PRESEASON GAME I: Scouting the Skins

The Panthers face the Washington Redskins in the first preseason game of the 2005 NFL season. The starters won't play much, but it figures to be a dogfight for the second and thrid team players fighting for roster spots.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Patrick Ramsey. Backups -- Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell.
Ramsey survived two years of crunching hits in former coach Steve Spurrier's bombs-away scheme and the mental blow of Joe Gibbs giving his job to Brunell last February, so Washington's top 2002 draft pick shrugged off the decision to trade three high picks to take Campbell in the first round this April. Ramsey was solid during the final 6-1/2 games of 2004 after replacing Brunell, but he needs to play at least as well this year to keep Gibbs from going to old favorite Brunell or new flavor of the month Campbell.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Clinton Portis, Backups -- Ladell Betts, Nehemiah Broughton, Rock Cartwright.
Portis gained 1,315 yards in 15 games in his first year as a Redskin, but the yards came much harder than his first two 1,500-yard seasons with the Broncos. Portis had four games with at at least 147 yards but just two others with more than 81. He ran for five touchdowns, just one between the opener and December. Betts is a good backup as he showed with his 118-yard effort in the finale against the playoff-bound Vikings when Portis was hurt. Seventh-rounder Broughton, a 255-pound bowling ball, could usurp forgotten man Cartwright as a blocking back and short yardage runner.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters -- Chris Cooley, Robert Royal. Backups -- Mike Sellers, Manuel White.
Cooley, a third-rounder in 2004, showed good hands, especially around the goal line, as a rookie H-back. Royal is a decent blocker. Sellers, a special teams force, sees most of his time on offense as a lead blocker for Portis. Fourth-rounder White, who showed flashes of excellence at UCLA, will be given an opportunity at H-back in camp with Portis so entrenched at running back.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Santana Moss, David Patten. Backups -- Taylor Jacobs, James Thrash, Darnerien McCants, Kevin Dyson, Antonio Brown.
Moss is a true speedster, but he dropped from 74 catches for the New York Jets in 2003 to 45 last year while battling a chronically ailing hamstring. He's not as tough or productive as Laveranues Coles, for whom he was traded in March. Free agent signee Patten is faster than predecessor Rod Gardner, but he's also much smaller. Jacobs has been a disappointment since being drafted in the second round in 2003. Thrash has become a possession receiver while Dyson is trying to restart his career after being out of the NFL in 2004 and hurt for most of 2003. McCants, a useful weapon for Spurrier, nearly disappeared last year, but he and Dyson are the only receivers with size. Brown is super-fast but very small. Gibbs is vowing to go downfield more often than he did in 2004 when Redskins wideouts had just 12 catches of at least 25 yards and just six touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- Chris Samuels, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas, Jon Jansen.
Backups -- Mark Wilson, Ray Brown, Cory Raymer, Lennie Friedman, Jim Molinaro. The Redskins are among the NFL's best at the tackles with two-time Pro Bowl pick Samuels, who rebounded from a poor year in 2003 to have a fine 2004, and Jansen, a stalwart on the right side from 1999-2003 before missing last year with a torn Achilles. Rabach is an upgrade at center over the aging Raymer. Thomas isn't good as advertised when the Redskins lured him from the Jets with big money in 2003, but he's crafty and tough. If left guard Dockery can raise his level to the rest of the group, the line will be a strength. Guard/tackle Brown is a marvel at 42. Friedman is undersized, but his ability to play guard and center makes him valuable. Wilson and Molinaro, rookies in 2004, are raw.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- Renaldo Wynn, Brandon Noble, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels. Backups -- Demetric Evans, Joe Salave'a, Ryan Boschetti, Ron Warner.
This overachieving bunch doesn't boast a Pro Bowl veteran -- although Griffin deserved to go for his career year in 2004 -- and deserves the "Coal Miners" nickname bestowed on it by Warner. Only workmanlike ends Wynn and Daniels haven't been cut, overlooked or thought to be busts by some team. Position coach Greg Blache worked miracles with this unit in 2004, especially with Daniels missing most of the year with injuries. Noble might not be fully recovered from a staph infection when camp starts, but he and Salave'a basically split time last year. The line is stiff against the run but provides little pass rush.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LaVar Arrington, Micheal Barrow, Marcus Washington. Backups -- Lemar Marshall, Warrick Holdman, Chris Clemons, Brian Allen, Clifton Smith, Khary Campbell, Robert McCune, Jared Newberry.
Three-time Pro Bowl pick Arrington, who missed most of last year following knee surgery and might not be 100 percent when camp starts as he recovers from another scope, and 2004 Pro Bowl choice Washington are gifted athletes outside. Marshall, who subbed for Arrington last year, and one-time Chicago standout Holdman are fine backups while Clemons flashed serious passrushing ability in 2004. The problem is in the middle where Barrow, 35 and having been off the field for a year, is the projected replacement for departed free agent Antonio Pierce. If Barrow can't make it back, then the undersized Marshall or someone else without NFL experience on the middle will have to step in. Of course, that was true of Pierce last year and he blossomed into a star with the help of position coach Dale Lindsey and assistant head coach Gregg Williams.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- Shawn Springs, Matt Bowen, Sean Taylor, Walt Harris. Backups -- Garnell Wilds, Ryan Clark, Andre Lott, Carlos Rogers, Pierson Prioleau, Artrell Hawkins, Tony Dixon.
Springs, signed from Seattle to replace traded star Champ Bailey, had a terrific Redskins debut in 2004. Fred Smoot was equally good at the other corner but has signed with Minnesota. With top draft pick Rogers hobbled by a bad foot as camp starts, former Bears and Colts starter Harris has a leg up in filling the void. Bowen is recovered from last October's knee surgery. Taylor, whose tumultuous first 15 months as a pro were capped by his facing a felony assault charge, is the X factor. If the fifth pick in the 2004 draft plays like the superior athlete he is, the secondary should be fine. If he is absorbed in his own problems -- he skipped the entire offseason at Redskin Park -- then Taylor could be a cancer. Thankfully for Williams, there is plenty of depth. Lott, Clark and Prioleau have started at safety in his system while Hawkins and Dixon also have plenty of NFL experience.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K John Hall, K Jeff Chandler, P Tom Tupa, P Andy Groom, LS Ethan Albright, KOR Ladell Betts, KOR James Thrash, PR Antonio Brown, PR Santana Moss.
After seven consistently productive seasons for the Jets and Redskins, Hall couldn't stay healthy last year. Chandler was fine after taking over in December, but Hall is 100 percent and should keep the job with a decent preseason. Tupa is 39, but he led the NFC with a 44.1-yard average last year. Albright is an impeccable snapper. Betts isn't flashy, but he gets the job done on kick returns. Moss is more of a threat to go all the way on punt returns and Brown could become a similar weapon.

Panther Insider Top Stories