Additions of Saunders, Weapons Bolster the O.


Posted Jun 30, 2006


The most important new Redskin will never play a down. He's associate head coach Al Saunders, to whom Hall of Fame offensive-minded coach Joe Gibbs has given the reins to Washington's offensive attack.

The Redskins, an abysmal 30th on offense in 2004, were a solid 11th 2005. However, Saunders just concluded five years running the NFL's most productive offense in Kansas City. And where the Redskins' offense came undone in the 2005 playoffs, managing just 120 yards in its wild card victory at Tampa Bay, the fewest ever by an NFL playoff winner, and gained just 145 through three quarters in the next week's loss at Seattle, the Chiefs racked up 408 yards and 31 points in their only postseason game in Saunders's scheme.

Although Saunders' playbook rivals the Manhattan telephone directory in thickness, it hasn't been a tough transition to his system for the Redskins since Saunders and Gibbs are both disciples of former Cardinals and Chargers coach Don Coryell.

While Santana Moss blossomed into a Pro Bowl receiver in his Washington debut last season, the production from the rest of the Redskins wide receivers was seriously lacking. David Patten, James Thrash, Taylor Jacobs and Jimmy Farris combined for just 48 catches, 529 yards and no touchdowns.

No wonder Saunders couldn't wait for free agency to start on Mar. 11. Within two days, Washington had traded for San Francisco's Brandon Lloyd and signed fellow wideout Antwaan Randle El of Pittsburgh, who combined for 83 catches, 1,291 yards and six touchdowns last season. Lloyd, whom Gibbs calls "a classic outside receiver" has the edge heading into training camp over Randle El, whom the coach praises for his versatility as a receiver and kick returner. Longtime NFL starters Patten and Thrash are now spare parts while Jacobs and Farris shouldn't survive camp.

On defense, Adam Archuleta should be an upgrade on the smaller and less athletic Ryan Clark at strong safety, but the big move was signing defensive end Andre Carter. The question is whether Carter is the player who recorded 12-1/2 sacks for the 49ers in 2002 or the one who had just 13 in the three seasons since? Some of that dropoff can be explained by Carter missing nine games in 2004 following the removal of a cyst from his sciatic nerve and by his unhappy move to outside linebacker after the 49ers switched to a 3-4 defense last year. Still, Carter comes to Washington with something to prove.



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