|Humbled but determined: 5-11 changes the mood for Redskins|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 26 July 2007 10:17|
``Everybody kind of pulled up on their high horse,'' said linebacker Marcus Washington, recalling last year's talk of a Super Bowl run. ``But this year is not like that. We're just ready to go to work.''
Gone are the bombastic predictions that came on the heels of the 2005 playoff season. Now everyone is humble, even contrite. A 5-11 season will do that.
``We feel like we let the fans down, the organization down,'' running back Ladell Betts said, ``so I think we're trying to give back, go in the right direction, trying to get back into the playoffs. Last year was a good wake-up call for everybody.''
Accordingly, coach Joe Gibbs made a few changes. He allowed players to do their offseason conditioning away from Redskins Park to help stave off year-round football burnout. He also must prevent a repeat of last year's slow start, when a short, low-intensity camp translated into a terrible 0-4 preseason and an 0-2 beginning to the regular season.
This year, the first practice is Friday, essentially three days earlier than last year. There are five two-a-days on the schedule, compared to three in 2006. Players also are expecting the sessions to be more physical.
``I think it's going to be tough,'' Washington said. ``But I think the guys are up for it.''
One huge positive is the Redskins are healthy. Everyone on the roster has been cleared for the first practice even though there were more than a dozen surgeries performed on various players during the offseason.
Some players returning from injuries, especially the older veterans, might skip a practice during the two-a-days. Washington, who had surgeries on his left hip and left elbow, said he could be one of those in need of the extra rest, especially if the hip starts aching.
``You won't know until you get out there and start hitting people and people start hitting you,'' Washington said. ``It feels good. Flexibility's still coming. Some days it's going to be really sore.''
Although injuries are often unpredictable, there are plenty of other foreseeable subplots that will develop over the coming weeks as the Redskins prepare for the regular season opener Sept. 9 against Miami.
-New QB: Jason Campbell begins his first camp as the starter. How quickly can he assume the leadership role and develop the needed chemistry with his receivers?
-New left guard: Can Todd Wade, a career tackle, be a seamless replacement for Derrick Dockery, who left for free-agent big bucks?
-Offense: One reason given for last year's offensive struggles was that assistant coach Al Saunders' complex schemes required a full year to master. Now, it's time for the offense to start clicking.
-Who's No. 2 at WR?: Santana Moss is one of the league's top receivers, but Brandon Lloyd or Antwaan Randle El must prove worthy of being a No. 2.
-Defensive line: Essentially unchanged from last year, when the team set a franchise record for fewest sacks (19).
-London calling: Middle linebacker London Fletcher is the new on-field commander of the defense. Will his savvy play be enough to turn the unit around?
-Big-name DBs: First-round draft pick LaRon Landry - unsigned as of Thursday - joins Sean Taylor, Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers in the secondary. All four players were chosen top 10 overall in their respective drafts. There'll be no excuses if the Redskins don't vastly improve on last year's 12 takeaways, an NFL record for a non-strike season.
-Gibbs: This is the fourth year of his five-year contract. Will he make an early return to NASCAR if the Redskins have another losing season?
It's time to start answering many of those questions.
``No matter what you look like on paper, no matter what people say about you or write about you, every year is different,'' Betts said. ``Other teams in the past have gone from losing seasons to playoffs. Anybody can do it.''