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Draft team needs: Redskins

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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The Washington Redskins need to make something happen.

No, Mike Shanahan needs to make something happen.

In Shanahan's two years as Redskins head coach, the club is 11-21 -- the worst two-year record of any coach hired by owner Dan Snyder.

So change must come, and it will. With the second pick of the draft, the Redskins will take Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and maybe, just maybe, solve the problems at quarterback that have plagued them for years.

But there's still one problem: They play in the NFC East, home to three teams that should be better than Washington, including the defending Super Bowl champions. Change will come in Washington, but the question is: How long before it has an impact?

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QB: The Redskins need a quarterback like Washington needs air conditioning in July. And they'll get one when RG3 is available with the second pick of the draft. Washington hasn't had a credible quarterback for years, but they'll have one now. I know, they mortgaged the future for him, but they had no choice. As one coach put it a couple of months ago, if they didn't get Peyton Manning or one of the two top quarterbacks in this draft, they were going to lose their jobs. Well, they're getting one of the two best quarterbacks in the draft. The urgency was there because the Redskins couldn't win with John Beck and Rex Grossman, period. Griffin becomes the immediate starter, and Mike Shanahan keeps his fingers crossed. RG3 can't afford to have growing pains ... not after what Washington paid to get him.

RB: I never used to worry about this position with Shanahan's teams because he always seemed to find a 1,000-yard rusher, no matter where the player was drafted or where he played. Only that hasn't been the case in Washington. In Shanahan's first season there, the team had no 1,000-yard rusher. Ditto for the second. And in neither year did the Redskins rank higher than 25th in rushing. People wonder what's wrong with Washington's quarterbacks; you might ask instead what's wrong with their running game. Shanahan didn't have great quarterbacks in Denver after John Elway retired, but he still won -- and he won because he could run the ball. With the 'Skins, he has been forced to try a running back-by-committee approach, largely because of injuries, but now he'll give the job to Roy Helu -- with Evan Royster in the wings. Helu produced three straight 100-yard games at the end of last season before he was hurt. Then Royster stepped in and finished with two more 100-yard efforts. If Helu can stay healthy, the Redskins may be ready and able to produce a running game.

WR: No sooner had free agency begun than the Redskins dropped millions on free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan before trying to sign Eddie Royal, who wound up going to San Diego. That tells you a little about the situation at this position. It's not good. Santana Moss is supposed to be the top receiver, only he wasn't last year; Jabar Gaffney was. Moss, who missed four games, put up his lowest totals as a Redskin last season. Also, he turns 33 in June. I don't know what he has left, but I do know he's a descending player -- one of the reasons the Redskins went shopping last month. Gaffney is not expected to return, so the Redskins could be in the market for depth. But they invested so heavily in this position during free agency, I can't imagine them making a move before the middle or late rounds. Remember, they have Leonard Hankerson and Anthony Armstrong as fallback possibilities, and that's not all that bad.

TE: Keeping Fred Davis was important. The guy is young, talented and a perfect safety net for a new quarterback. He was leading the club in catches, yards receiving and TD receptions when a positive drug test cost him a four-game suspension. Chris Cooley has been the lead dog here, but not lately. With him missing 20 games the past three years, you have to start wondering what his future looks like.

OL: The Redskins made no moves here in free agency outside of re-signing center Will Montgomery, which tells you they think they're OK at this position. But that's the problem, because they're adequate and nothing more. Left tackle Trent Williams is the best of the bunch, but he missed the final four games due to a drug suspension. Williams is young and promising, but he's not consistent. Right tackle Jammal Brown isn't young (31), but he is consistent -- consistently ordinary, failing to flash the form that made him a Pro Bowl left tackle in New Orleans. Montgomery is the best of the rest, though guard Kory Lichtensteiger looked decent before bowing out last season with a torn ACL. Reserve Willie Smith held up surprisingly well in relief of Williams late last year. Still, Washington could use help here, though it won't come early.

DL: No unit on this team improved as much last season as the defensive line. Defensive end Adam Carriker seemed more comfortable in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme, while newcomers Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen plugged leaks -- particularly Cofield, who was a marked improvement at nose tackle. Kedric Golston is reliable, but he's coming off a season-ending knee injury, while defensive tackle Chris Neild must show more than he did as a rookie. There is room here for backup help.

LB: Ageless London Fletcher returns for another season, and his turning 37 next month should indicate he's slowing down. Only he's not. Fletcher went to his third straight Pro Bowl last season, and for good reason: the guy's a tackling machine. So he returns as captain of the defense. Washington is set outside with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo and felt comfortable enough with Perry Riley at the other inside spot that it let Rocky McIntosh, who fell out of favor with the coaching staff and lost his starting job, test free agency. Lorenzo Alexander is a decent backup, but his playing time last season was reserved almost exclusively for special teams.

DB: No area has been overhauled as much as the secondary, where the Redskins should have three new starters -- including both safeties. It figures. Washington was burned by big plays last season, and management resolved to do something about it. So it signed free agents Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams and Cedric Griffin and will start Jackson, Griffin, Reed Doughty and DeAngelo Hall. Meriweather stunk in Chicago, Tampa Bay let Jackson walk and Griffin, who started for Minnesota but was benched late in the year, was cut by the Vikings after six seasons. Meriweather didn't fit the Bears' Cover-2 scheme, and it will be up to secondary coach Raheem Morris to try to get the former first-round draft pick motivated and focused. Jackson was cut after he failed a physical, but he's expected to be ready by training camp. Make Morris a factor there too, with the Redskins hoping he finds something in one of his former Tampa Bay players.

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