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Redskins Aim for Stability

Gibbs Doesn't Expect To Make Major Changes

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 4, 2005; Page D01

Walking out of Redskins Park after the team's final meeting, quarterback Patrick Ramsey lugged a large black plastic bag that included cleats, sweats and a stocking cap in case it gets too cold in Ruston, La. Some of his teammates lugged large boxes after emptying out their locker stalls. But, despite a 6-10 season, Coach Joe Gibbs said he didn't think the front office would need to do any heavy lifting in the offseason.

After addressing his players yesterday, Gibbs today will begin a week-long analysis of the team. He intends to have a depth chart by Friday that will rank the players at each position, providing a blueprint for the offseason to owner Daniel Snyder and Vice President Vinny Cerrato.

Coach Joe Gibbs plans to evaluate his roster and offensive schemes during the offseason. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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Gibbs doesn't expect the front office to be nearly as active as last season, when it changed virtually half the 53-man roster and ended up with an NFL-record payroll of more than $120 million.

"I don't foresee us with that kind of a change on the team," he said in an hour-long news conference. "I think we have a real core group of guys. We have a great locker room, we've got great character. Obviously, there'll be a few isolated things there that we need to fix. But I think to come out of the year, the best thing is we have a real solid group of guys."

After Gibbs's worst season in his 13 years as an NFL head coach, the Redskins will pick ninth in April's draft. The Redskins also have selections in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. Gibbs said his first priority will be making changes via free agency, trades and other roster moves.

Ramsey echoed teammates when he said: "I don't know what he has planned. You get surprised a lot in the offseason about what happens. But at the same time, you wouldn't think that the defense would be tweaked too much because they were so successful."

The Redskins' offense ranked 30th in the 32-team league, and completed only four passes of 40 yards or longer.

"We need to take a long, hard look about everything on offense," said Gibbs, who said the Redskins will have enough financial flexibility to meet their needs.

Wideout Rod Gardner had his worst season, and the trade rumors that have followed him in his Redskins career may finally become fact. Wideout Darnerien McCants, who played in only five games after signing a three-year, $4.5 million deal, spoke about being dealt or released. "I wouldn't be surprised at all," he said. "I'm a realist. They may think they made a mistake."

Gibbs said that he will also analyze his offensive schemes, which have been criticized for being too conservative. Gibbs's shifting formations and motions have been an issue because the play clock has been reduced from 45 to 40 seconds since his first Redskins tenure. But Gibbs, whose club led the league in delay-of-game penalties, noted that he adjusted during the season.

"We're constantly looking to steal, borrow, whatever, what somebody else is doing," he said.

One area that he may continue to tweak is the blocking schemes for tailback Clinton Portis, who finished with 1,315 yards, but on a career-low 3.8 yards per carry. The Redskins eventually switched to the zone blocking style that helped Portis amass more than 3,000 yards in his first two seasons, with the Denver Broncos.

"It was a rough season. It was a learning experience," Portis said. He added that Gibbs "will come up with something, but you can't change the whole offensive mentality during the season."

Other significant changes could come if Washington isn't able to retain key players among its 18 free agents. The top two such players are cornerback Fred Smoot and middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. Smoot's negotiations for an extension have stalled, but Pierce remains optimistic about a deal.

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