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For Redskins, Offense Is In Transition

Head coach Joe Gibbs said on Monday that he had expected an easier transition to the new offense employed by associate head coach-offense Al Saunders.

Through six games this season, four in the preseason and two in the regular season, the Redskins' offense has struggled with consistency, in both the ground game and passing attack. In the first two regular season games, the unit is averaging just 255 total yards per game.

Both Gibbs and Saunders hail from the Don Coryell, high-powered offenses of the 1970s, and many of their schemes are similar. Gibbs hired Saunders last offseason to take the reins of his offense and call plays.

"What we tried to do was blend the two offenses together," Gibbs said. "With Al's offense, there's more volume. But for me personally, I thought it would be a fairly easy transition in the way we call things."

Was it information overload for some players?

"That's probably one of the things you could say," Gibbs said. "All of us inside don't feel that way, though. You would hope that given all the work we all put into this, both players and coaches, that we would find a solution."

Quarterback Mark Brunell has struggled at times, averaging just 156 passing yards in two regular-season games and throwing a costly interception against the Cowboys.

Gibbs pointed to pass protection breakdowns and an inconsistent rushing attack as culprits as well.

Improving the ground game will be a focus in upcoming games, he said.

Defenses have taken to employing what Gibbs called a "two-deep umbrella," in which defensive backs can stay back in coverage and not assist in run support.

"A successful running game helps you get them out of that," Gibbs said. "[Defensive backs] are sitting back pretty cautious and they were pretty much saying they were going to focus on our receivers."

Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett combined for 64 yards on 16 carries against the Cowboys. That's not enough rushing attempts in a game, Gibbs said.

"We're not getting enough plays, because we're not converting enough third downs," he explained. "So we don't have the opportunities to keep going and continuing to run. We need to be rushing 30-35 times per game."

The loss of Clinton Portis, who is recuperating from a shoulder injury, has also had an impact. He was able to play a limited role in the Sept. 11 season opener and scored a touchdown, but he was too sore to play against the Cowboys.

Meantime, pass protection units have struggled to protect Brunell, especially in the Dallas game when they yielded six sacks.

Gibbs said the offensive line continues to be one of the team's strengths, but there may have been some breakdowns in other areas of pass protection.

"The thing you have to understand in the passing game is that it's not just those five guys, it's everybody who goes along with it," he said. "It's the receivers blocking, it's picking up blitzes, it's the backs blocking, and the tight ends blocking."

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