- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

1. Patrick Ramsey, quarterback

This is a make-or-break season for No. 11, and Ramsey probably feels that way, too. Joe Gibbs hired Bill Musgrave as quarterbacks coach, traded for receiver Santana Moss, signed center Casey Rabach and added the shotgun to aid Ramsey. Now it’s up to Ramsey to eliminate the big mistakes that cost the Redskins games. If he’s the player who went 19 of 22 with three TDs last year against the Giants, Washington is in good shape. If he’s the player who looked befuddled on occasion in the preseason, Washington’s in trouble.

2. Clinton Portis, running back

Portis didn’t live up to his reputation as a big-play back in his first season with the Redskins. He gained 1,315 yards but scored only five touchdowns and, incredibly, only one of his 343 carries went for longer than 25 yards (and that was in Week 1). Not all of it was his fault. Teams keyed on the run because they had no respect for Joe Gibbs’ scheme and Mark Brunell’s arm. Portis was impressive against Pittsburgh in the preseason, and if the zone blocking is to his liking there’s no reason he can’t gain 1,750 yards and score a dozen touchdowns.

3. Lemar Marshall, middle linebacker

In Gregg Williams’ defense, with its many “packages” and pre-snap adjustments, the middle linebacker is critical to making sure players are in the right spots. Antonio Pierce was thrust into the position last year, and he responded with a team-leading 160 tackles and cashed in with a $26 million contract from the Giants. Marshall got the first shot at the spot during training camp and hasn’t disappointed. But expect teams to run right at him and put him into coverage situations.

4. Santana Moss, wide receiver

Moss, acquired from the Jets in the offseason, takes the place of moody and injured Laveranues Coles. Moss averaged 18.6 yards a reception for the Jets last year. Rod Gardner led the Redskins at 12.7, and Washington ranked 30th in yards per completion. Moss has been open throughout the preseason and finally connected with Ramsey in the Pittsburgh game. One play in particular was eye-popping: Moss caught an out pattern and — zip! — spun around to his left and turned upfield for a 40-yard gain. The Redskins roster last year lacked a receiver who could make that play.

5. Antonio Brown, kick/punt returner

This pick might surprise people. But as Gibbs and special teams coach Danny Smith say ad nauseam, football is a game of field position, and even with Portis, Moss and David Patten, this is an offense that can’t consistently drive 80 yards for touchdowns. Enter the return teams in general and Brown in particular. Brown averaged a lowly 4.4 yards per punt return two years ago in Denver, but the Redskins are banking on the player who averaged 8.9 yards an attempt in the last three games of 2004.

Ryan O’Halloran

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