Offensive line coach Joe Bugel, who molded the Hogs into a legendary line during the 1980s, intends to make this year's group, which he has dubbed the "Dirtbags," into a household name. Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen return at tackle. Right tackle Jansen will be in the spotlight protecting lefty Mark Brunell's blind side. Right guard Randy Thomas is one of the best at his position. Derrick Dockery is projected at left guard, but must play well to fend off Kenyatta Jones.
Clinton Portis, a third-year veteran, will add a new dimension to a running game that languished last season. Ladell Betts, the team's second-round pick in 2002, is slated to be Portis's backup, if he stays healthy. The third back is likely to be chosen from among Rock Cartwright, Sultan McCullough and Chad Morton. Cartwright, converting from fullback after losing 20 pounds, has an edge after gaining 411 yards (3.8 average) last season. Morton is talented, with cat-like quickness, but best serves as a change-of-pace back because of a diminutive frame.
In the roster's deepest unit, Laveranues Coles leads the way after 82 catches and 1,204 yards last season. Rod Gardner, despite compiling career lows last season (59 catches, 600 yards), remains one of the best number two wideouts in the NFC. James Thrash, Darnerien McCants and Taylor Jacobs will compete for the number three spot. Thrash, in his second stint with Washington, appears to have an edge over McCants because of experience. Second-year player Cliff Russell, a speedster, adds depth.
The biggest addition on the defensive line, which badly needed an upgrade, is tackle Cornelius Griffin. Brandon Noble is expected to recover from a serious knee injury that prevented him from playing last season. If Noble isn't healthy, the Redskins must rely on Joe Salave'a, rookie Norman Heuer or Jermaine Haley at nose tackle. Left end Renaldo Wynn is solid yet unspectacular.
Rookie safety Sean Taylor is expected to start at free safety, likely pushing Matt Bowen to his natural position of strong safety. But Ifeanyi Ohalete, who lacks Bowen's speed, won't give up without a battle. Shawn Springs is a formidable cornerback when healthy, though not quite as good as Champ Bailey, who was sent to Denver in the deal for Portis. The secondary has good depth, with cornerbacks Rashad Bauman, Ralph Brown and Walt Harris. Fred Smoot, playing in the final year of his contract, is looking for his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Mike Barrow and Marcus Washington join LaVar Arrington, the only holdover from last season's linebacking corps. Gibbs calls Arrington and Washington "double jeopardy" because of their ability to pressure the quarterback. Washington, who collected 18 sacks in the past four seasons with Indianapolis, moves to the strong side, allowing Arrington to switch to the weak side, which is an easier path to quarterbacks. Barrow, 34, led the NFC in tackles last season.
Gibbs inherits John Hall, one of the club's most reliable kickers in recent memory. Last season, Hall made 25 of 33 field goals, including 4 of 7 from more than 50 yards. The Redskins added punter Tom Tupa, Hall's former teammate with the New York Jets, to replace Bryan Barker, and re-signed long snapper Ethan Albright. Morton, the team's dangerous kick and punt returner, will get help from Thrash.