ASHBURN, Va. — Michael Strahan knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, having tracked down quite a few in his 11-year career as a defensive end for the New York Giants.
When he looks at Washington Redskins starter Patrick Ramsey, Strahan doesn't see a player with just seven career NFL starts.
"He's not playing like a second-year player," Strahan said. "He's playing like he's been around a long time. He looks patient. He doesn't make mistakes. He looks like he understands the offense."
There's certainly enough patience and understanding to rally a team from a 17-0 deficit. If there were any doubts about Ramsey's ability to lead the Redskins, most were erased in last week's second-half comeback in a 33-31 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Ramsey completed 25 of 39 passes for a career-high 356 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but that doesn't begin to tell the story. He took a beating -- six sacks and numerous other hits -- and played the second half with a sprained left, non-throwing shoulder.
"Patrick probably had the best game he's ever had," Coach Steve Spurrier said. "I didn't see all his Tulane games, but I don't think he got hit like that when he was playing at Tulane."
A quarterback who can take a hit? That's the kind of courage that wins admiration from players who give it grudgingly -- the guys who play defense.
"There were a couple of times if he hadn't taken the lick, he wouldn't have completed the pass," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "We've got a guy with a lot of guts, and I'm ready to follow him all the way."
Spurrier knew he was taking a risk when he put his trust in Ramsey this season. Owner Dan Snyder spent millions to upgrade the offense -- adding receiver Laveranues Coles, guards Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore and running backs Trung Canidate and Chad Morton -- but none of it works without a quarterback who knows what he's doing.
Ramsey already had the raw skills. His strong arm and intelligence prompted the Redskins to take him with the final pick of the first round in last year's draft. But he missed most of training camp as a holdout and spent the rest of his rookie season trying to learn Spurrier's complex system that relies heavily on audibles.
He started five games, mainly because fellow quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel struggled. It was enough to give Ramsey a taste of the NFL without overwhelming his confidence, and an intense spring and summer of study with Spurrier have done the rest to get him up to speed.
The results? Through two games, Ramsey has completed 67.6 percent of his passes and has a 104.3 quarterback rating.
"Certainly he is more knowledgeable of what we are trying to do," Spurrier said. "He is just better prepared. He has a lot of talent, a lot of courage. He has a chance to be a really good quarterback in this league."
Spurrier's praise is measured for good reason. Ramsey wasn't very impressive during preseason, and he's lost three fumbles and has been sacked 10 times in the first two regular-season games. Most of those sacks, according to Spurrier, stem from Ramsey misunderstanding a play or holding the ball too long.
"Some of what went wrong was me and the quarterback," Spurrier said. "We've got to make sure he can get rid of the ball somewhere."
Ramsey is similarly humble. He said the game has slowed down for him -- always a good sign from a young player -- but that's about as much self-praise as he can muster.
Asked, as Spurrier said, whether the Atlanta game was the best he's ever played, Ramsey said: "No. Because I fumbled twice, regardless of whose fault it is. One day I'm going to play a perfect game. One day."
And what would he do in a perfect game?
"No mistakes. Win big. Don't have to make everybody bite nails at the end of the game. It's going to be tough."
At this rate, he just might do it.