Ramsey a challenge for Belichick

One of the qualities that led Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier to anoint second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey as his starter was the player's fearlessness in the pocket.

Ramsey has another admirer: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.


"I've been very impressed watching him last year and this year in terms of his toughness," Belichick said earlier this week. "He'll hang in the pocket, he'll make the throw, take a hit. He doesn't back down from any blitzes, any pressure or anything like that."

Yet, when the Patriots visit FedEx Field at 1 p.m. today, it will be Belichick's job to devise a plan to rattle the league's third-rated passer.


Belichick has the reputation of a defensive mastermind who can create unconventional schemes.

"They're going to throw some stuff at us," Ramsey acknowledged, "and we're going to have to react like we did last week and try to do the best we can."

Today's game matches up two 2-1 teams with very different units.

New England's defense has been up and down in its first three games, surrendering an average of 306.3 yards (No. 16 in the NFL).

Injuries to five starters -- only cornerback Ty Law (sprained ankle) is expected to play today -- have depleted a unit that also has had to deal with the release of strong safety Lawyer Milloy before the season opener because of a contract dispute.

Still, the Patriots' defense has been solid in its past two outings, giving up 10 points to the Philadelphia Eagles and 16 to the New York Jets -- both of which were New England victories.

And Belichick is widely regarded as one of the top defensive minds in the NFL, a man whose schemes always change depending on the opponent.

His game plan for the New York Giants in their win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and Belichick was the architect of the New England defense that contained the explosive St. Louis Rams in a 20-17 victory in Super Bowl XXXVI.


"If Coach Belichick has it on his mind on taking one facet of the offense out of the game, it's going to happen," Law said. "If he wants to take one particular player out of it by using combination defenses or whatever, he can do that, and there's nothing any offense can do about that."

Belichick's plans will be tested by Ramsey, who has exceeded many expectations in just eight career starts.

Ramsey leads the league in passing yardage with 889, is completing 60.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for five touchdowns en route to a third-best 95.1 quarterback rating.

Under Spurrier's direction, Ramsey and company are averaging 406 yards a game, best in the NFL. And, Ramsey has shown the ability to adjust to what a defense gives him.

Against Atlanta's 3-4 -- the same defense the Patriots use -- two weeks ago, he threw for 170 yards in the first half without a touchdown while getting sacked five times.

But Ramsey adapted, taking shorter three- and five-step drops and connecting with receivers on quick screens and slants.


That ability to change according to the game situation has led Washington offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to believe Ramsey will counter everything Belichick throws at the youngster.

"The one thing about Patrick Ramsey from last year to this year is ... when you go and make an adjustment, he understands the adjustment, why it's being made," Jackson said.

Ramsey is aware that despite all the coaching and grooming he will receive from Jackson and Spurrier, it is up to him to solve New England's defense.

"To read the field, that's essentially what I'm going to do regardless of what those guys try to do," Ramsey said. "They can do a number of things. ... We can do a number of things, as well. My job is going to be to react to whatever they throw at us."


1. Attack interior defense


The Patriots have yielded only 90.7 rushing yards per game, but the defense will take the field without nose tackle Ted Washington (fractured leg) and linebackers Rosevelt Colvin (broken hip), Ted Johnson (broken foot) and Mike Vrabel (fractured arm). This is a prime opportunity for Washington's seventh-ranked run offense to inflate its 136.3-yard average.

2. Eliminate penalties

It's a tiresome theme this week, but the Redskins will not enter October with their goal of a 3-1 record if they repeat last Sunday's 17-penalty effort against the New York Giants. Washington players have stressed avoiding the careless mistakes that left them with deficits of 17 and 18 points in their previous two games.

3. Turnovers

The Redskins have forced only two turnovers in three games. By comparison, New England has forced nine. So not only does Washington have to protect the ball, but it also must find a way to pressure the Patriots into coughing it up. Reviving a nonexistent pass rush that sacked Giants quarterback Kerry Collins just once would help.

Redskins today


Matchup: New England Patriots (2-1) vs. Washington Redskins (2-1)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 9/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Redskins by 3