STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Redskinsʼ 2009 season has to be marked as one of the most frustrating ones in franchise history. The team finished 4-12 and failed to win a single game within the division. The offense was in disarray with head coach Jim Zorn at the helm and failed to score 20 or more points in a game under his play-calling. Partway into the season, Sherman Lewis was pulled out of retirement and hired as an offensive consultant. A curious move, considering Lewis hadnʼt been involved in football since 2004. Two weeks later he took
over the teamʼs play calling duties. A coach who had been away from the field for five years was calling plays in an offense he had two weeks to learn. At that point the question became when, not if, Zorn would be fired.
It didnʼt help that key players missed significant time on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Clinton Portis suffered a serious concussion, and tight end Chris Cooley endured a broken ankle. Left tackle Chris
Samuels suffered a career-ending back injury, which resulted in another yearʼs worth of lackluster performance from the offensive line. The makeshift unit, for the second year in a row, both failed to protect
Jason Campbell adequately or open holes for the running game. Ironically, the lone bright spot was the continued improvement of Campbell. He put together his best season as a pro and improved his numbers across the board. That said, his advancement didnʼt translate to team success, and the Redskins responded by trading for Donovan McNabb and using three of their six draft picks this past April on offensive linemen.
In addition, owner Dan Snyder made sweeping changes in the front office heading into 2010. He replaced inexperienced general manager Vinny Cerrato with former Buccaneers GM Bruce Allen. He also brought in two-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan. The new brass brings discipline and credibility, something lacking since Joe Gibbs coached. Shanahan, whose first order of business was to upgrade the offense, is noted for typically helming one of the most consistent rushing attacks in the league,
with the Broncos fielding a top-10 rushing attack in five of his last six seasons with the team. To help move in that direction, the team brought in veteran running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker to compete with Portis. Shanahan also brought in his son Kyle, a former Texans coordinator, to run the offense.
The teamʼs defense, assuming Albert Haynesworth is on board with his new role in the 3-4, is built to compete now and with the improvements on offense, most notably the addition of McNabb and perhaps more importantly the coaching staff, the Redskins should at least be more competitive in the tough NFC East Division.
Round, Overall, Player
4. (103) Perry Riley, (LB) LSU
Good tackler, could see time in the middle of the new 3-4 defense.
6. (174) Dennis Morris, (TE) Louisiana
Tech. Will have to prove useful as a blocker to see time on the field.
7. (219) Terrence Austin, (WR) UCLA
Small, speedy receiver could be used in the return game.
7. (229) Erik Cook, (C) New Mexico
Offensive line depth.
7. (231) Selvish Capers, (OT) West
Virginia. Still developing lineman adds right tackle tackle depth.
Donovan McNabb, QB (Eagles)
Big upgrade at the quarterback position. First time without Andy Reid by his side.
Larry Johnson, RB (Bengals)
Can he stay out of trouble and regain his form? If so, will compete for touches in a crowded backfield.
Willie Parker, RB (Steelers)
Does he have anything left in the tank? Will have to fight for a roster spot.
Rex Grossman, QB (Texans)
Former Bears’ starter will back up McNabb.
Ladell Betts, RB (FA)
Suffered torn ACL and MCL in 2009.
Antwaan Randle El, WR (Steelers)
Slot receiver and punt returner never lived up to the big contract.
MR. MCNABB GOES TO WASHINGTON
Donovan McNabb, who the Redskins obtained from division rival Philadelphia, instantly improves the offense and brings a proven winner and leader to the mix. That said, heʼll spend the offseason learning a new system and will probably suffer some from playing behind a weak and unproven offensive line. In addition, Mike Shanahanʼs offenses typically rely more on the run than McNabb is used to, so donʼt be surprised if his passing numbers, and, in turn, his fantasy value, take a bit of a hit. Working in his favor is that the Washington offense includes veteran pass-catchers Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, and the improving Devin Thomas and Fred Davis, but overall itʼs difficult to project the type of fantasy season heʼs in store for at age 33, in a Shanahan offense and in a new uniform.
With the run-loving Shanahan on board, the Redskins signed veteran running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker this offseason to fortify their backfield. Both players are coming off down years, but, then again, so is returnee, Clinton Portis. The big question is, do any of these name-brand backs have anything left in the tank? Portis missed eight games in 2009 with a concussion and has totaled 2,176 carries over his eight-year career. Johnson was released by Kansas City after calling out his head coach publicly. Meanwhile, Parker has seen his carries drop in each of the last three seasons and was relegated to a backup role in 2009. He appears to have lost a step ‒ never a good thing when your nickname is “Fast Willie” ‒ and may be on the cutting block if he doesnʼt reprove his wheels in training camp. Moreover, Shanahan is notorious for splitting the workload amongst a team of backs and doesnʼt shy away from going with the hot hand or a previously random player. For that reason alone, weʼll mention that Ryan Torain, a Shanahan favorite in Denver, is also lurking at the No. 4 slot on the Redskinsʼ RB depth chart.
The Redskinsʼ defense ranked 10th in 2009 and will return all its key players. Jim Haslett will take over the reins as coordinator and has decided to move from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Big-money free agent Albert Haynesworth has vented his frustration about filling the role of nose tackle, which canʼt be winning him points with Shanahan, but he can still be a force. OLB Brian Orakpo recorded 11 sacks as a rookie last year and should adjust well to the 3-4 scheme, where heʼll be able to rush the passer more frequently. Andre Carter also had a resurgence last season but struggled as an OLB in a 3-4 defense with San Francisco. Overall, the unit has playmakers at every level and has the potential to be elite if its key cogs can pick up the new defensive scheme.
RISING: Devin Thomas showed flashes last season and has good size and speed.
DECLINING: Clinton Portis has 2,100- plus career carries and is coming off a serious concussion that forced him out of eight games. Will have to compete for carries, and Mike Shanahan is known for spreading the rock.
Albert Haynesworth, DT
Only four sacks and not happy about role in the new 3-4 defense.
Brian Orakpo, LB
11 sacks in his rookie season; should be able to rush the quarterback more in new defense.
LONDON FLETCHER, LB
142 tackles last season were good for second (tied) in the league.
RotoWire Rank: 9