At Redskins' Workout, Opportunity Awaits

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Many players returned to Redskins Park yesterday for the beginning of the team's voluntary offseason workout program. And although Jim Zorn has replaced Joe Gibbs as coach, much has remained the same, several players said, because the majority of last season's coaching staff was retained.

"It's the same as normal," center Casey Rabach said. "That weirdness factor kind of left after a couple of weeks. We knew he [Gibbs] was going to be gone. We're just excited to see what a new coach brings to the table."

The Redskins are eager to learn Zorn's version of the West Coast offense. "With Coach Zorn coming on board, I think it's going to be a more relaxed setting and things [will] open up," Clinton Portis said. "I'm sure you're going to see a lot of players go wild this year. Wild as in stats, not trouble wild.

"It's just going to be more of an opportunity to open up, spread out, and get [tight end Chris] Cooley in great position and put [wide receiver] Santana[ Moss] in."

While preparing for the Pro Bowl last month, Cooley got a head start in a system similar to that Zorn plans to implement. The Green Bay Packers' coaching staff coached the NFC squad "and they run the exact same offense as we run, pretty much word for word what we do, and we got into quite a bit of it," Cooley said. "I've spent some time with Coach Zorn and I feel like I'll pick it up very quickly. I understand what I'm doing. Not to say that I didn't like our old offense, but it's an offense that I think I'll be more comfortable in."

The pass-oriented offense of former play-caller Al Saunders was predicated on timing and rhythm. Quarterbacks throw to spots before receivers complete their routes, and receivers, in theory, are supposed to make big gains after catching balls in stride.

"It's going to give me a lot of options," Cooley said. "Say you're running an 'in route,' instead of just continuing to run 15 yards and run in to the middle of the field, I can stop if I feel there's a hole in the middle of the field. I can look for zones, and that's something that's one of my better assets as a football player, finding an open spot or a soft spot and giving the quarterback a target."

Quarterback Jason Campbell, who worked in a version of the West Coast offense his senior year at Auburn, has been in eight offensive systems in nine years.

"It seems to be a routine thing for me now, so I'm kind of used to adjusting," Campbell said. "I've really enjoyed working with Coach Zorn lately. . . . He wants to teach me a lot of different things about the quarterback position."

Redskins Notes: Free agent wide receiver D.J. Hackett, who held a contract offer from Washington, reportedly accepted a two-year, $3.5 million contract from the Carolina Panthers. Now the Redskins are waiting for wide receiver Reche Caldwell to decide on their offer. . . . At the end of last season, the Redskins considered having lineman Lorenzo Alexander-- a key contributor on offense, defense and special teams as an undrafted rookie free agent -- concentrate on one position. Zorn, however, wants Alexander to continue working in a variety of roles. "I talked to Coach Zorn. I'm going to have the same role," Alexander said. " . . . The team signed defensive lineman Matthias Askew, who was with them during preseason last summer but was waived before the regular season, and released wide receivers Mike Espy and Steven Harris.

-- Jason Reid

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