- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It’s not exactly a whole new world for Washington’s offense because coach Joe Gibbs and new associate head coach Al Saunders and were both schooled by legendary mastermind Don Coryell. But the sunny skies at Redskin Park yesterday matched the optimism after the first of 14 days of organized workouts in Saunders’ scheme.

“I’m excited,” said Chris Cooley, who has moved from H-back to tight end. “We’re moving around even more than we did last year. We’re going to try to stretch the field more, get more guys downfield, get huge chunks [of yardage] more than we have in the past.”

Clinton Portis said the offense isn’t that different from a running back’s perspective. Quarterback Mark Brunell settled between that view and Cooley’s about the change from Gibbs’ power-based approach to Saunders’ multi-faceted system which made Kansas City the NFL’s most potent offense during the past five seasons.

“We might have a few more pass plays, but I don’t expect it to be night and day,” Brunell said, belying the massive playbook in his hands. “We did some good things last year. You don’t fix something that’s not entirely broken, but you do tweak. These new concepts, it’s going to take time to get comfortable with them, but that’s why you have these organized team activities.”

The Redskins rose from an abysmal 30th on offense in 2004 to a solid 11th 2005 but struggled in the playoffs. Washington managed just 120 yards in its wild card victory at Tampa Bay, the fewest ever by a playoff winner, and gained just 145 through three quarters in the next week’s loss at Seattle as the Seahawks built a 17-3 lead.

“When you work against a defense for the first time, you’re a little dubious about what the results will be, but I couldn’t be more pleased about the practice we had today,” said Saunders, who called 42 pass plays and will add 20 to 50 more during each of the next 11 days before focusing the final two OTA sessions on short-yardage and goal-line situations. “Our No. 1 objective is to learn a new [number-based] language. The other thing is to establish a standard of performance that is a fast, fast tempo. The great thing about what we do is that the offense is so flexible that it allows for a lot of creativity. That separates us from a lot of people.”

The expensive acquisitions of talented receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd will surely help separate the Redskins, but Saunders might wind up being Washington’s best offseason addition.

“I expect us to be a better offense than we were last year because of who we’re working with and because of what we’re doing,” Brunell said. “Look at the production they had in Kansas City. They were explosive. They moved the ball and scored points. That doesn’t mean that’s going to automatically happen here. It’s going to take a lot of work, but that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Notes — Washington and Baltimore will likely meet in their now-annual controlled scrimmage on Aug. 5 in Landover. … The Redskins’ rookie pool for their six draft picks and their 15 rookie free agents is $2.24 million, leaving about $1.5 million to spend in the post-June 1 free agent market and for an injured reserve fund.

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