Gibbs returns to the sideline he once
masterfully patrolled, ending an 11-year hiatus from the game. The 63-year-old head coach will be charged with breathing life into a franchise that
has made just one playoff appearance since his departure, while tearing down its lofty status through several ill-conceived coaching hires (Norv
Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier) and dubious player acquisitions (Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeremiah Trotter). With the Hall of Famer
in control, the Redskins are attempting to shed the disappointments of the past, all the while reaching back to reclaim a portion of their former
After a very disappointing 2003 season, the Redskins have made some significant changes in an attempt to turn things around quickly in 2004. Starting
with new head-coach Joe Gibbs, Washington then went on to add veteran (QB) Mark Brunell and the explosive (RB) Clinton Portis. Portis is one of the
best running backs in the league and will solidify the running game for the Skins who have not had a reliable runner in several years. Rounding out
the offense is a strong pair of receivers in Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner that should once again give Washington many offensive weapons.
LB LaVar Arrington ( 6-3 245 ), RB Clinton Portis ( 5-11 205 )
HC Joe Gibbs, S Sean Taylor ( 1st round draft choice ), QB Mark Brunell, RB Clinton Portis, LB Marcus Washington, DT
Cornelius Griffin, CB Shawn Springs
CB Champ Bailey, RB Trung Canidate, LB Jessie Armstead, LB Bruce Smith.
With the addition of Clinton Portis this off-season, the Skins' QB's primary mission is going to be to hand him the ball. Vying for that
responsibility are last year's starter, Patrick Ramsey, and one of the many high-priced off-season acquisitions, Mark Brunell. While few people doubt
Ramsey's potential, Brunell figures to be the favorite, as the veteran has the experience that Gibbs covets. Brunell is 34, coming off of an injury,
and lost his job as a starter to rookie Byron Leftwich last year, but he still has the talent and smarts to lead an NFL offense when healthy. Ramsey
is also coming off an injury, but possesses a rifle arm and has impressed people around the league with his toughness and leadership in the huddle.
Given his youth and intelligence, a year on the sideline where he will be at Gibbs' side during the play-calling could serve him well. If Brunell goes
down with an injury during the season, he will be more than capable of stepping in without disrupting the offense. Another starter from last year, Tim
Hasselbeck should be the third QB, with Gibran Hamdan likely being offered an opportunity on the practice squad.
Another off-season move that surprised everyone
was the deal that sent Pro Bowl CB Champ Bailey, widely regarded as one of the premier defensive backs in the NFL, and a second-round draft pick to
the Denver Broncos for Pro Bowl RB Clinton Portis. Just 22, he already has back-to-back 1500 yd seasons and possesses a 5.5 ypc career average. Only
5-11, 205 pounds, he's not the biggest back and that played a part in him missing all or parts of several games last year. What he lacks in size, he
makes up for in field vision, speed, and the ability to cutback into lanes and accelerate. The offense is going to be tailor-made to exploit all of
his strengths, and he will have every opportunity to succeed. Behind Portis, Ladell Betts, Chad Morton and Rock Cartright should be the primary
backups. Betts has decent size and enough speed to be effective, but has not shown much since being a second round draft pick two years ago. Morton
will likely see some time on the field in passing situations in addition to his special teams' duties, while fan favorite Rock Cartright will factor
in as the primary FB and perhaps as a short-yardage/goal-line back.
Wide receiver is perhaps the deepest position on the 2004 roster. Laveranues Coles will be the top target and is coming off a season in which he had
82 catches for 1204 yards and 6 TDs and made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. He is a tireless worker in the Gibbs mold, and his efforts do not
go unnoticed by his teammates. Coles is an excellent route runner, has good hands, and has the speed to get by a lot of CBs. He should be most
effective catching quick slants and turning them into big gains, but defenses will also have to respect his ability to go deep. While he continues to
feel the lingering effects of the foot injury that plagued him last season, Coles looks poised for another big year.
Give Gibbs credit for coming in and shaking things up, as many coaches with his Hall of Fame credentials might have assumed they could win with any
personnel. Most of the changes the head coach has made appear to be for the better, with Portis and Brunell figuring to add life to the offense, and
Barrow, Washington, Springs, and Daniels making an impact on the other side of the ball. Based on talent alone, you would expect the Redskins to be an
eight- or nine-win team this year, which would be a marked improvement over last season's five-win output. But Gibbs' guidance could translate into
another win or two, and a playoff victory is not out of the question either. They won't challenge mighty Philadelphia for the NFC East title, but the
Redskins should find themselves back in the playoffs this season, with a good chance to be playing into mid-January.