- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

No matter how strongly Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and his players protest, the score of tonight’s preseason opener at Carolina is not that important. What matters is how the Redskins’ starters play, particularly those on the retooled offense.

“You’d like to have good, solid pass protection, run the ball, hit some kind of a rhythm,” said Gibbs, whose offense was 30th in 2004 and looked inept in last Saturday’s scrimmage at Baltimore. “You can kind of tell with the offense. You’re either smooth or you’re not. It will be a real good test for us.”

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey hasn’t looked as good in practice as rookie Jason Campbell and needs a good preseason to solidify his hold on the starting job.

“We’ve got a good defense to go against, a good team to measure ourselves against,” Ramsey said of the Panthers, who were NFC champions in 2003 before being devastated by injuries last year. “I’d like to score some points and move the ball efficiently. The last couple of days [in practice] we’ve been encouraged. I want to establish myself as the leader of the team and go out there and play well. We need to play well in the preseason. If we do, it will probably carry over into the regular season and make us a lot more confident.”

Confidence shouldn’t be a problem for Washington’s defense, the league’s third best in 2004 despite playing most of the season without Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, end Phillip Daniels and safety Matt Bowen. Arrington remains out following knee surgery, as does tackle Brandon Noble. Shawn Springs is doubtful with a sore hamstring, and fellow cornerbacks Carlos Rogers (ankle) and Artrell Hawkins (hamstring) won’t play, leaving veteran Walt Harris and youngsters Ade Jimoh, Garnell Wilds, Rufus Brown and Eric Joyce.

“We’re not going to make excuses,” said secondary coach DeWayne Walker, whose group will have a reunion with Panthers receiver Rod Gardner, a Redskins starter from 2001 to 2004. “You want the same production no matter who steps on the field. They have to play just like they’re starters.”

End Renaldo Wynn, who missed last week’s scrimmage along with fellow starters Noble, Arrington, Springs, Harris and tackle Cornelius Griffin, said the defense has to prove itself all over again.

“The first year, everybody thinks it’s a fluke. ‘Can they do it again?’ ” Wynn said. “You can’t think that it’s automatically going to carry over from one year to the next just by stepping on the field. No one is going to be surprised by us. They’re going to be scheming towards us more, so we’re going to have to work that much harder. We’ve got a pretty prideful defense. We don’t care if we’re playing our own offense or if it’s preseason.”

The preseason opener was the last game Jon Jansen played in 2004. The offensive tackle tore an Achilles tendon and was done for the year after never missing a practice in his previous five seasons. Now Jansen is fully healthy again.

“I’m as excited as I’ve ever been,” Jansen said.

There’s also great anticipation in seeing how speedy receivers Santana Moss and David Patten and center Casey Rabach fare against the formidable Carolina defense and how Lemar Marshall does in his first serious test at middle linebacker after playing the weak side in 2004.

And as with any team, there are the rookies. Top pick Rogers won’t play, but fellow first-rounder Campbell and second-day selections Manuel White, Robert McCune, Jared Newberry and Nehemiah Broughton are eager to show what they have learned since becoming Redskins.

“It’s a chance for the coaches to evaluate you,” said Newberry, a linebacker who’s also a part of the four main special teams units. “I always get butterflies. I’d be a little nervous if I didn’t have any butterflies. It’s not fear. It lets you know that you’re ready to go.”

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