ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington is first in war, first in peace and last in the NFC East. At least, that's how it was last year, and that's how it has been for too many years before. So the Redskins shake things up by hiring Mike Shanahan and trading for Donovan McNabb and -- and presto! Just like that -- they're the talk of the Beltway again.
Hail to the Redskins? Maybe. But color me skeptical.
• The head coach. Shanahan is a proven winner. I don't care that he didn't have a winning season in his last three years in Denver. He's a damn good coach, a damn solid offensive mind and a two-time Super Bowl winner as head coach. The Redskins will produce more points -- a lot more points -- than last year's edition, and that will mean more victories. Remember, they lost eight games by eight points or fewer. So Shanahan makes a difference. How much of a difference? That's why they play the games, people.
• McNabb at quarterback. Who cares if he will turn 34 in November? He's another winner, going to five conference championship games and one Super Bowl in eight years. McNabb is not here because he can't cut it anymore. Heck, he was 10-4 last season. Nope, he's here because Philadelphia decided to overhaul its roster and go young. Now the Eagles get to see what they lost when McNabb returns to Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 3. "I can't wait," tight end Chris Cooley said. That makes two of us.
• Tight ends Cooley and Fred Davis. They're two of the best and biggest targets on the club, and should be two of McNabb's favorite receivers. The last time Cooley was healthy, he had 83 catches. When he wasn't, Davis stepped in to pull down 48 passes, including six for touchdowns. Looking for someone to take the heat off Santana Moss? You may start with these two.
• Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator. The Redskins had a league-low 17 takeaways last year. That must change, and Haslett's 3-4 defense could be the answer. "I love it," linebacker London Fletcher said. "This is my first opportunity to play in it. I've watched and looked at it with awe with guys who've been successful in it. Now to be able to play in it myself ... I'm definitely looking forward to it."
• Adam Carriker at defensive end. He's perfectly suited to play a 3-4 defensive end, and he not only will make a contribution here; he could start. In fact, when I was there he was holding down the left defensive end position. Carriker is up to 315 pounds and moves well. "He's perfect for what we're looking for," Shanahan said.
• Age. It's everywhere. Wide receiver Joey Galloway will turn 39 this season. Defensive end Phillip Daniels is 37. McNabb turns 34. Ten of the players introduced by Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen are 30 or older and another six are 29. That's not good when you play 16-game schedules. Old teams typically fade, and Shanahan should know. He had the oldest club in the NFL in 2006, and after starting 5-1 lost five of his last seven to finish 8-8.
• The running backs. Clinton Portis is the starter, but he's coming off a concussion so severe he missed the final eight games last season. That's not good, and if you don't believe me, rewind the video to Brian Westbrook's 2009 season. Backup Larry Johnson will turn 31 in November. Willie Parker, who turns 30 the same month, might be at or near the end of his career. The guy with the most upside here is Ryan Torain, whom Shanahan drafted in Denver two years ago. Only he can't seem to stay healthy.
• The division. The Redskins should be improved, but they play in the most difficult division in the NFL. Dallas is the front-runner, with the Giants, Washington and Philadelphia filing behind in an uncertain order. I have no doubt Shanahan makes this club more entertaining and more successful. But I also have no doubt it's no better than the third-best team in the division, and even that might be a stretch.
• The wide receivers. Santana Moss is the go-to guy. So who's No. 2? Nobody is sure, with Galloway often the first guy mentioned. Joey Galloway? Are you kidding me? The Patriots cut him in midseason last year after he and Tom Brady failed to click. Devin Thomas is the logical choice, but this staff didn't draft him, and he has fallen down the depth chart. Maybe he makes it as No. 2, maybe he doesn't. But he had moments last season when he looked like a threat. In the meantime, Roydell Williams -- yes, that Roydell Williams ... plays ahead of him. And as for Malcolm Kelly ... he'll have trouble making the team. He's hurt too often.
• The schedule. It's torturous. Too bad this year's coaching staff didn't have last year's schedule. Four of the Redskins' first six opponents are playoff teams, including Indianapolis. The fifth is Houston. St. Louis is the only loser among Washington's first six opponents.