Kevin Jones. 11th September, 2011 - 1:27 pm
The Redskins are going to produce more wins than the Donovan McNabb led 2010 squad who finished 6-10, even if that means being stuck in the mediocrity treadmill that so often plagues teams from the NBA.
If you look around the NFL, nearly every team who makes deep runs into the playoffs has drafted a quarterback in the first round. Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger were all first round picks. And look at how Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford have blossomed. Drafting a quarterback early seems essential these days.
Drew Brees was a second round pick in 2001, but he went No. 32 and that makes him a first rounder today.
Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner are rare exceptions that Mark Rypien can also help illustrate.
A season with seven or eight wins would mean another second-rate draft pick, otherwise known as missing out on the likes of Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley, unless the Redskins trade up. An 8-8 campaign under the Rex Grossman/John Beck tandem may even justify another season from one of the 30-year-olds, which will continue to delay the inevitable.
With that being said, the new personnel brought in by Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan seems to be more than just plugging a few holes with band-aids. Running back Tim Hightower was able to outshine expectations in the preseason, averaging 6.8 yards on 25 carries against first team defenses.
Critics say new defensive linemen Barry Coefield and Stephen Bowen were overpaid being rotational guys on their previous teams. Still, people who follow the Redskins closely know that the 31st ranked defense from last season was a direct reflection of the defensive line. The pair of former NFC East 300-pounders along with centerfield safety OJ Atogwe could potentially vault this Redskin defense into the bottom half of the top 10.
Who we should be watching on offense:
Left Tackle Trent Williams
Williams was solid in his rookie season, but not spectacular. The 23-year-old has a chance to flourish into a perennial pro bowler, but this season needs to be his breakout year. No longer is he protecting one of the best scramblers in NFL history. Williams will go up against the following: Osi Umenyiora twice, DeMarcus Ware twice, Trent Cole twice, as well as the Jets, Patriots and Vikings ambush of pass rushers. The Redskins were 25th in the NFL in sacks allowed last year. If Trent Williams can handle the blind side that number will hastily improve.
Running Back Roy Helu Jr.
Without question, Hightower will be getting close to 20 carries a game. And he should. He is powerful and has advanced vision for the zone blocking scheme. The Redskins are in dire need for a home run hitter though. Right now the 32-year-old Santana Moss is the most dangerous player on the offense. Enter Roy Helu Jr. The rookie from Nebraska has displayed how swiftly he can cut his runs up the sideline. Mike Shanahan needs Helu to emerge early in the season to ease the pressure off of Grossman.
Who we should be watching on defense:
Outside Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan
It is extremely rare for the Redskins to start a rookie on defense. Not even Brian Orakpo was given that privilege two seasons ago straight out of Texas. But Kerrigan is showing how much confidence the coaching staff has in his pass rushing abilities. Is seven-plus sacks too much to ask for from the rookie? The Redskins were tied for 20th last year in turnover margin and desperately need Kerrigan to become a playmaker.
Strong Safety LaRon Landry
Since the death of Sean Taylor in 2007, the Redskins have distinctly relied on Landry to play both safety positions. Shuffling the likes of Reed Doughty, Chris Horton and Kareem Moore at the free safety position in previous seasons has meant that Landry must often lend a hand in covering deep routes, taking away from his strengths. The addition of OJ Atogwe solidifies the Redskins deep pass coverage, allowing Landry to hover in the box and create havoc, something he partly accomplished last season. In just nine games Landry amassed 85 tackles and delivered several vicious hits. There is a big chance you will see this guy in the pro bowl if he stays healthy.
Lose Most Of These Games & You Will Pick Top Five In The Draft
October 2, @St. Louis
October 23, @Carolina
October 30, @Buffalo (Toronto)
November 6, San Francisco
November 13, @Miami
December 24, Minnesota
The four game stretch between Carolina and Miami has to be one of the easiest in the NFL. The Redskins arguably have a superior quarterback in each of those games. The Panthers and 49ers both have new coaches, while the Dolphins and Bills could already be out of the running with how tough their schedules are. The Rams have given the Redskins fits in recent years, including the turnover filled debacle from last year. And then of course sticking it to Donovan McNabb at home should be an extra incentive when the Vikings come into town.
Win A Few Of These Games & You Will Make The Playoffs
September 26, @Dallas
October 16, Philadelphia
November 27, @Seattle
December 4, New York Jets
December 11, New England
Spoiling the Cowboys home opener could not only propel Washington, but might also sink Dallas in the NFC East. Seattle is one of the toughest road wins in football. The Jets and Patriots in back-to-back weeks as about as brutal as it gets, both the Redskins get both of them at Fed Ex Field. This schedule is as convenient is it gets in the NFL.
The Redskins season all boils down to the system of Shanahan. There were plenty of veteran quarterbacks to choose from during the brief 2011 offseason, but Kyle and Mike have remained confident that their play calling can mask the blatant predicament at quarterback. The system that McNabb was running early last season was working before he started freelancing after feuding with the coaches. It is just hard to believe that this system can overcome the lack of star power on the Redskins roster.
Final prediction: 7-9