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ExtremeSkins Fan View: Loaded For Bear ^ | September 8, 2005 | Mark Steven

Posted on 09/09/2005 5:03:30 AM PDT by 7thson

An anonymous wise man once said, "the only good preseason is a finished preseason...with, like, no major injuries."

Perhaps our undercover wise man fails to quite stand alongside Longfellow for etymological elegance, but he was most assuredly on point in the case of the 2005 Washington Redskins. Roughly four days hence, what transpired over the past four weeks will be but a fleeting memory--the casually discarded satin prelude to an evening of intimate revelry.


Bottom line, the 2005 preseason was a good one. And that's all I have to say about that.

When we last left the real Washington Redskins, on January 2, 2005, they were walking off the stage at FedExField on a 3-2 end-of-year run (which would have been 4-1 but for some dastardly, darkly mystical doings in Dallas), and authors of a 21-18 home victory over the Minnesota Vikings to close the regular season. A Vikings team, notably, that came into the game 8-7 and needing a win to secure a playoff spot against a 5-10 Redskins team playing only for pride.

Well, they didn't get it. And don't let the final score fool you--it wasn't that close.

Against Minnesota that chilly afternoon, the Redskins' young starting quarterback, Patrick Ramsey, completed 17 of 26 passes for 216 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 100.8 QB rating. Their backup running back, young Ladell Betts, working behind a patchwork offensive line, slashed and dashed his merry way to 118 yards on 26 carries. Winning numbers, to be sure. But more importantly, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, when the vast majority of NFL games are won and lost, here's what happened:

Leading 14-10 with 13:11 left in the game, the Redskins got the ball at their own 29 yard line. Mr. Betts went off right tackle for five. Ramsey-to-Chris Cooley was good for twelve. Betts went up the middle for eight. Ramsey-to-Jacobs deep over the middle netted forty-five. Betts went up the gut for one, and the touchdown.

Five plays, 71 yards, 2:30 time of possession. 21-10, Washington.

Minnesota got the ball back at their 26, with 10:36 left. They managed one first down, then were forced to punt when QB Daunte Culpepper failed to connect with WR Randy Moss on 3rd and 5. The Redskins defense did its job well, and Washington took over at its own 13 with 8:35 to go.

Betts went off right tackle for five, then up the middle for five more and a first down. He went off left tackle for thirteen, then up the middle for two. He went around right end for four. On 3rd and 4, Betts went around right end again, this time for twenty-seven.

Catching the Gibbsian vibe, perchance?

Rock Cartwright spelled a gassed Betts, and got two over left guard. He tried the middle again, but was met there by the entire Gopher State and lost two. On 3rd and 10 from the Vikings' 31, Ramsey was sacked and Washington was forced to punt. Ten plays, 56 yards, 6:29 time of possession.

By the time Culpepper, Moss & Co. got the ball back--on their own 20 and trailing by eleven--the game clock read 1:58. Game over. The Vikings' desperation drive that culminated with a 38-yard Hail Mary touchdown lob and two-point conversion with 0:02 seconds left was, for all practical purposes, a big deal only in Vegas.

Why reconstruct all of this? Because last time we saw this team, the Joe Gibbs Formula was there on display for all the world to see, but based on the bulk of the conversation "out there" throughout this off season, it appears about 98 percent of the NFL-watching world wasn't paying attention. Nor, apparently, do they have any idea what's about to happen in 2005.

More surprisingly, one gets the impression that many Redskins fans themselves--justifiably tired of losing but seemingly unable to shake the feeling that the Redskins are always going to lose--have, in the few short months, forgotten that their favorite football club was well on its way to resembling a Joe Gibbs team as 2004 ended.

It seems that neither the world at large, nor the alarming number of still-Norvous Redskins fans, fully yet realize the profound impact the last twenty months have had on this organization--from its most luxurious wood-paneled suites, to its locker and training rooms, to the sweat on the brows of the 53 players who will take the field in burgundy and gold come Sunday.

Therefore, given this sterling soapbox and your kind indulgence, I have an announcement to make:

These aren't your father's Redskins any more.

Or better, depending on the number of candles on your birthday cake this year, fellow younger fans, perhaps they are.

Remember the patchwork offensive line that dominated Minnesota in crunch time last December? It's been improved. Big time. It's added a sharp, athletic young veteran center in Casey Rabach, the undisputed "best available free agent center in the league" this past offseason.

It's regained the second of two "bookend tackles" in right tackle Jon Jansen, recognized around the league not only as a rock-solid talent, but a locker room and on-field leader as well. And, oh's also had the benefit of another full offseason of intense work under Joe Bugel, the most celebrated offensive line coach in NFL history.

Remember the backup running back that ran so well against Minnesota in crunch time last December? He's back. As is the guy he backed up last December, young 2002 Offensive Rookie of the Year and 2003 Pro Bowler Clinton Portis, who you just know is dying to stretch his legs a bit behind the aforementioned upgraded line and the tweaked, Portis-friendly schemes they'll be running this year.

Know those speedy receivers we've seen running free through secondaries all preseason, just aching to be set up with play-action? The ones this team did not have last year? And the quietly effective young H-back with great hands working underneath? They're here too.

