--Make Saunders' system second nature: The Redskins have
all the pieces on offense: a veteran quarterback in Mark Brunell, three good,
young wide receivers in Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El, an
excellent pass-catching tight end in Chris Cooley, a big-time running back in
Clinton Portis and a solid line headed by three-time Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels. However, not only are Lloyd and Randle El wideouts new to Washington,
but so is the offense itself.
New associate head coach Al Saunders, lured away from
Kansas City where he ran the NFL's most productive offense the past five years,
has spent the offseason installing his system. Saunders' scheme is similar to
that of head coach Joe Gibbs in its philosophy.
However, not only does Saunders use numbers where Gibbs
uses words, the Chiefs were more of a two-back team where the Redskins have
traditionally been a two-tight end offense. It will be essential for the
Redskins to show this summer that they're comfortable in Saunders' system before
the season opens.
--Choose a starting weak-side linebacker: With Andre Carter
replacing Renaldo Wynn at right end -- Wynn is now the top backup lineman -- and
Adam Archuleta taking over for the departed Ryan Clark at strong safety,
assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams' starting lineup is set. Except for
at weak-side linebacker.
That's where three-time Pro Bowl pick LaVar Arrington was
supposed to be the man the past two seasons. Instead, Arrington missed the final
14 games with an ailing leg in 2004 and then fell out of favor with management
and the coaching staff before last season. It took Arrington until midseason
2005 to return to the lineup and there were no tears shed by Williams or
linebackers coach Dale Lindsey when he was granted his release in March.
With Arrington gone, Williams and Lindsey must choose
between former Chicago and Cleveland starter Warrick Holdman, who was a
non-factor while starting the first half of the season; second-round draft
choice Rocky McIntosh, who missed June's minicamp after having a knee scoped;
and perhaps pass rusher Chris Clemons, who has been switched to the strong side
at least for the start of training camp.
It's likely Holdman, whom Williams raved about in minicamp,
will head into the season as the starter. However, he'll have to produce at a
higher level than he did in 2005 if he wants to keep McIntosh on the bench for
Lloyd, Randle El
--Figure how to best use Lloyd and Randle El: Veteran
receiver David Patten, who had made a plethora of big plays for Super Bowl
champion New England in 2004, hurt his knee in Week 2 last season and never
fully recovered before going on injured reserve in November with just 22 catches
and a 9.9-yard average. James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs, who took over opposite
Moss after Patten was lost for the year, were even less productive.
In response to their virtual one-wideout offense, the
Redskins traded for San Francisco restricted free agent Lloyd and signed
Pittsburgh free agent Randle El before the signing period was three days old.
Gibbs and Saunders have hinted that prototypical outside
receiver Lloyd will open camp as the starter with the supremely versatile Randle
El also being used as a runner, quarterback, and return man. After a year where
they just hoped for production from any wideout other than Pro Bowl starter
Moss, the Redskins now have to figure out how to get the most out of their major
CAMP CALENDAR: Players report on July 30. Camp begins on
July 31. The Redskins will scrimmage the Ravens on Aug. 5 at noon at FedEx
Field. That will also be Fan Appreciation Day. Camp closes to the public on Aug.
15. Since the Redskins train at home, it's hard to say when camp officially
wraps, but the last practice of preseason will be on Aug. 29.