- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

Joe Gibbs is uneasy.

Preparing for the season opener is never simple in the NFL, but the Washington Redskins’ coach has more reason to be nervous this year. He is genuinely concerned headed into today’s game against the Chicago Bears because last year’s 6-10 record was the worst of his Hall of Fame career. Expectations haven’t been so low for one of his teams since he was a 40-year-old rookie coach in 1981.

“If you went to the Super Bowl last year, I’m sure you’re a little more relaxed than I am,” Gibbs said. “We struggled last year. I’m uptight and concerned because you’re never sure what you’ll get.”

That’s especially true of Patrick Ramsey. The fourth-year quarterback stunk in the preseason opener at Carolina, made some big plays and bad ones the next week against Cincinnati and recovered from an early interception to play well against Pittsburgh. However, he looked shaky again in his brief duty in the finale at Baltimore 10 days ago.

All told, Ramsey had a lousy 65.6 passer rating in the preseason, nearly 20 points lower than that of Chicago fourth-round draft pick Kyle Orton.

“We want to be able to continue to get the ball downfield,” Ramsey said. “At the same time, we need to find a middle ground between big plays and turnovers.”

And put the ball in the end zone. Only Chicago had fewer touchdowns than the 24 scored by Washington’s offense last year. Even though Gibbs opened up his scheme and the Redskins added speedy receivers Santana Moss and David Patten, talented center Casey Rabach and got back right tackle Jon Jansen (who spent 2004 on injured reserve), the starting offense managed just 20 points on 21 drives in the preseason.

“If we can score points, with our defense, we can win a lot of football games,” Ramsey said. “I’m anxious to get started.”

If Ramsey and the Redskins don’t get off to a good start, he might not be starting much longer. Mark Brunell was sharp this summer, looking like the heady and athletic quarterback to whom Gibbs entrusted the offense last fall before Brunell played himself out of the job. Looming behind both veterans is rookie Jason Campbell, for whom Gibbs gave up three high draft picks to select in April.

Beating the Bears is also critical because it is followed by a Monday game at Dallas, where Washington has lost nine straight years. Plus, Gibbs has lost 11 of the last 13 games he has coached against Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. Only two of 15 teams that started 0-2 during 2003 or 2004 recovered to finish with a winning record.

While most of the focus today will be on Ramsey and the offense, assistant head coach Gregg Williams’ defense has nine starters back from a unit that finished a surprising third in the NFL in 2004.

Lemar Marshall, who filled in admirably for the injured LaVar Arrington on the weak side last year, is now in the middle, replacing 2004 top tackler Antonio Pierce. Either top draft choice Carlos Rogers or veteran Walt Harris, last year’s nickelback, will take the cornerback job vacated by Fred Smoot, who departed via free agency like Pierce.

Arrington, end Phillip Daniels and safety Matt Bowen all are back after missing a combined 36 of 48 starts because of injuries.

“Last year everyone wondered how good they could be,” said Williams, who’s looking for more turnovers than the 26 forced in 2004. “They played with an attitude. Now they have to ratchet it up because they’re being chased. They’re not going to sneak up on anyone.”


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