For Starters, a Day of Rest
Sunday, August 6, 2006
After a week of watching his team practice with little hard contact against friendly faces, Coach Joe Gibbs got a chance to observe the Washington Redskins in action for the first time in a scrimmage yesterday against the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field -- and he offered a clearly unimpressed evaluation.
Instead of the grand unveiling of a high-priced, big-name offense that has generated much of the anticipation during the offseason and the first days of the training camp, a crowd of 47,258 saw the offense and coaches stick to the task of building the team by evaluating backup positions.
Outside of a non-contact, seven-on-seven series against the Ravens' starters designed, Gibbs said, to allow his players to work on timing in a new offense, none of the Redskins' offensive stars saw any action. Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El stood on the sideline when full-squad hitting began.
For the afternoon Gibbs was measured, both in his evaluations and his enthusiasm. After a week of grand expectations stoked by players, both Gibbs and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams distanced themselves from the known commodities, preferring to focus on players they are less familiar with in order to determine how deep and how good the roster will be.
"We're rough. We have a lot of work to do all the way around," Gibbs said, adding that the work Brunell and the frontline players did see should not be overemphasized. "I'm always cautious about seven-on-seven because it's just that. The line's not there. No one's having to shift and move. Everyone has time."
When the full-contact 11-on-11 drills began, there were glimpses of what the Redskins expect, giving hungry fans a little taste of the team's potential star power. On the Ravens' fourth play from scrimmage, Redskins safety Sean Taylor drilled Ravens running back Mike Anderson in the chest, leveling him to the turf and sending him to the sideline with a mild concussion.
On the next play, strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington intercepted quarterback Steve McNair and raced 39 yards for a touchdown.
"It feels good to compete and actually compete against some other guys," Washington said. "We ran a little blitz and we got some good pressure on McNair. I was just dropped in my zone and I don't think he saw me, so he threw it right there. It was kind of a 'gimme' almost."
But yesterday was not intended to showcase the sizzle of Randle El, Moss or Lloyd, but to assess the major concern of depth.
Jason Campbell and Todd Collins, the quarterbacks vying to win the backup job to Brunell, took turns running the offense in full-contact, 11-on-11 drills, both to mixed results. In his first set of 10 offensive plays, Campbell, hampered by two penalties that annoyed Gibbs, threw for just two yards.
Collins, clearly familiar with the rhythm of the Redskins' new offense of quick scanning and throwing, followed and moved the ball easier, his highlight being a 20-yard pass to Richard Smith. But Collins, who completed three of five passes for 37 yards, was also stalled by penalties.
"I thought both guys did some good things out there, and hit some things, for a first week's worth of work," Gibbs said. "I think they'll get a lot of work and a lot of attention. Hopefully, what it does is that it will play itself out."
Campbell's second drive was more encouraging. He hit Mike Espy on a deep out to the left side for 22 yards that showed off both touch and power.
"Some things I thought I did really well came when I got comfortable, just being relaxed and throwing the deep ball," said Campbell, who went 4 of 7 for 48 yards. "I had so many high expectations, I was trying to press out there a little bit."
Defensively, the Redskins employed much of the same philosophy on the defensive line. Starters Phillip Daniels, Joe Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin did not play a single series.
"It's good to go out there and see if you improved from last year," middle linebacker Lemar Marshall said. "Even though you want your starters out there, you never know how good of a team you are until you look at your backups. If the backups come in and there's a dropoff, then you know you'll have trouble if you have injuries."
Williams was more demonstrative than Gibbs about what impressed him and what did not. He said he liked the team's effort, but singled out rookie safety Reed Doughty and second-year defensive back Aric Williams, who were burned on touchdown plays.
"I think with some of the guys, we said, 'We don't need to see those guys,' " he said, about not playing his top line. "We've got a good handle on a select core of veterans, but we've got to find out about the other guys that are going to make our team go. For a first day, it was okay, but I'm never going to be satisfied. I'm never going to be happy with that."