Redskins' Offense Is Put Under the Gun

Bill Musgrave
New Redskins quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave snaps the ball to rookie quarterback Jason Campbell at the team's minicamp. Hoping to give his offense more options, Joe Gibbs will implement the shotgun for the first time. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2005

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey stood five yards behind center Casey Rabach, who was crouching at the 40-yard line during 11-on-11 drills at Redskins Park.

Rabach flipped a picture-perfect snap toward the chest of Ramsey, who caught the ball with his hands extended.

Rabach and Washington's quarterbacks executed the snap with equal precision as the shotgun formation was used on a handful of the roughly 30 snaps at yesterday's final minicamp session.

Because of Coach Joe Gibbs's aversion to the shotgun -- which is generally used in passing situations -- Washington's offense didn't employ it last year. But the formation was inserted into the playbook during the offseason, and the Redskins have executed it well in practice.

"We didn't botch one snap," Ramsey said. "It's been very smooth."

The perfection thus far increases the likelihood of Gibbs making the shotgun a critical part of his offense during the regular season. Gibbs has never used the shotgun in 13 years as an NFL head coach, but after overseeing one of the feeblest offenses in the NFL last season, he has incorporated several changes.

Washington has revamped its blocking schemes to better accommodate tailback Clinton Portis, who prefers more open space. Gibbs has also made the playbook less complicated and attempted to reduce movement before the snap. After a season that lacked many big plays, the Redskins' emphasis is on getting the ball downfield.

While serving as a broadcaster for ESPN during the April draft, right tackle Jon Jansen told a national television audience that Washington used a 1992 offense last season.

"I didn't mean anything derogatory by it," Jansen explained Saturday. "There were things we did last year that offenses probably did back then, that really didn't account from some of the blitzes you see now. The coaches have done a great job at tweaking the offense. We've made little things that most people wouldn't see unless they know a lot about football. The thing they'll see is us scoring more and winning more games."

Many of Gibbs's alterations were implemented in last season's final five games, when the offense averaged 21 points, almost five more points than during the first five games. But the most significant -- and conspicuous -- change involves the shotgun. Last season, the Redskins were among three NFL teams that never employed it.

But on Friday, Gibbs cracked, "When you're not successful, you'll try anything."

Gibbs said that the frequency with which the shotgun will be used will depend on how the offense adapts before the regular season. Most of the Redskins' offensive players, particularly quarterbacks and centers, have a background in the shotgun.

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