Team Report: Washington Redskins

The NFL schedule-makers weren't kind to the Washington Redskins.<br> <br> The 2003 season opens with five of six opponents having reached last year's playoffs, and the sixth (New England) having just missed after tying for first in the AFC East (9-7).

Things lighten up considerably in the second half, but by then it might be too late for Washington.

Here's why: The Redskins enter this season with significant questions about chemistry and their starting quarterback position. A bad start could send them into a free-fall: Not only is this town known for intense scrutiny of this team, but players' questions about coach Steve Spurrier linger in the back of their minds.

Spurrier had a rough first year in the NFL, taking too much for granted and making a number of dubious decisions. He adjusted his methods in the season's final weeks, but by then players' frustrations with the coaching staff were well-known.

Washington might need a strong coaching presence to galvanize it through a rough start. Instead, it could struggle through an adjustment period and face--don't look now--a quarterback controversy.

This season was supposed to be the first under owner Dan Snyder in which the Redskins built on their previous season, rather than tore down much of the foundation and started over. Snyder finally retained his coaching staff after two years of shuffling, but defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis still departed and an enthusiastic trip through free agency has netted, so far, 11 veterans.

Once again, it will take time for everyone to adjust.

And that could mean trouble. Let's go game-by-game to open the season.

First up are the New York Jets, a team desperate for an opening victory after the Redskins showed them up during the offseason. Washington stole three key Jets (Laveranues Coles, Randy Thomas and John Hall) in free agency, and there remains a slim chance the team could pick up a fourth (Chad Morton).


Then the Redskins play at Atlanta, a 2002 playoff team that appears to have bolstered its roster during the offseason. Probable loss. Then it's home against the New York Giants, another 2002 playoff team that seems to have upped itself in free agency. Another probable loss.

The slate then heads into a home game against the Patriots, on the road to Philadelphia and then back home for defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. But it might be too late by that point.

That's because 0-3 or 1-2 will create turmoil and probably a quarterback controversy, unless second-year passer Patrick Ramsey is terrific in those games.

More than likely he'll be average as he makes his sixth, seventh and eighth NFL starts, and the owner (not to mention many fans) will be pressing to start veteran Rob Johnson. An unquestioned talent, Johnson already considers himself in a competitive situation even though Spurrier has said Ramsey is the undisputed starter.

The quarterback controversy has happened here before, in 2000 (when Jeff George backed up Brad Johnson), 2001 (when George was cut two weeks into the season and replaced by Tony Banks) and 2002 (when Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Ramsey rotated throughout the season).

No town relishes the turmoil of its NFL team or savors a good quarterback controversy like Washington. It appears the nation's capital will get both this season.

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