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Gibbs Setting A Fast Pace

It's been a little more than a month since Joe Gibbs has returned as Redskins head coach and—true to his word—he has dived into his new job.

First it was the hiring of an experienced coaching staff. Now it's evaluating the free agent crop and college players expected to be available in April's NFL Draft. Soon Gibbs will be meeting with his entire squad of Redskin players at an upcoming mini-camp.

Through hours upon hours of game film study, Gibbs believes he has a good handle on the Redskins' current roster thus far. He says he has identified a core group of players who he feels can be team leaders—similar to the way Art Monk, Gary Clark, Darrell Green and Joe Jacoby were leaders during Gibbs' first stint with the Redskins.

"I kind of analyze what positions we need to strengthen or increase our depth in offense, defense and special teams," he said recently. "We spent a lot of time on that, analyzing our core group of players. That's going to be extremely important."

This past weekend, Gibbs was in Daytona, Fla., to fulfill obligations associated with this Sunday's Daytona 500 auto race. He was back at Redskins Park on Monday. In general, he has tried to keep his travel schedule a secret so that he can meet players expected to be available with minimal distractions.

Later this week, Gibbs and his coaches will head off to Indianapolis to the annual scouting combine--sort of the unofficial start of the NFL Draft college player evaluation process. The combine starts on Wednesday but most of the Redskins coaches are expected to be there on Thursday.

In interviews during the last month, it's evident that Gibbs has a sense of what positions the team would like to address.

Is there a top priority heading into the player acquisition phase of the offseason?

"I don't think there is," he said. "I think we kind of know by position where we feel real comfortable and what we think we need to add.

"What we're doing is evaluating each list in every category and saying who we think the top people are [at each position]. At that point, we'll do film work on them, we'll talk to everybody who knows most of those guys at every position, and if there's an opportunity for us to visit with that player, we're going to visit."

Of course, the salary cap often forces teams to be realistic when it comes to acquiring players in free agency. Gibbs has not lost sight of that fact. He recognizes that change doesn't happen overnight.

"When you talk positions, you obviously have to be smart about it," he said. "You may not get everything you want. You certainly don't want to listen to a bunch of stuff and have people say you didn't get what you wanted. At some point, we have to play with what we have. We're trying to improve as much as we can in every spot."

Then there's the mini-camp, which Gibbs has said will be an important event for all the coaches and players. Since the Redskins have a new coaching staff in place, the team is permitted to host three instead of usual two off-season mini-camps.

Although the first mini-camp has yet to be officially scheduled, Gibbs said it could be mid-March. That is only slightly earlier than usual for teams with new coaches.

"The main reason for it is to get all of our guys together," Gibbs said. "We want to kind of lay out the game plan and give them a schedule. So I think it's important for them to kind of know, 'Hey, this is what we're going to be doing this week and what we're going to be working on.' So we're going to give them an overall schedule for the whole offseason."

Perhaps the most important part of mini-camp? For Gibbs and the coaches, it's establishing relationships with the players. Gibbs said he has met about 10 percent of his player roster thus far—mostly as they come in to work out in the weight room or rehabilitate an injury.

Establishing a relationship is more than shaking each player's hand and instructing them on the finer points of the counter trey, Gibbs said.

"Right now, you don't have any kind of relationship with most of the players," he said. "You have not gone through anything tough. You have not spent any time teaching them, trying to see how quick they learn and the way they perform on the field. The excitement they have to the offseason, working out—for us, it's a huge learning curve about the players.

"That always worries you the most the first year at some place because you're getting to know everybody—what their skills are, what they can do, how they'll fit in. You're continually trying to get them in the right place to help the team the most."

It's a process that Gibbs expects will take months, if not years. It's a process that has proven to be hugely successful.

And it's only just beginning.

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