- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS — Throughout the final month of the Washington Redskins’ disastrous 2006 season, coach Joe Gibbs vowed to dissect every aspect of the team and wouldn’t be averse to changing anything.

Yesterday morning, Gibbs did not lay out the team’s entire offseason game plan, but revealed what the coaching staff’s end-of-season examination produced.

Gibbs said improving the 31st-ranked defense will be the Redskins’ focus during free agency and the draft. He also confirmed safety Adam Archuleta’s return, said players will be allowed to train on their own for a bulk of the spring and indicated training camp will begin earlier.

“All of us are more in-tune this year because of the things that happened to us,” said Gibbs, who this week is attending the NFL Scouting Combine. “We want to do a good job of being students and learning from what did happen and where we made mistakes.”

Gibbs and the Redskins’ coaches and scouts are at the RCA Dome looking to improve a roster that went 5-11 (last in the NFC East), was inconsistent offensively, dreadful defensively and lacks quality depth at several positions.

But with little salary cap space and only four draft picks (rounds 1, 5, 6 and 7), Gibbs admits the Redskins’ options for a vast overhaul are unlikely.

“Everybody knows our cap situation,” he said. “Our game plan is take care of our team and then look at free agency and say, ‘What can we do to help us at key spots?’ and then get ready for the draft.”

The Redskins have a top 10 pick for the third time in four seasons. The consensus among draft observers is that if the Redskins keep that pick (the sixth overall), they will take one of two defensive ends — Clemson’s Gaines Adams or Arkansas’ Jamaal Anderson — or Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch.

It would make perfect sense for the Redskins to trade down to acquire more Day One picks to fill out their roster with young and less expensive players.

“In the past, what’s happened to us is that you expect to get a lot of calls and they never come,” Gibbs said. “There are some interesting players there and are players that teams are willing to move up and get. … The normal reality tells you that we’ll wind up picking [sixth].”

Before the draft, the Redskins will try to make improvements through free agency. Offensively, the only dire need will be left guard if Derrick Dockery leaves. Dockery and the Redskins have been engaged in talks since late in the regular season but a deal hasn’t been consummated. A dearth of quality guards on the market could drive up Dockery’s asking price.

“We’ve worked really hard to get that done,” Gibbs said. “We’re operating under the thought process that we can still get something done [before March 2].”

The remaining holes are on a defense that resembled a turnstile, allowing 20 or more points in 10 games. The Redskins could use help at pass rusher, defensive tackle, cornerback and middle linebacker.

The status of veteran defensive ends Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels remains unclear and it’s possible both could be released to create a combined $5 million in cap space. Cornerback Shawn Springs could also be on the chopping block.

One spot where the Redskins apparently are satisfied is safety. Veteran Troy Vincent was released on Thursday and Gibbs said Archuleta will return in 2007 to compete with Pierson Prioleau and, if he’s re-signed, Vernon Fox for the starting spot.

“That’s our plan,” Gibbs said of Archuleta’s return. “It hasn’t gone the way we would have liked, but we’re hoping the end result will be a lot better than what we’ve gone through so far. Our goal is to find a way he fits for us and get him doing the things he does well.”

On the injury front, the Redskins don’t have as many concerns as they do trying to create money to spend in free agency. Running back Clinton Portis’ rehabilitation is on track from shoulder surgery.

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times and what I’ve picked up from Clinton is that he has a burning [desire] and a you-watch-me attitude,” Gibbs said. “He’s excited about next year.”

Gibbs isn’t concerned about Portis’ comments on Sports Talk 980 last month questioning who was in charge of the offense — Gibbs or associate head coach Al Saunders.

“It’s not me on the run side and Al on the passing side — it’s all Al calling the plays,” Gibbs said. “But any input I do give is more toward the run offense.”

Thanks to Gibbs’ decision — after consulting with several veterans — to delay the must-attend-Redskin-Park portion of the offseason program — Portis and other vets who live out of town will be free to work on their own.

“I felt like what we did last year made absolute sense,” Gibbs said. “But what they kind of felt is that they would like to be on their own from a conditioning standpoint further into the offseason. So we’re going to do that.”

Gibbs said the mandatory portion of the offseason workouts will begin six to seven weeks later, probably after the rookie minicamp in early May.

When July comes around, though, Gibbs said the Redskins are likely to begin training camp earlier (as opposed to 13 days before their preseason opener in 2006) and will have intense practices once the regular season started, a philosophy Gibbs returned to last November.

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