The Washington Redskins are one of the sure things in the NFL ... and that's not good. No matter who coaches them, no matter how much money they spend, no matter whom they acquire, they can't seem to get ahead.
Mike Shanahan couldn't straighten them out last season. Marty Schottenheimer couldn't, either. Nor could Steve Spurrier or Jim Zorn. Over the past decade the Redskins are 68-92, reaching the playoffs twice, and both times it was with Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.
That's the good news. The bad: Gibbs was 30-34 while he was there.
No head coach has had a winning record with the Redskins since Gibbs first left following the 1992 season. Since then, Washington has been 122-165-1, finishing last in its division seven times and failing to produce a winning record in all but five of the past 18 years.
So where's the hope? Frankly, I don't know that there is any. Not now, at least. Donovan McNabb was supposed to solidify the quarterback position, but he fell out of favor quickly before getting benched. Running back Clinton Portis is gone. Albert Haynesworth is not. The defense ranked 31st in yards. The offense ranked 25th in scoring. Philadelphia, New York and Dallas still are in the division.
|Five possibilities: Redskins|
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The Redskins are short at wide receiver, where Santana Moss becomes a free agent, and Jones should be there at the 10th pick.
Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The only thing better than one good tackle is two. With Jammal Brown unsigned, the Redskins should be in the market for another Trent Williams.
Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: The Redskins need another pass rusher, and they sure could use a young defensive end. Quinn fits both descriptions.
Cam Jordan, DE, Cal: File this one under Wanted: Defensive Ends. This may be a little high for Jordan, but he understands the 3-4 and is a solid run defender.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington: I don't see taking him with the first pick. But I can see the Redskins trying to make a move to find someone, anyone, to groom at the position.
Benoit: Redskins offseason checkup
Team Needs: All 32 teams
Grim, huh? Welcome to the world of capital punishment.
QB: A year ago, the Redskins thought they solidified the position with McNabb. Then they jerked him around before benching the guy, and tell me why anyone should expect him back. I don't. Rex Grossman is a free agent, but he finished the season as the starter, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan seems more comfortable with him than McNabb. I can see why: In limited play he was more effective than McNabb, who had more interceptions (15) than TD passes (14) for the first time in his career. But who's kidding whom? Grossman is not the answer. Plus, he might be gone. The Redskins must find someone either through the draft or free agency.
RB: With Portis gone, this looks like a position of urgent need. Only this is Mike Shanahan we're talking about, and he always, always, always seems to find his next running back in the draft -- sometimes as low as the sixth round, which is where he found Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson. For now, Ryan Torain is the starter, and all he did was run for 100 yards three times, including a season-high 172 yards vs. Tampa Bay -- with 158 in the first half. Shanahan can live with Torain. Heck, he drafted him in Denver. What he needs are more bodies. Correction: More able bodies. He had the numbers this time last year, but they were guys like Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, and that was OK if it were 2005. It was not. Time to find help through the draft.
WR: Santana Moss had a terrific season, leading the club in receptions, yards receiving and receiving TDs. So how come the club didn't re-sign him before the lockout? Moss, who turns 32 in June, is in the prime of his career and the best weapon the Redskins have at this position. They need him like the Beltway needs HOV lanes, and Washington can only hope Moss meant it when he said last season that he wants to stay. One of the biggest finds was Anthony Armstrong, who beat out Joey Galloway and wound up averaging a team-best 19.8 yards per reception. But beyond Armstrong the depth drops considerably. Brandon Banks is small and more of a special-teams factor, while the club still is waiting on Malcolm Kelly to do something, anything, to prove his value as a second-round draft pick. Kelly has the size and hands to be a factor, but he's always getting hurt. Consider this a make-or-break year for him.
TE: Finally, an area that's deep. Chris Cooley's 77 catches were second only to Moss, and backup Fred Davis could start on most teams. Washington is not most teams, so Davis played less last season than he did in 2009. Nevertheless, he flashed his considerable talent, with one catch for 71 yards and another for 62, while scoring three times. He and Cooley are rock solid at the position, though Cooley must clean up some of those atypical drops from last year.
