Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that he will stick with his plan to start quarterback Patrick Ramsey on Friday night in St. Louis, completing his rotation of Ramsey and Mark Brunell. Brunell, who started Saturday's 17-0 win in Miami and performed well, is viewed by many as the most likely starter in the regular season opener, but Gibbs said no decision has been made.
After reviewing the game tape, Gibbs said he was pleased that both quarterbacks played smart and avoided turnovers Saturday, often finding their second and third options for safe receptions. When asked if Brunell had taken the lead for the starting job, Gibbs said, "We're just continuing our plan and we'll put Patrick out there [this] week and go through the four games and continue to evaluate everything and make a decision."
Gibbs said he has no time frame on when he will settle on a starter. "It's whenever I feel most comfortable," he said.
Overall, Gibbs said he plans to use much of the first team in both remaining preseason games, whereas most teams traditionally rest their veterans in the finale.
"We're going to go hard the next two weeks and we'll just see what happens," Gibbs said, adding he will continue to rotate players based on feel and with no predetermined playing time.
Pierce Steps Up
Last season, linebacker Antonio Pierce was used as little more than a special teams player, making only nine tackles on defense. Now, while putting together a splendid preseason, he is in line for much more playing time. Gregg Williams, the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, said Pierce has earned the number four linebacker spot and has been one of the revelations of training camp.
"He's the model right now of what we as coaches love," Williams said, "in that he just does what you tell him to do and he does it down in and down out and he plays all three linebacker positions, he plays all over the special teams. He plays with a passion when he's out there. He's improved since we first got here in the spring, and he'll tell you that, too. . . . I have a lot of confidence in him right now."
Pierce, signed as an undrafted free agent from the University of Arizona in 2001, has started the last two games because of injuries to linebackers Mike Barrow and LaVar Arrington and has been used at the middle, weak-side and strong-side positions. Williams said Arrington and Barrow, who are battling knee injuries, could practice by tomorrow and could play Friday in St. Louis. Barrow has missed most of camp because of tendinitis, and it may take awhile for him to get into playing form. Williams said Pierce has played well enough to merit consideration for one of the top three linebacker spots and is the ideal number four.
"In the early '90s when I was a linebacker coach, we tried to always train who we thought was the fourth-best athlete so he's ready to go at the middle or any outside [linebacker] position," Williams said. "And [Pierce] fits that perfectly."
Taylor to Start Again
Rookie safety Sean Taylor, who made another big play by causing and recovering a fumble against the Dolphins, will start again Friday, Williams said. While it seems all but certain Taylor will start the regular season opener, Williams said that is not a given. "He's got a lot of work to do on some of the small things behind the scenes," Williams said.
"He's got a lot of improvement he has yet to do for me to have confidence trotting him out there for opening day. He's just so gifted that he bails himself out of a mistake that a cagey quarterback, a vet quarterback, is going to make him pay. But he's fun to coach."