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Old 09-11-2004, 11:17 PM   #1
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Default WASHINGTON -1˝ over Tampa Bay

WASHINGTON -1˝ over Tampa Bay

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs makes his regular season return to the sideline on Sunday after an 11-year hiatus, when Washington hosts Tampa Bay at FedEx Field. Gibbs reassumes control of a franchise that has made just one playoff appearance since his departure, and went 5-11 a year ago. Also coming off of a disappointing season are the Bucs, who went 7-9 last year, fresh off their Super Bowl campaign of 2002.

The Tampa Bay offense underwent a radical personnel transformation in the off-season, most notably at wide receiver. Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell are gone, and veterans Joey Galloway and Tim Brown will appear in the starting lineup as their replacements. First-round draft choice Michael Clayton, who starred at LSU, should also see a wealth of reps at receiver. Tight end Ken Dilger will remain a reliable middle-of-the-field target for quarterback Brad Johnson, who begins his fourth year behind center in 2004. A pair of new Redskins defensive starters will be charged with slowing the Tampa passing attack, as safety Sean Taylor, a rookie, and Shawn Springs, an offseason free agent acquisition and cornerback, will patrol the secondary. The new running back in Tampa Bay is Charlie Garner, who worked with Gruden in Oakland and will try to give the team a consistent rushing threat. Blocking for the backs and providing protection for Johnson will be a revamped line. The Redskins ranked 14th in the NFC against the rush last season, and added free agent linebackers Mike Barrow and Marcus Washington to help improve those numbers.

An effective running game was a hallmark of the successful teams from Gibbs' past, and the club moved in a run-oriented direction when it traded for Clinton Portis in the offseason. Portis was a Pro Bowler in Denver last season, when he rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in just 13 contests. Tampa Bay's ability to stop the run will hinge on the play of tackles Chartric Darby and Anthony McFarland, two regulars who will now operate outside the large shadow of the departed Warren Sapp. The passing game has also undergone a transition in Washington, as longtime Jaguar Mark Brunell was brought in. Brunell is about to turn 34 and on the downside of his career, but he will benefit from the presence of two talented receivers in Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner. Missing from the Bucs secondary is longtime staple John Lynch, who was released in the offseason.

Tampa Bay is walking the fine line between veteran and just plain old, and the team could miss leaders like Sapp and Lynch dearly this year, starting on Sunday. We believe that replacing their leadership on the field as well in the locker room could prove difficult. Washington holds several big edges here. First and foremost is the return of Joe Gibbs. The Redskins will be playing with unbelievable fire and passion, while the atmosphere at FedEx Field will be electric with 90,000+ rabid fans urging their team on like it’s the Super Bowl. While all NFL coaches are careful not to reveal their entire playbook during the preseason, opponents are still fairly aware of what that team is going to do when the regular season starts. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden, for example, is going to run a heavy version of the West Coast offense predicated on a short passing game. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, however, has been out of coaching for so long that teams will have to watch film from 10-15 years ago to get an idea of Gibbs' tendencies on offense and defense. Gibbs has never been afraid to adjust his schemes in the past, and he is certain to have thrown in his fair share of wrinkles since retuning to coaching. Defensively, assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams should bring the house. Expect frequent LB blitzes and perhaps even from defensive backs. Finally, if the game is close it will come down to a FG and, again, Washington has the edge. The ‘Skins’ John Hall is a reliable, clutch kicker with great range. The Bucs’ Martin Gramatica made just 60 percent of his field goal attempts in the preseason, coming off his worst year as a pro in which he missed the second-most field goals of any kicker in the NFL. There is simply way too much for Tampa to overcome here, especially with all of the new faces they are trying to get accustomed to, having little chance to work together. The Redskins will to win this one for Joe Gibbs will be more than what they need to get the win and cover.
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Old 09-11-2004, 11:18 PM   #2
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Mccardell is done, where is he?
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Old 09-11-2004, 11:25 PM   #3
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Keenan has a signed contract but is refusing to play because he wants it renogiated. It's not likely Gruden will budge. Apparantly, he didn't learn much from last year with the problems between Keyshawn Johnson and Gruden.
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Old 09-12-2004, 02:35 AM   #4
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The line opened at 2 1/2, so it has since moved a full point in Tampa Bay's favor.

If that doesn't tell you something ...
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