- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Like they say, football ain’t rocket science. At this time of year, it’s more like grade-school math. If you’re a Redskins fan, for instance, and you’re wondering how the 2005 season will go, these are some of the equations floating clogging your brain:

Will LaVar Arrington (back from injury) plus Carlos Rogers (the top draft pick) be greater than or equal to Antonio Pierce plus Fred Smoot (both departed)?

Will the defense minus Tom Tupa, one of the best punters in the league last year, be less than it was in ‘04?

Does Patrick Ramsey plus a season in the Joe Gibbs system equal a playoff-caliber quarterback?

Will the addition of the shotgun to the offense help it score more than 15 points a game?

Are Chris Samuels plus Derrick Dockery plus Randy Thomas plus Jon Jansen plus Casey Rabach (a) the equivalent of the Hogs; (b) the equivalent of five sausage links; or (c) the square root of the Hogs?

There’s plenty more where those came from, but you get the idea. The Redskins right now are like an untaken algebra test. We think we know the answers, at least some of them, but we won’t know for sure for a while, maybe not until December.

That may explain why, while there’s a sense of anticipation about Sunday’s opener against the Bears, there isn’t the rampant euphoria and runaway optimism of a year ago. Coach Joe has indeed come home, but he hasn’t brought Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Art Monk, Dave Butz and Darrell Green with him.

A lap around the locker room yesterday yielded the following comments (from players) and observations (by yours truly):

• Can Arrington make it all the way back? I’m not talking about recapturing his Pro Bowl form, I’m talking about reclaiming his status — pre-Gibbs, pre-salary dispute, pre-marriage — as one of the more quotable players on the team, a veritable Human Sound Bite.

“I’m so corny now,” he said after fielding a handful of questions from the media. “I don’t give you guys what you want. I almost slipped up there for a second. I almost gave you guys a few quotes. I had to catch myself.”

First Smoot, the club’s Resident Jabberwocky, leaves, then LaVar, renowned for shooting from the lip, decides to tone it down. Who’s going to supply the headlines now, James Thrash?

• Will the passing game be able to withstand the loss of Jimmy Farris?

Hey, the guy caught touchdown passes of 37 and 22 yards in the final preseason game — and got shown the door. The Redskins must have awfully good depth at wide receiver.

• The biggest difference between this year’s opener and last year’s, according to Joe Salave’a, is that “the guys have a little more togetherness than I saw last year. And the hunger is still there.”

That’s the area in which Coach Joe has had the most impact. The Redskins may have had a lot of disappointments last season, but they didn’t turn on one another and they didn’t mail in the last month (unlike some other Washington teams in recent years). When you’re building something, that’s as good a place to start as any.

• Not having much information on Kyle Orton, Chicago’s rookie quarterback, is “almost scary,” Ryan Clark said. “Almost scary” to face a fourth-round, first-year QB in his NFL debut? Try “almost too good to be true.”

• Speaking of rookies, Gibbs may wind up wishing there were a few more on the Redskins’ roster. Aside from first-rounders Rogers and Jason Campbell, the only draftee to make it was running back Nehemiah Broughton, the Citadel Cyclone, who was a No. 7 pick.

And let’s not forget, next year’s No. 1 has already been sent to the Broncos (for the first-round selection that brought Campbell). How much would it hurt if Mike Shanahan were able to package that pick — and his own — in a deal that netted him Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart?

Not that Campbell doesn’t have prospects.

• The last time the Redskins acquired a future first-rounder, by the way, they came away with Arrington.

• Question for Mr. Ramsey: “Are you prepared for the possibility that Clinton Portis might not run 64 yards for a touchdown on his first carry this season?”

Ramsey (laughs): “He may do it still.”

Here’s hoping the offense has a Plan B for that opening series.

• And finally, who can we thank in the NFL front office for giving the Redskins a winnable opener four years in a row — the Cardinals in ‘02, the free agency-ravaged Jets in ‘03, the Bucs in ‘04 and now Da Bears. This is no small accomplishment. I mean, the Snydermen are 18-30 during that stretch, but they’re 3-0 in openers.

And by about 4 p.m. Sunday, they should be 4-0. Not that the New LaVar will have much to say about it.

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