ball over seven times, that has nothing to do with learning a new system. That has to do with being smart with the football — making good decisions, holding onto it.”

Ramsey has been the primary culprit when it comes to poor decision-making. Though one of his three interceptions Sunday was attributed to a receiver (apparently Laveranues Coles) running the wrong route, the other two were placed squarely on the young quarterback’s shoulders.

That said, both Ramsey and Gibbs emerged from the loss somewhat encouraged by his play.

“I feel like minus a couple of plays, I had a decent day,” said Ramsey, who finished 9-for-18 for 142 yards. “They were big plays, don’t think I’m trying to underestimate that. But at the same time, I think it’s something I can do and I will be able to do in the future.”

With players off yesterday, coaches won’t lead a full team review of game tapes until this morning. Brunell and Ramsey, though, already went through a quick analysis of their performances on the trip home from the Meadowlands on Sunday night.

Both quarterbacks agreed they learned a thing or two from the Giants loss and that they have to play smarter football this week and beyond.

“Maybe this is a game we’ll look back on and say, ‘Hey, that was a pivotal point for us,’” Brunell said. “Because we turned things around and became a better football team.”

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