A year ago, the Redskins' brain trust headed to the Scouting Combine chiefly looking to evaluate talent to help fix a defense that had crashed from 10th in 2009, the final season before the arrival of coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, to 31st in their debut.
Washington wound up choosing Ryan Kerrigan 13th overall in the 2011 draft and the former Purdue defensive end made a such a successful transition to outside linebacker that he played every snap and was instrumental in the Redskins rising to 13th in total defense.
In the second round, the Redskins added Clemson defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who was having a fine summer until he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the third preseason game. Safety DeJon Gomes, drafted in the fifth round out of Nebraska, started the final four games while cornerback Brandyn Thompson, a seventh-rounder from Boise State, played in six games.
All told, in the wake of the first draft in which they made a pick in each round for the first time since 1995, seven of the Redskins' franchise-record 12 draft picks started at least once last season and all except Jenkins were on the active roster for at least one game. All but Jenkins and sixth-round receiver Aldrick Robinson saw action.
This year's draft focus figures to be on offense after a season in which only six teams scored fewer points than the injury-riddled Redskins. Washington could really use a franchise quarterback, a playmaking receiver and a tackle capable of starting on either side.
The Redskins own the sixth choice overall as well as their own selections in all of the following rounds except the sixth (that pick went to Arizona in last summer's trade for running back Tim Hightower). Washington also has Oakland's fourth-rounder courtesy of the 2010 deal that sent quarterback Jason Campbell to the Raiders and Philadelphia's sixth thanks to the 2010 trade for since-departed quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Shanahan opted not to speak at the Combine and has only spoken to the media, briefly, at the Senior Bowl since his season wrap-up press conference on Jan. 2. So it's hard to know what he's thinking with the draft barely two months away.
"We're going to do everything possible to improve at every position if it's through free agency, if it's through the draft. We're going to get as much competition in here as possible and try to look through every scenario to help our football team win," Shanahan has said when asked about upgrading at quarterback from turnover king Rex Grossman.
Washington's longest catch of the year, a 51-yard grab by veteran receiver Donte Stallworth, was the shortest long catch by any team. And Stallworth didn't even score on the play.
"You're always hoping that that difference-maker, that playmaker, emerges from your own team," Shanahan said. "You're always looking for playmakers ... guys that can make plays and go the distance."
With left tackle Trent Williams, who was suspended for the final four games of 2010 after three failed drug tests, now just one failed test from a year-long suspension, and right tackle Jammal Brown about to be 31 and having struggled with leg injuries the last three seasons, Shanahan knows that adding a starter-worthy player at that spot is important, too.
"(Trent)'s got to be smart enough to understand that if you disappoint your football team like he did, you better come back with a passion and show people you've got the work ethic and the drive to do what we need him to do," Shanahan said. "Jammal is a guy that is very talented (but) he has been hampered with injuries. His future will be determined on how he heals up in the offseason. He knows he's got to get in great shape because he knows he can play at a very high level if he's feeling good. That hip was by no means close to 100 percent this year. So he's going to be here throughout the offseason getting in the best shape that he can possibly get in to give himself the best opportunity to start next year. If not, he understands that it's a short career if you can't stay healthy."
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