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Saunders Stays the Course On Offense


He's something on the order of a Dr. Frankenstein, working on his secret plan and waiting until Sept. 11 to fully hatch it.

So far, Al Saunders' strategies for the Redskins' offense haven't panned out. A total of 17 points in three preseason games is certainly nothing to get excited about.

But Saunders has a message for all those who are especially concerned about the way his offense is shaping up: Stay the course.

"You've seen a work in progress. I don't like the score but there's a process we're going through," said the veteran NFL coach. "The process is taking a patient look at the players we have and putting them in position to do what we need to see them do."

Continued Saunders: "We're not covering the edges on pass protection because we need to see those guys by themselves out there without help from tight ends and backs. We need to see more rhythm in our game and do some things that are very basic without having scheme be the thing that we count on in the preseason. That is what I've always done."

In the offseason, Joe Gibbs brought on Saunders to run the offense and assume the title of Associate Head Coach-Offense. Gibbs and the entire NFL had marveled at what Saunders had been able to accomplish with the Kansas City offense during his five seasons there as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator.

Following preseason losses to Cincinnati, the New York Jets and New England, Redskins players point out that the offense has been "vanilla" or mediocre by design. Players and coaches added that once the full capabilities of the offense are in place, everything will be fine, the target, of course, being Sept. 11 and the Minnesota Vikings.

But after the 41-0 shellacking at New England on Saturday night, which dropped the Redskins to 0-3 in the preseason, Saunders spoke at length about the dynamics of his master plan.

Said Saunders on Monday evening: "The important thing is that each preseason game is like a practice but in a game environment. We have a plan going into every pre-season game to see some individuals do some things that might not be conducive to a down-and-distance situation."

Asked about the fact that the Redskins' first-team offense has not scored, Saunders said: "I'm not happy if we don't score every time we have the football in practice. We will get there. I know what the end product will look like.

"I feel very comfortable there are players developing their skills to be what we need them to be. For those who see practice, I think you see a totally different football team in terms of the strategy and tactics that we utilize in a game. There is a reason for that. There is a process that we know works, a system that we know works and a procedure of developing an offensive football team that we have had success with over a lot of years."

Saunders says he realizes he is surrounded by players of exceptional offensive talent and that those players do not need reinforcement about their skills in the preseason. Players of the caliber of Antwaan Randle El, Santana Moss or Chris Cooley understand how the offense will eventually come together, Saunders added.

"Certainly there were some disappointing parts of the game," he said of the one-sided loss to the Patriots. "There were some guys who probably didn't play at the level we would have liked them to play, and they know that. They know what they need to work on to fix it."

During Saunders' final two seasons in Kansas City, the Chiefs were 1-7 in the preseason. Only once in his five seasons there did the Chiefs put up huge offensive numbers in a preseason outing. That was in a 42-31 loss at Seattle during the 2003 preseason. Overall, Kansas City was 9-12 in the preseason during Saunders' tenure as offensive mastermind.

As we now know, the Chiefs would go on to have explosive offenses, something Saunders is hoping to produce for the Redskins of 2006.

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