Gibbs Seeks New Approach to Improve in Preseason

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Washington Redskins are approaching this preseason differently than the last, aiming for much better results. Washington was 0-4 in its exhibition games -- revealing almost none of its new offense and playing its starters only briefly -- and stumbled to a woeful 5-11 season.

Coach Joe Gibbs will not reveal how long he plans to play his starters in these preseason games, wanting his players prepared for any possibility, but he has discussed the need to breed chemistry and produce better results this August. When the Redskins take on the Tennessee Titans tonight in Nashville, players and coaches are bracing for more work for the regulars, more of a regular-season-type game plan and, they hope, more success.

"We don't want to start off like we did last year," said Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense. "Our first unit is raring to go, ready to play for 60 minutes. How long they're going to play, Coach [Gibbs] determines that, but we'll keep the regulars in more this preseason. We've got to get razor sharp. We're angry. We stunk the joint up last year, and we don't want to do that two years in row."

Much of the attention will be focused on quarterback Jason Campbell, who is in his first training camp as a starter. Campbell said he, too, is unsure how much he will play -- some think the starters could play a quarter or more -- but is hoping for ample time.

"I want to go out there and do the things that I can do to the best of my abilities," Campbell said. "I want to go into the preseason to get myself ready for the regular season."

The Redskins have much to weigh with Campbell. Rookie undrafted free agent Stephon Heyer is scheduled to play left tackle -- and protect Campbell's blind side -- tonight, while several starters on the line (including Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels) are out or nursing injuries.

Also not making the trip are cornerback Jerametrius Butler (hamstring), tight end Tyler Ecker (groin), wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (shin splints) and defensive tackle Vaka Manupuna (quadriceps). Running back Clinton Portis (knee tendinitis) will travel to Tennessee but will not play; instead he'll be evaluated by James Andrews, one of the team doctors.

The Life Cycle

Cornerback Shawn Springs is keeping a close eye on rookie linebacker H.B. Blades, as Blades's father once did for him. Springs credits Bennie Blades for helping him when Springs was a rookie first-round pick with the Seattle Seahawks in 1997. Bennie Blades's final season in the league was that same year.

"That's pretty wild how things come around like that," Springs said. "H.B.'s dad did a lot for me when I was just coming up, so you know I've got to take care of his son. Don't worry, I'll be looking out for him. I owe it to him."

H.B. Blades, a sixth-round pick, is facing a difficult adjustment. An undersized linebacker, Blades must make his mark on special teams in the preseason while trying to earn a spot as a reserve linebacker.

"He's going to have to learn that there's a different tempo that we play at at this level," said Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. "You guys at practice are seeing me spend a little bit more time with him."

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