OL: Over the years this has been one of the chief areas of concern for Washington fans ... and Washington quarterbacks. The team that gave us the Hogs hasn't given its quarterbacks much protection lately, one reason the Redskins exercised their first pick of the 2010 draft on left tackle Trent Williams. Shanahan called him "probably the most talented offensive lineman I've ever been around," and that comes from the man who drafted Ryan Clady. Yes, Williams was up and down in his play, but he also was a rookie who battled shoulder and knee injuries, as well as elite pass rushers. The line play improved from the year before but remains unspectacular. Center Casey Rabach, who turns 34 this season, is reliable, but he could be pushed by backup Erik Cook, while left guard Kory Lichtensteiger seems more at home at center than guard. Right tackle Jammal Brown settled down and settled in as the season wore on, and the Redskins would be wise to re-sign him. Right guard Will Montgomery is valuable because he's versatile, while Stephon Heyer is useful as a backup tackle.
DL: Any discussion of the Redskins' defensive line starts with Haynesworth and where or how he fits into this year's plans. I can't believe he does, with Shanahan trying to rid the club of a distraction the moment he finds a taker. Haynesworth wasn't a fit at defensive tackle in the Redskins' 3-4 scheme, but tell me who is? Anthony Bryant was the team's best performer there, but he was little more than adequate. Ma'ake Kemoeatu is another option, but he struggled to overcome a 2009 Achilles injury and may not fit into the team's plans. I think you get the idea: The club could use a defensive tackle. It could use a defensive end, too. Vonnie Holliday is 35 and Phillip Daniels is 37. While they started two games they combined for 4.5 sacks, and, sure, that's impressive. But I don't know that we're not dealing with diminishing returns there. Kedric Golston got most of the starts at right end and was nothing more than OK. Adam Carriker, however, improved on the left side, his career invigorated by returning to a 3-4 setup. What's missing here is depth, with Jeremy Jarmon more suited to a 4-3 than the 3-4.
LB: One player not affected by the switch to a 3-4 was inside linebacker London Fletcher, who looked better at 35 than he did at 34 when he was named to his first Pro Bowl. He led the team in tackles (what's new?), forced fumbles and had more sacks (2.5) than in any season since 2005. That's was encouraging. But this wasn't: Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who reached the Pro Bowl as a rookie, wasn't the same in the new defense, with his sacks tailing off and his play declining the second half of the season. Orakpo didn't gain the support from Andre Carter that he had in 2009, with Carter dropping from 11 sacks in 2009 to 2.5 and released after the season. Of course, Orakpo didn't gain support from anyone, with no teammate producing more than 2.5 sacks apiece. That includes Rocky McIntosh, who seemed out of place, too, though he did finish second on the club in tackles. Nevertheless, the consistency that had been part of his game was missing. Lorenzo Alexander is OK as Carter's replacement, but the Redskins could use someone to push him.
DB: When you play in a division where Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Tony Romo are quarterbacks you better have reliable defensive backs to cover the bomb, and the Redskins do -- though you wouldn't know it. Rewind that nationally televised 59-28 blowout to Philadelphia, and tell me there was anyone in the secondary with a clue. Safety LaRon Landry was having a terrific season until that evening, then bowed out with an Achilles injury. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall looks good one week (rewind the Chicago game), then ordinary the next (cue the first half of the season), but give him this: His tackling last season improved substantially. Plus, he was named to the Pro Bowl, where he was named the game's MVP. Carlos Rogers missed four of the last seven games because of injuries but was decent when he played and should be re-signed. Yeah, I know, he doesn't produce interceptions, but his coverage skills are sound. Phillip Buchanon filled in nicely for Rogers, while Kevin Barnes looks promising as a backup. Free safety is a bit of concern, with Kareem Moore a disappointment -- particularly vs. the run. Look for Reed Doughty, who's better suited at strong safety, to push him. Bottom line: The players are here. The consistency is not.