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2005 preview: Redskins

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
NFC East predictions
1. Philadelphia
2. Dallas
3. Washington
4. N.Y. Giants
Washington Redskins
Head coach: Joe Gibbs, second season
2004 record: 6-10
2004 rankings: Offense, 30th (274.8 yards/game); Defense, third (267.6 yards/game)
2005 strength of schedule: 23rd (tie)
From SportingNews.com: NFC East overview

The triumphant return of Joe Gibbs wasn't exactly parade material. A year ago, some were handing a playoff berth to Gibbs on a silver platter, pointing to his three Super Bowl rings and 11 winning seasons in 12 years during his first stint as Washington's coach.

But the NFL's new dynamics hit Gibbs hard right from the start, as the Redskins opened the season 1-4 and the offense eventually went on score the second-fewest points in the NFL. It was the first time in his NFL coaching career that Gibbs had an offense rank lower than 14th in the league. Despite a stellar defense, Gibbs' season was marred by ineffective quarterbacks, underperforming wide receivers and injuries on the offensive line.

OFFENSE

The quarterback situation still looks like a mess. Granted, the team may have found someone to groom for the future in first-round pick Jason Campbell, but his drafting undercuts Patrick Ramsey, who needs to be leading the team right now.

Mark Brunell had a terrible season in 2004, but he still is on the roster and may get another look if Ramsey struggles. At the very least, this is a soap opera in waiting, with Ramsey essentially a lame duck and Brunell just waiting for his career to end. No matter who starts, they all have some kind of problem, ranging from erratic play (Ramsey) to eroding skills (Brunell) to a lack of experience (Campbell).

The good news is the team did a better job of using running back Clinton Portis at the end of last season and that right tackle Jon Jansen is healthy again after missing 2004 with an injury. There also will be a new set of starters at receiver, where Laveranues Coles has been swapped out for Santana Moss and David Patten was added as a free agent.

However, unless Gibbs can get consistent play out of one of his quarterbacks – and come up with some less predictable play calling – the new additions may mean little.

DEFENSE

The defense surprisingly was fantastic last season even without linebacker LaVar Arrington, who arguably is the unit's best player. But a very dependable player was lost in middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who signed with the Giants. Taking Pierce's place is the undersized Lemar Marshall. That could be a problem, but having Arrington back from injury would help cover for the loss.

Last season's performance revealed that Gibbs has some pieces to anchor his defense, including cornerback Shawn Springs, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and linebacker Marcus Washington. Safety Sean Taylor should be in that group, but his behavior and attitude have become cancerous after only one season with the team. He already has expressed a desire for a new contract, then acted foolishly by refusing to talk to Gibbs for most of the offseason.

Taylor will be in training camp, but he has some serious legal issues that appear headed to trial and could land him in prison. His ongoing personal sagas have been a major disappointment for the Redskins, who think he has the potential to become one of the best safeties in history.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter and kicker should be set with the solid duo of Tom Tupa and John Hall. With Chad Morton gone, return duties will likely fall to wide receiver James Thrash. Moss could get a look as well if the Redskins are desperate.

PREDICTION

The Redskins will finish 5-11 and third in the NFC East.

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