- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

The Washington Redskins today open a three-day minicamp that essentially concludes what coach Joe Gibbs calls a “great offseason.”

Despite the Redskins’ fairly ho-hum attempt to upgrade the roster, safety Sean Taylor’s arrest and linebacker LaVar Arrington’s continued ill health and griping, Gibbs believes his team has made substantial strides since its 6-10 season ended.

Those strides will be on display starting this morning at Redskin Park, where the full squad — minus Taylor, departing wide receiver Rod Gardner, Arrington and several other injured players — will don full pads for the offseason’s only live practices.

“Our emphasis to the players has been, ‘When we come back [for training camp in late July], it’s going to be so fast and hectic … that you have to be in great shape,’ ” Gibbs said yesterday. “We have to have our offense, defense and special teams predominantly in. So it’ll just be the hard, crisp work in pads. In today’s football, you have to be ready to go.”

Practices will occur once rather than twice a day — a reward, Gibbs said, for the players’ dedication to the offseason workout program. Apart from Taylor, who was charged two weeks ago with two felony counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, players provided Gibbs with what he called near-perfect attendance.

Although the regular season is nearly three months away, there are several evolving story lines that will have significant bearing on what happens this fall. Among them:

• The quarterback competition among Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell and first-round draft pick Jason Campbell.

Technically, this isn’t a battle — yet. Ramsey has been dubbed the unquestioned starter, and the 2002 first-rounder continues to receive his coach’s strong support.

“I’d say Patrick’s had a good camp,” Gibbs said. “Even today [at the final organized team activities practice], he [stood out] two or three times. To me, he looks confident, and he looks relaxed.”

But Gibbs still praises former starter Brunell, and there is a quiet belief in the organization that Campbell will be ready to play much sooner than most observers estimate. If Ramsey falters, there could be a full-blown quarterback controversy.

• The revamping of Gibbs’ offensive personnel and playbook.

The Redskins’ offense looked stale and predictable last year. This offseason Gibbs tried to inject some speed (adding wide receivers Santana Moss and David Patten) and to draw up some plays to get the ball deep. He even broke with tradition and added shotgun snaps. He joked he’s eager to get reporters’ feedback on the shotgun today.

• The replacement of cornerback Fred Smoot with first-round draft pick Carlos Rogers.

The draft’s ninth overall pick has big shoes to fill. Smoot, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings, excelled at one-on-one coverage and played tougher than his skinny frame. Assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams expects to start veteran Walt Harris, but Rogers must adapt quickly.

• The return of right tackle Jon Jansen.

Lost last preseason to a torn Achilles’ tendon, Jansen returns to anchor a line that played erratically. His sturdy presence is expected to boost the unit’s performance and galvanize the offense. This weekend marks his first full-speed test on his repaired heel.

Unfortunately for the public, minicamp is closed and Gibbs won’t even let media watch entire practices. Reporters are limited to the first 30 minutes of the approximately two-hour sessions, meaning much of what develops will be conveyed second-hand.

Notes — Long-injured linebacker Mike Barrow will begin testing his knee under the supervision of club officials today. Barrow was due in late yesterday, a bit later than expected because of a death in his family. … Along with Arrington (knee), defensive tackle Brandon Noble (knee) won’t participate in minicamp. H-back Chris Cooley, who strained a hamstring last week, is questionable. …

The Redskins officially signed linebacker Jared Newberry to a three-year, $1.72 million contract. Offensive lineman Dominique Richardson was cut to make room. Also signed were two NFL Europe players, offensive linemen Tyler Lenda and Tam Hopkins. … Veteran cornerback Artrell Hawkins, who has 76 NFL starts; defensive back Jason Shivers; wide receiver Tony Johnson and defensive lineman Tank Johnson (not the Chicago Bears’ Tank Johnson currently facing a felony gun charge) worked out at Redskin Park.

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