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Freedom for Ramsey

Saturday, December 18, 2004; Page D04


Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, cut down by Hugh Douglas and the Eagles last Sunday at FedEx Field, should have a better day against the struggling 49ers. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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During four games as a starter, Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey has proven that he can manage a conservative game plan. The Redskins have only three more games to determine whether the third-year veteran is their franchise quarterback. But that's not the only reason for Coach Joe Gibbs to suddenly turn liberal with his offense. Although Ramsey threw 45 passes against the Eagles last Sunday, few were downfield. Just about the only thing the 49ers have going for them in their dismal season is a sturdy run defense. The Redskins don't want Ramsey to revert to old habits of throwing risky long passes. The late interception in the 17-14 loss to Philadelphia brought back bad memories. However, Ramsey should flourish given some freedom -- as in the Steve Spurrier days -- against San Francisco's depleted secondary. Although it's antithetical to Gibbs's approach, the Redskins can find success going to the pass early, then turning to tailback Clinton Portis. The former Bronco is still within reach of becoming the first tailback in NFL history to amass 1,500 yards in each of his first three seasons. Teams not named the Arizona Cardinals (who have lost twice to San Francisco) have beaten the 49ers this season by setting up the run with the pass. The 49ers, who haven't had a successful pass rush since linebacker Julian Peterson was injured early in the season, will employ zones to try minimizing Ramsey's deep passes. Regardless, wide receiver Laveranues Coles and rookie H-back Chris Cooley, both coming off strong games, should be too much to handle in the intermediate passing game. Against the New York Giants on Dec. 5, Gibbs unleashed a four-receiver set for the first time, and it coincided with the offense's best performance (31 points). Last Sunday, the Redskins put the formation back under wraps. Now, there's no better opponent to turn pass-crazy against than San Francisco, which has allowed an average of 211 passing yards while giving up 22 touchdown receptions.


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