Ball control and crunch-time physical dominance. Those, my friends, are Gibbs ingredients.

Remember the injury-plagued defense that not only finished strong against Minnesota, but played lights-out all last season? They're back, and healthy.

If nothing else, one hopes the suffocating preseason display the first and second units have put on has provided those observers convinced that the losses of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot spelled doom for this unit something to think about.

Add a full year of familiarity and comfort level in the scheme, plus the return of key ingredients like defensive end Phillip Daniels, linebacker LaVar Arrington and safety Matt Bowen, and even the most skeptical doubters might have to begin to accept that this unit could well be even better than last year's stellar crew.

That's just the on-field stuff, of course. There's the Big Picture to consider as well.

In 20 months, the Redskins have ceased to be the rudderless ship they sometimes appeared under former head coach Norv Schottenspurrier and a front office who were, I think it's fair to say, not always entirely on the same page. Many trees, indeed, have died in the debate over whose "fault" it all was, but that's meaningless today. Yesterday's news.

What is not meaningless or old news is what has happened in the 20 months since Dan Snyder and Joe Gibbs shook hands in a quiet room.

When Gibbs stood behind an Ashburn podium in January 2004 prior to Year One, he said there were to be no shortcuts on the road to rebuilding this team. He let us know he was going to find guys he could count on, get as many of them in the fold as soon as possible, and then keep them whenever possible within the constraints of a responsible, long-term organizational approach. He stressed that there were no guarantees, that it was going to take time and a whole lot of old-fashioned hard work to turn this thing around, and that he was ready to get to work just as soon as someone would please turn of all those spotlights and microphones and let him do so.

Well, heading into Year Two, some mileposts along that road have been achieved that demand marking. The malcontents are gone. The uncommitted and indifferent are gone. The "I got mine, get yours" atmosphere we were given to understand existed in the locker room is gone.

Lest anyone has forgotten, recall that just a few seasons ago the locker room was seemingly as much about cell phones, jewelry salesmen and superstar veterans trading off years of high-profile success elsewhere as it was about team.

Today, by contrast, when this team speaks as "we," you don't quietly cringe at the artifice.

From what we're told, this past offseason the Redskins enjoyed not only the highest level of voluntary attendance of any team in the NFL, but the highest of any Gibbs team ever. If that does not stand like a candle in the dark to long-time followers of this team, it should. It really, really should.

So does all this feel-good philosophizing mean, flat-out, that the 2005 Redskins are officially "back" and primed to storm to the playoffs? No. They're still at least one year away from having that presumption placed upon them. They haven't earned it yet. But this team, this year, does have a very good chance to be playing meaningful games into January. A long-overdue season of even relative health, plus simply steady play at quarterback, and this team will be in the playoff mix come crunch time. Believe it.

Given where we've been, can anyone with clear conscience ask for more?

Year One was about Joe Gibbs getting back in the swing, figuring out what he had, and identifying what he needed. Check. Year Two, beginning Sunday, will be about taking that experience, adjusting, tinkering, applying and fine-tuning lessons learned both on and off the field, and finishing strong-maybe to the tune of a playoff spot if things break right. Year Three will be about harnessing that momentum and making a run at the big prize.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Where does all this leave us today?

It leaves us with a Chicago Bears team in serious trouble.

The Washington Redskins that 98 percent of the NFL-watching world still seems to think are going to return to the stage on September 11 are no more. In their place stand a well-coached, talented, tough and cohesive group, with a serious chip on their collective shoulder. A group being methodically constructed by a master builder, from the ground up, to excel in crunch time.

Watch closely, come the fourth quarter Sunday, and see if you don't agree.

"Maybe they didn't think we had anything to play for," said defensive end Renaldo Wynn after Washington beat the Vikings last January. "They don't know this team."

Well, starting Sunday, the Washington Redskins do have something to play for...and it says here they're loaded for Bear.

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Unclassified; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: chicagobears; dallascowboys; detriotlions; fedexfield; football; greenbaypackers; joegibbs; minnesotavikings; newenglandpatriots; newyorkgiants; nfl; oaklandraiders; philadelphiaeagles; phoenixcardinals; sports; washingtonredskins
Anyone watch the game last night? I did not but read about it on Take the Oakland Raiders and replace it with the Washington Redskins, and it sounds like a Norv Turner Redskin team. I am a Skins fan and I hated having him as the head coach. I wonder if he still sounds whiney when he loses. The sports media in DC should send Oakland all the Norv Turner recordings, explaining the latest lose. They all sound the same!

Anyway, being a Skins fan, I am somewhat excited about this upcoming year. I think the Skins will surprise a lot of people. I think they will go 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wildcard. It will be interesting to see how they look in this weeks game.

1 posted on 09/09/2005 5:03:31 AM PDT by 7thson
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To: 7thson

"An anonymous wise man once said, "the only good preseason is a finished preseason...with, like, no major injuries.""

I wasn't at the Encino Mall during the mid-80's to hear that comment.

