This is right off the Sporting News Team Reports, Updated Today. Enjoy.
The offseason money was spent primarily on the offense, and that unit must show it can meet its potential. The line has size, speed and depth, but the starters are relative strangers. They must show they can gain the nuances of working together during the six weeks of the preseason. Too often last year RT Jon Jansen and LT Chris Samuels felt the need to help out the guards. New Gs Dave Fiore and Randy Thomas have to show that that will not be necessary this season. Patrick Ramsey is the starting quarterback, but he has to prove he has command of the offense and the confidence of his teammates.
DE Regan Upshaw was signed to take over on the right side, but Bruce Smith will not surrender the job without a battle. Upshaw is younger than Smith and has a high motor, but he's not a pass rusher of any note. Smith is no longer an every-down player at age 40, but he is cagey, crafty and still shows speed and quickness on occasion. Smith also is pursuing the all-time NFL sack record (he needs four to pass Reggie White), which will give him some extra incentive to start.
On the spot
The team surrendered its first-round draft choice, plus a $13 million signing bonus, to lure WR Laveranues Coles from the Jets. He is expected to be the missing link in coach Steve Spurrier's passing game, and his every route, every catch and every dropped pass will be scrutinized throughout the preseason.
Spurrier is betting that a quick-hitting running game that relies on draws and traps will be move effective than a power running game that relies on off-tackle slants. Trung Canidate gets the first chance to start at running back, but don't count out Ladell Betts, who might be the best all-around back on the team. … LB Jeremiah Trotter was in the midst of a disappointing season last year, and then he suffered a major knee injury. He has to show that last year was an aberration. … DT Brandon Noble will be the most important two-down player on the team. The former Cowboy will be expected to hold his ground and tie up at least one and often two blockers so the linebackers can swoop in and make plays. If Noble does his job, the team's run defense will be effective. … WR Taylor Jacobs was the more heralded draft choice, but OL Derrick Dockery might be the first rookie to start. Dockery's quickness and agility as well as his ability to pick up the offense quickly give him an outside chance to land a job at right guard. That would mean Thomas would move to left guard, Fiore to center and C Larry Moore would become a backup.
Offseason grade: B
The team dramatically improved the middle of its offensive line, provided G Dave Fiore's knee holds up. And former Jets WR Laveranues Coles should be a legitimate deep threat as well as a consistent receiver on intermediate routes. But the failure to land a proven pass rusher could be a significant problem.
For more news on the Redskins, visit the Times-Dispatch's website at www.gateway-va.com/pages/tdmain.htm.