Tandler's Take: A Deep Breath

Whew! <br><br> The Redskins' frantic ride through the free agency is not yet at an end and the draft, June 1 cuts, and training camp player moves are yet to come. The bulk of the player movement, however, is done and it's time to take a deep breath, sit back, and see what we know about the 2004 Redskins, the first edition of Gibbs Era II.

1. There will be competition for positions: Not all over the place, mind you, but there certainly will be lively battles at quarterback between Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell, center between Lenny Friedman and Cory Raymer, fullback/H-back with the combatants being Mike Sellars, Rock Cartwright, and Bryan Johnson, and all along the defensive line. The depth chart is not etched in stone as it has been in the recent past, it's written with an expo marker with the dry eraser always nearby.

2. We'll see what Gibbs can do with a star running back in his prime: Every prime running back Gibbs had during his previous tenure had some serious mileage on him. John Riggins was drafted by the Jets in 1971, George Allen's first draft and had over 1,600 NFL carries before Gibbs arrived. George Rogers was in his fifth NFL year when he became a Redskin, Earnest Byner in his sixth. Clinton Portis is in his third year and has gained over 3,000 yards. Gibbs came to the Redskins in 1981 with a reputation for being the master of the passing game. He left as the master of the running game. It will be fun to see what he can do with a weapon like Portis at his disposal.

3. The quarterback position is stronger than it has been in years: Brunell is a very accomplished NFL quarterback; he's been to three Pro Bowls, two conference title games, he's passed for over 3,000 yards in a season five times and, by all accounts, he's a solid citizen. Ramsey can't match Brunell's resume on paper, except in the solid citizen category. He's a tough son of a gun, though, with a strong arm and a great head for the game. It's safe to say that this is the team's best quarterback combo since the days of Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, and Joe Theismann in the mid-70's.

4. The defense is still without a strong pass rusher: Gregg Williams basically says "trust me" when asked about the pass rush. OK, Gregg, we'll see. Right now, most don't see how the team will put more consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback than they did last year.

5. We may see Lavar Arrington's full potential unleashed: The signing of Marcus Washington should allow Arrington to shift over to the weak side of offensive formation. That move would grant Arrington more freedom in that he wouldn't have to worry about the opposing team's tight end either as a potential blocker or receiver. In theory, this will allow him to do what he does best, pursue the ball carrier with reckless abandon, more often.

6. The clock is ticking: The Redskins' window for winning a title opened up wider during the team's spending spree, with Daniel Snyder signing some $50 million in bonus checks for some quality players. That window will slam shut after about three years, however. The team as currently constructed has a good two years to make a Super Bowl run. Some substantial changes would have to be made in 2006 and by '07, barring some great salary concessions by a large number of players, the whole thing would likely have to be blown up.

Rich Tandler is the author of the upcoming book Gut Check: The Complete History of Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. The chronicles of Gibbs quarterbacks is just part of this comprehensive book. Read accounts of each games that Gibbs coached for the Redskins, data on every player who played for him and every coach who coached under him, offseason and between-games headlines and much, much more. For details on how to obtain this book, a must-have for any true Redskins fan, go to http://www.GutCheckBook.com

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