2 posted on 09/09/2005 5:04:36 AM PDT by mcg2000 (Wolf Blitzer: "They're all so desperate, so poor and so black.")
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To: 7thson

Is there a redskins fan pinglist? Fire up the Bandwagon!

Whatever that guy was drinking, pour me one! They will be better than last year but 10-6? no way. With the schedule we have, 8-8 will be major progress.

3 posted on 09/09/2005 5:12:20 AM PDT by ko_kyi
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To: 7thson

Is there a redskins fan pinglist? Fire up the Bandwagon!

Whatever that guy was drinking, pour me one! They will be better than last year but 10-6? no way. With the schedule we have, 8-8 will be major progress.

4 posted on 09/09/2005 5:12:53 AM PDT by ko_kyi
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To: 7thson
With this guy writing so many words about the NFL and pe-season, just thiink how many he could write about gerbil cages.

5 posted on 09/09/2005 5:14:44 AM PDT by G.Mason
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To: 7thson
Great article...I'm buying the hype. Joe Gibbs was one of my favorite 'Skins' coaches. Even though he is a retired Hall of Famer who has been asked to salvage and revitalize what is arguably the best franchise in pro sports...he has the support of fans around the country (world?) who love their Washington Redskins!

If someone starts a ping list please add this 52 year fan.

6 posted on 09/09/2005 5:25:19 AM PDT by borisbob69 (Old shade is better than new shade!)
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To: ko_kyi

Out of the ten games we lost last year, seven were by 7 points or less. The mental mistakes of years past will be reduced this year (I hope).

7 posted on 09/09/2005 6:10:32 AM PDT by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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To: 7thson
I like your optimism. Don't know about 10-6, but I'll take an improved offense and a few more wins.

I want to see Gibbs succeed. Some of my fondest childhood memories were those Championship years. Riggo up the middle and Monk on third down. Darrell Green hurdling into the end zone on a frozen playoff day in Chicago...

I also miss the look on Jack Kent Cooke's face when some reporter would ask if he thought the name "Redskin" was offensive!
8 posted on 09/09/2005 6:20:09 AM PDT by ISonnet
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To: 7thson

If we can reduce by even 25% the penalty yards, turnovers, and unneeded timeouts, we can be right up there with anyone. I am concerned that the loss of Pierce is going to hurt our D.

9 posted on 09/09/2005 6:21:05 AM PDT by ko_kyi
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To: ISonnet
Even though Jack Kent Cooke was from Canada, he reminded me of the old Southern Plantation owner. If someone liked him was asked a question like that in the 1800's, he probably would have the reporter horse-whipped. And before anyone gets offended with my analogy, JKC did have a way of treating his help like slaves. Possibly the main reason he fired Petibon after one season - Richie would not kiss his ring/arse!

I have followed the Skins since 1972 and have seen some great games - wins and loses. Memories - Sonny ignoring George Allen's play and throwing a TD; Sonny hurting his achilees tendon, Pat Fischer hits, Walt Garrison being lifted and stopped by Ken Houston one yard shy of the tying TD on Monday night, Clint Longley beating the Skins on a Hail Mary pass with his eyes closed after the Skins knocked out Staubach, Mosely missing a 70 yard FG try by three yards against Houston, Skins losing against Dallas (again!) when Staubach engineered two TD drives with 2:30 left in the game, Skins beating Dallas in 83 (players got off the plane wearing combat fatigues) and Landry having a meltdown as Danny White audibled on 4th down and Skins stuffed Dorsett with 2 yard loss, Riggo running 40+ yards against the Dolphins in the SuperBowl to put the game on ice, 35 points in one quarter against Denver in another SuperBowl, hitting the Bills players so hard they cried to the refs about it, Darrell Green running down Dorsett on Monday night, beating Philly in the playoffs and causing Buddy Ryan to get fired. Great, great memories and hopefully, this year will see the beginnings of more.


10 posted on 09/09/2005 7:15:22 AM PDT by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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To: 7thson

You're quite right that JKC was an old-school SOB, but he was OUR SOB and he knew how to run a winner. A smart guy but I'm glad he wasn't my father!

Good memories. Loved Landry's curse after "No Danny No Danny... S#**"

Dexter Manley's KO of White was a thing of beauty as well. (Dexter's troubles were his own fault, but it was hard to stay mad at the guy. A big kid, but actions have consequences.)

11 posted on 09/09/2005 8:19:17 AM PDT by ISonnet
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To: ISonnet

Yeah, Dexter was one of a kind. I always thought he was on steriods due to his over-aggressiveness. I did like when he knocked White out. I also liked when he said we were going to go to Chicago and whip their butts. Gibbs nearly had cardiac! Did not like when he spat on that NOSaints guy but the 15 yarder against the Saints when the tackle retaliated knocked them out of FG terreritory and we won the game! Some of the other defensive guys I remember is Diron Talbert (met him once - the gameday book lied - he was much bigger than what they said), Ron McDole, Ken Houston, Pat Fischer, Chris Hanburger. And you are right about JKC - he was our SOB! Much better owner than this panty-waist kid who has the team now!

12 posted on 09/09/2005 8:36:27 AM PDT by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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