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Roster Roundouts: A Washington Redskins Season Preview

Previous Roster Roundouts: Bills, Rams, Bengals, Chiefs, Saints, Jaguars, Packers, Raiders, Vikings, Browns, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Colts, Lions, Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles, Titans, 49ers, Panthers, Giants, Texans, Falcons, Jets, Ravens, Broncos

Camps around the NFL have broken, and so roster roundouts is going to move into full-on regular season focus.  Major unresolved camp battles will be examined, but since almost all of the remaining teams are among the contenders, it’s time to turn one eye to the prize at the end of the long road.

flickr.com/LeeDiehr

flickr.com/LeeDiehr

The relatively low expectations around the 2009 Washington Redskins are a result of their own actions.  In the NFL, perception often equals reality.  While there are 31 teams putting on a happy face about all of their issues, selling optimism to their fan base in order to ensure ticket sales, the Redskins are doing their own thing, letting everyone who will listen to them know that they don’t know if they have the right pieces on offenses, and that while they don’t deserve to be called a top defense yet, there’s no problem that Snyder-bucks can’t fix.

It’s a fascinating technique.  The Redskins, thanks to their own efforts, are universally viewed as a non-contender by most observers, with a few people seeing them for what they really are, such as ESPN’s John Clayton.  The sheep mentality is strong in this league, but it’s not all that hard to fathom the Redskins as a completely forgettable 8-8 team with sky high expectations and a megalomaniac owner and powerless V.P. of Player Personnel.  As the narrative goes, the firing squad will hit head coach Jim Zorn, quarterback Jason Campbell, and cornerback Carlos Rogers, not to mention holdovers from the Gibbs era such as Phillip Daniels, Antwaan Randle El, Andre Carter, and defensive coordinator Greg Blache.  Let the destruction commence.

Destruction of this Redskins team is far from certain.  Rather, self-destruction appears to be the only means to the end that destroys a team still very much built on Joe Gibbs’ principles.  The Redskins were mostly unquestioned winners of this years’ NFC East “arms race”.  While such terms as “off-season champs” and “March super bowl winners” have been used in a derogatory way to describe this team’s shortsighted tendencies, few seem to see a difference between Albert Haynesworth and Adam Archuleta in terms of relative value.

All one had to observe was the way that Haynesworth’s perceptive value tanked after he signed with the Redskins.  Here was a guy, universally considered a top three defender in the NFL with Tennessee, but simply by changing his digs and signing with Washington, Haynesworth is now a massive contract, a guy who doesn’t belong the top 25 players in the league, an injury-prone player.  These people will not likely be standing in line to taunt the offensive guards and centers that Haynesworth embarrasses this year; heaven forbid someone actually stand behind their words.

The Redskins have a few fundamental issues that are not related to their player acquisition methods that need to be fixed.  For the Gibbs years, management stood out of the way while the Redskins rebuilt towards respectability, earning 10 wins in 2005 and 9 more in 2007, and made the playoffs both years.  Then Gibbs retired, and the team hired Jim Zorn to take over the offense, and install the west coast.  After about a month-long search, the Redskins couldn’t find a better man for the job, so they promoted Zorn and stayed mostly out of his way.

flickr.com/LeeDiehr

flickr.com/LeeDiehr

The team was rewarded for it’s inactivity by a quick start, exploding to 4-1 and a share of the division lead before quickly establishing themselves as a mid-tier team, slugging it to a 6-3 record at their bye week.  Needing reinforcements in the defensive secondary, the team signed maligned cornerback DeAngelo Hall to bolster them for a playoff run.  But two divisional losses in the next three weeks crippled the Redskins, and sent them spiraling into the month of December at a very mediocre, but salvagable, 7-5.

However, the Redskins would not be salvaging anything.  It’s powerful zone running game was already distant memory, the pass defense was leaking and wouldn’t hold throughout the season, and all it had left was an inconsistent passing game.  The Ravens swooped in for the kill shot, and when Chris Samuels tore his triceps on a block of Terrell Suggs, that was it.  Try as the Redskins might, they ended up losing to Cincinnati and San Francisco in their final two road games of the season, and were torched by the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Shaun Hill.

As much as the offense needed help, the Redskins could only address so many holes in one season, you know, being a team that decided to trade for Jason Taylor first and ask questions about his viability in their defensive scheme later.  After releasing Taylor and vets Shawn Springs and Marcus Washington, they re-signed Hall, and added Haynesworth and drafted all-world DE Brian Orakpo, and picked up a nice developmental DL prospect in the supplemental draft: DE Jeremy Jarmon.  The rebuilding of the defensive unit appears complete.

So the Redskins enter 2009 with offensive questions.  The team feels that the re-signing of Derrick Dockery should help, and the early returns in the preseason have been fantastic.  But no one cares in the least about the development of line, except in the sense that it may make or break QB Jason Campbell.

