- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Redskins must have lost their newly invigorated playbook on the flight to Charlotte, N.C.

Otherwise, they remain the one-legged man in a dance contest. Their idea of being imaginative on offense remains the 5-yard dink pass.

They are not unlike Tom Hanks’ character in “Saving Private Ryan.”

They go into the contests armed with a .45-caliber pistol, while their opponents are bearing down on them in a tank.

You saw the game against the Panthers.

You probably thought it was a rerun.

You saw that game perhaps as many as 12 times last season.

Yes, yes, yes. We know it was only a preseason game, and coaches refuse to show their best stuff in August. And who can blame them?

But didn’t the Panthers score 28 points in the same conditions?

And shouldn’t the Redskins feel a certain motivation to establish something positive going into the regular season?

As usual, the Redskins have this amazing capacity to move the ball between the 30-yard lines and to accumulate decent yardage totals, only to come up empty.

They establish the 5-yard pass in the flat with stunning efficiency. But no team can live on the 5-yard pass in the flat. Defenses allow offenses certain liberties in the middle of the field. Those liberties are summarily removed as a team attempts to finish a drive with a touchdown.

And that is the challenge before the Redskins. They can move the ball at times. They just can’t put it in the end zone. They lack the big-play performer, whether the playmaker comes from the quarterback, running back or receiving positions.

Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell and rookie Jason Campbell each put up nice numbers. Hard as it is to believe, they combined for 330 yards passing. And yet, all that yardage resulted in a meager 10 points, a familiar output.

Brunell orchestrated the team’s only touchdown drive, a 14-play, 82-yard gem late in the third quarter, which, of course, is fairly standard in the course of a football game. A team may piece together one or two time-consuming drives a game.

A good offensive team usually has a couple of big plays to go with its ball-control forays, which is where the Redskins have been found so wanting in Joe Gibbs II.

Clinton Portis had a long touchdown run against the Buccaneers in the opening game last season, and that was pretty much it for the team’s big plays.

So much of the season was viewed in eyes-glazed-over mode.

You would sit down to watch a football game, and inevitably, a soccer match would break out.

There was that sinking feeling anew in this initial inspection of the Redskins.

We know it is too early to be foaming at the mouth. We know the Redskins could average 10 points a game in the preseason and then drop 30 on the Bears in the opener. And we know the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 is sometimes incredibly small in the parity-filled NFL.

Yet the Redskins who showed up in North Carolina looked eerily similar to the mind-numbing Redskins of 2004.

Even after they closed to 14-10 late in the third quarter, you did not have the feeling they were truly in the game. You had the same feeling going into the fourth quarter of too many games last season.

Another thing: Ramsey did nothing to ease the speculation enveloping the quarterback position. Washington usually likes a full-blown quarterback controversy as much as the next NFL city.

But this one, if it comes to be, will be held with reluctance, given the alternatives.

Ramsey did throw the ball deep on one occasion.

It was intercepted, of course.

Gibbs did not express a need to study the film in the hope of finding positives.

It was what it was, a trip back to 2004.

All Washington wanted to see was a small sign of life on offense.

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