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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Redskins happy to avoid media hype for once - Alex Marvez

The stealth bombers protecting the White House have company.

The Washington Redskins are flying under the radar, too.

The franchise returns almost all the key components from a roster that made the playoffs in 2007. Yet in a division featuring the defending Super Bowl champion (New York Giants) and the conference favorite for this year's title game (Dallas), the Redskins are considered an NFC East afterthought. Oddsmakers have even installed Washington as a bigger underdog to reach Super Bowl XLIII than Philadelphia.

That suits the Redskins just fine.

"We appreciate flying low," Redskins running back Clinton Portis said Saturday night after his team's 17-14 preseason victory over Buffalo. "We want to make noise when it comes playoff time."
Added left tackle Chris Samuel: "Nobody is really paying attention to us right now. That's a good thing."

Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrato couldn't agree more.
"There's no (national) focus on our team, so the players can just concentrate on what they have to do to get better," Cerrato said. "All the media and everybody else are talking about the Cowboys and Giants, which is fine with us."

The Redskins are usually in the headlines because of splashy offseason acquisitions. But 16 years removed from an NFC Championship appearance, the club took a different approach this offseason after hiring a new head coach (Jim Zorn) and promoting Cerrato from a vice president's role.

Instead of frantically working the phones at midnight when the free-agent signing period began, Cerrato said the Redskins had only one serious personnel conversation. It was with the agent for Todd Collins, the backup quarterback who was quickly re-signed to a three-year deal.

"We weren't in a position where we felt there was a dire need to go get somebody," Cerrato said. "There was nothing we really had to have. There's less and less available every year in free agency. When we evaluated it, there was nothing we felt was worthy of what those players were going to be paid."

Does Dan Snyder still own this team?

The Redskins, though, couldn't resist making one blockbuster acquisition during training camp. On the same day defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury, Washington traded with Miami for Jason Taylor.

A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor should greatly improve a pass rush that produced a pedestrian 33 sacks in 2007. Plus, the 33-year-old Taylor has committed to playing through 2009 after previously teasing retirement at the end of this season. That convinced Cerrato to send Miami two draft choices (including a 2009 second-rounder) and absorb Taylor's $7.5 million base salary in 2008.

"He said everything that he's gotten and wants to get comes from football," said Cerrato, referring to Taylor's offseason flirtations with Hollywood.

Offensive players are just as excited about Zorn's hiring. Having spent the past seven seasons as Seattle's quarterbacks coach, Zorn has installed a similar system to what he learned working under West Coast offense guru Mike Holmgren.

Samuel said the biggest reason Washington couldn't advance beyond the first round of last year's playoffs was an "average" passing attack. Judging by Zorn's first two preseason games, that should no longer be a problem.

Portis raves about a scheme where receiving targets can no longer "cruise" when knowing a pass isn't coming their way.
"The ball can go anywhere," Portis said, "So now you've got three receivers, a (running) back and a tight end working to get open."

While he doesn't have a star quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck running his offense, Zorn's tutelage of Jason Campbell is already paying dividends. Not only does he look sharper with play-fakes and throwing on the run, Campbell also is being more assertive entering his fourth NFL season.

"The biggest (change) is his leadership," Samuel said. "He's taking charge and is comfortable in that role."

While the Redskins could be improved in 2008, that doesn't guarantee a postseason return. Zorn enters the season as one of the NFL's most inexperienced head coaches, having not even served as a coordinator, let alone play-caller, in Seattle. Injuries on a veteran roster have mounted during the preseason, especially along the defensive line. Playing in what may be the NFL's toughest division doesn't make matters any easier.

The media attention Washington received last season following the murder of safety Sean Taylor has faded. The focus will be on the New York Jets and quarterback Brett Favre's starting debut in Saturday night's preseason game. Washington also will receive short shrift in its Sept. 4 regular-season opener with the Giants beginning defense of their Super Bowl title.

The Redskins are enjoying this time out of the spotlight — for now.

"That's just life. All we can control is us," Redskins defensive end Andre Carter said. "In due time when we're winning and successful, everybody will see what the Redskins have to offer."


W said...

Blah, blah, blah, tele-blah. The NFC East is rough this year. You'll be luckly to win 2 division games this year. Get ready to say hello to last place. BRONCO love baby!

Alei Kat said...

just when I thought we could all stay home because the Skins were SuperBowl bound...damn it all

King Evil Theo said...


Jim Zorn Baby!