You may have heard: the Redskins aren’t enamored with Jason Campbell.  That’s not a complete crime.  On a level, it suggests inadequacy of the teams’ self-judgmental techniques, but reasonable people can disagree on the quality of a developing player.  But reasonable people don’t try to replace their unproven developmental prospect with a limited track record of success with another teams’ much pricier prospect with a limited track record of success.  And yet, the Redskins were perhaps minutes away from trading most of their future for disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler.

Then again, the Redskins haven’t established much of a track record of being reasonable.

After Washington decided the price on Cutler was too high (“were not in the business of trading first round picks,” said Dan Snyder, who has traded the team’s first round draft pick no less than three times in his ten year run as team owner), they decided to turn their attention to USC QB Mark Sanchez, who would have likely cost them multiple first round picks to trade up and get at the top of the draft.  The Redskins never made a formal offer for a pick that would have secured Sanchez, and drafted Orakpo at No. 13, but the Redskins showed the world that they have little idea how to market and value their own players relative to the shiny objects that everyone else has.

The Redskins could have handled the situation intelligently with a little history lesson.  In the 2007 offseason, a playoff bound franchise became quietly disenchanted with it’s franchise quarterback.  No one caught wind of this: the Jacksonville Jaguars never tried to make a blockbuster trade with the Bills for JP Losman, nor did they threaten to trade back up into the first round for a shot at Kevin Kolb, Brady Quinn, or John Beck.  They actually drafted S Reggie Nelson just one pick before the Cleveland Browns traded up for Quinn.  But in a coaches decision of epic proportions, Jack Del Rio decided to release Byron Leftwich, and make David Garrard his starter.  Garrard has been excellent over the last two seasons, but Leftwich is just now getting back on his feet.  That’s not fair to the incumbent, but life is not fair.  The point is that the Jaguars did something controversial and handled it properly.

The Redskins made a mockery out of the process.  They didn’t develop a viable second option, they just up and got pissed off with their current situation and tried to act like a quarterback upgrade would fix all ills.  Throughout, management has maintained a series of public backhanded complements to their current passer.  This, and all the while, they have not left the final decisions up to their coach, nor have they given him a viable second option to develop.

That situation is water under the bridge now: Campbell actually survived where Leftwich failed, he’s still a quarterback on a super bowl contender in the NFL.  He doesn’t have to worry about a quick hook, he just has to win games at the beginning of the season, in the middle of the season, and at the end of the season.  And behind an improved offensive line, a rejuvenated running game, and a well-oiled version of the west coast offense, only the lack of a viable downfield threat could de-rail the Redskins offense this year.

There’s a worry that if things do go wrong, they’ll go sour fast, and that management will be more worried about saving face than correcting the issues.  It’s a legitimate concern.  The Redskins are a dysfunctional organization that doesn’t follow a consistent standard or process, and always acts in it’s short term interest.  Given the firepower on offense and defense, their short term interests appear to be throwing their feeble support behind Zorn and Campbell and riding a powerful defense to represent the NFC in the super bowl.  The Redskins’ overall score of 14 QDS ties them for the best figure in all of the NFC, although their score of 5 depth puts them in the middle of the pack there (which is actually an improvement in the team philosophy thanks to the Gibbs years).  Clearly, they do have the horses to compete, and their schedule is the softest it’s been in years.

The wins figure to come cascading down for the Redskins, and the limit is the Lombardi Trophy.  If the success dries up too soon though, there’s not enough goodwill remaining in the bank to save the Redskins’ brass from themselves.

Redskins Headquarters, Ashburn, VA

There’s about three or four camp battles that are legitimately up in the air, although if Chase Daniel has another great week of practice, he could steal the third quarterback spot from Colt Brennan.  Team hopefuls include:

– QB Chase Daniel, whose dynamic performance against the Steelers second teamers has earned him a shot at Colt Brennan’s stranglehold on the third quarterback job.

-RB Dominique Dorsey, a kick return specialist from the CFL who offers a dimension not currently offered by the Redskins: A punt returner who runs forward.

-WR Marko Mitchell, the team’s seventh round draft pick who has been absolutely electric in camp and the preseason games.  He’s become the favorite for the 5th WR spot, but he’s not likely to stop there.

-TE Robbie Agnone, whose massive frame and relative athleticism would make him a fantastic option on the goal line and a vast offensive improvement over Todd Yoder, if they could just find him a niche on special teams.

-C/G Edwin Williams, the consensus best of the remaining Centers who were undrafted, the Redskins have slid him over to left guard in an attempt to find him a spot where he can stick.  It’s not looking good right now.

– LBs Cody Glenn and Robert Henson, who are competing against one another as well as holdover Alfred Fincher for the last LB spot.  Henson did not appear in the second preseason game, and he wasn’t too happy with Greg Blache, according to Twitter.

-S Lendy Holmes, whose intelligent and football instincts have made him a really dynamic player in the Redskins’ secondary.

Surprise Cuts?

  • QB Todd Collins
  • G Randy Thomas
  • DE/DT Lorenzo Alexander
  • LB Robert Thomas
  • CB Justin Tryon
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