Continuity is the new buzzword at Redskins Park, with the same coaching staff returning for next season, a starting quarterback in place and the roster mostly intact. And while those factors should give quarterback Patrick Ramsey confidence as he prepares for his fourth NFL season, he still has much to learn this spring.
Ramsey, 26, is in the early stages of his relationship with Bill Musgrave, the new quarterbacks coach, and will take snaps from a new center, free agent signee Casey Rabach. With his top wide receivers from last season, Laveranues Coles (traded to New York for Santana Moss) and Rod Gardner (on the trading block), no longer in the picture, he has two new wideouts to became familiar with (Moss and free agent David Patten). Although Coach Joe Gibbs is retaining many of the principals from last season, significant changes are being made to establish a deep passing game and diversify the attack.
To many quarterbacks, this might be unwelcome, but for Ramsey, it qualifies as progress after the uncertainty and upheaval of the past.
"It's not easy," said Ramsey, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2002 and has 23 career starts, "but it's easier to adjust to a new receiver, a new center and a new [position] coach than it would be to an entirely new offense."
Only once since Daniel Snyder bought the franchise in 1999 have the Redskins had the same starting quarterback in consecutive season openers (and not since 2000), and last spring Ramsey's future was in doubt as he recovered from foot surgery while Gibbs worked with former Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Brunell, his choice to run Washington's offense. Ramsey replaced Brunell during the ninth game, started the duration of the Redskins' 6-10 season and displayed enough grit and talent to be deemed Gibbs's top choice for 2005.
"It gives you a different mind-set certainly than at this point last season," Ramsey said of his starting status, "but I don't think in any way it's a situation where I don't need to continue to earn it and continue to improve."
Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs said: "You can tell when a quarterback feels good about himself. It's not arrogance, it's not cockiness. There's just a swagger about him. Patrick is confident and it's good to have him confident because he's a great quarterback."
There is plenty to be done to an offense that ranked 30th overall among the NFL's 32 teams, 30th in passing offense and 29th in points per game. Coles and Gardner caught 141 total passes for 1,600 yards and six touchdowns last season -- the rest of Washington's wide receivers totaled 452 yards on 38 receptions with no touchdowns -- making it imperative for Ramsey to establish chemistry with this collection of wide receivers.
To that end, Ramsey is at Redskins Park at least four days a week, meeting with coaches, going over the playbook, lifting weights and throwing the ball. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he runs pass patterns with the wide receivers (at least 50 passes per day) and will continue doing so until the team breaks after minicamp around June 20. Players will report for training camp in late July.
"When you see a receiver a lot, you do develop an intangible with a guy," Ramsey said. "I had it a little bit with Laveranues at times and I think I'm developing it with [H-back] Chris [Cooley], but it's probably more important for receivers to comprehend the route and for them to all run it the same way. . . . You do need to develop that [chemistry], but I think it can be developed from this point through training camp."
Ramsey admits he had the highest comfort level with Coles and was surprised by his departure. He said he is already encouraged by what he has seen from Patten, who was signed from New England. Ramsey has yet to meet Moss, who has not participated in these workouts, and is slowly building a relationship with Musgrave, who was hired shortly after the season. (Musgrave was not available to comment this week.) He and Musgrave, who spent about 20 minutes after a meeting yesterday chatting about the Masters, have dissected and focused on Ramsey's footwork and are discovering common interests.
"This is like my third week [since] I've met him," Ramsey said of Musgrave, "and I talked to him on the phone occasionally in the offseason. We're getting to know one another and we know what we're all about and I think it will continue to progress as time goes on."