Darnerien McCants can feel it. With the season opener just four days away, the intensity level at Redskins Park has picked up a notch. At Wednesday's practice, passes were crisper, the linemen were more intense and defensive backs were tight in their coverage.
"The energy is definitely up," McCants said. "We're on a roll, coming off a good preseason win. We're looking good and going positive into this game."
On Wednesday, the Redskins held their first day of hard practice work in getting ready for the season opener against Tampa Bay. The team hopes to get off to a fast start by keeping the Buccaneers off balance even as they prepare for the game.
Throughout the offseason and training camp, head coach Joe Gibbs has been careful not to reveal too much of his team's offensive and defense schemes.
Every NFL team does this, of course, but the Redskins may have a slight advantage because no one outside of the coaches and players knows quite what to expect from Joe Gibbs' offense--other than to look back at old game tapes from the 1980s and early 1990s.
Further complicating matters is the variations of offensive sets that Gibbs used during his previous coaching tenure. Will Gibbs' offense be run-oriented, with plenty of Clinton Portis and the occasional pass thrown in? Will it be pass-oriented, with three- and four-wide receiver sets?
Gibbs, always known for his creativity, won't reveal the answers until Sunday.
"Football is continually evolving and people work on it all the time," Gibbs said. "The rage 14 years ago was Buddy Ryan's 46 defense. That changed the style and makeup of what we did on offense. Now we have pressure defense, which changes the whole makeup of the offense.
"There is a process, you study it and you continually come up with new variations. So it changes the game and how you approach it."
Said quarterback Mark Brunell: "We're going to have a few things that the Buccaneers have not seen. But at the same time, we have to show up and play.
"They'll have the element of surprise, too. It's the opener. They're going to do some things on defense that we haven't seen in preseason. That's the way openers go. You don't know what to expect. They're going to have some interesting schemes for us and we have to be ready for it."
With the Buccaneers just two years removed from a Super Bowl, the general feeling among coaches and players is that Sunday's game will be a difficult test.
"They present so many challenges," Brunell said. "They're fast and aggressive. They have a great defensive scheme. We've got our work cut out for ourselves."
Said Gibbs: "Last year I know Dallas was rated first, but Tampa's defense came out of preseason rated number one. They have consistently been at the top of the league in defense. I think it will be a big challenge for us across the board."
The Redskins lost 35-13 to Tampa Bay in Week 5 last year. With so many changes in personnel and scheme, the current coaching staff is disregarding the film from that game. "That game is not even in our film breakdown," Gibbs said.