The Washington Redskins season ended on New Year's Day, with a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. On to the NFL draft, right? Not so fast. After a 5-11 season in the nation's capital, fans and media alike are forming a hostile crowd around Mike Shanahan's office, with torches and pitch forks in hand.
In two years of work, Shanahan has compiled an 11-21 record overall and actually had a better record in 2010 (6-10). This is an obvious sign of regression and he should be fired, right? Again, not so fast.
Mike Shanahan has avoided the use of the word “rebuilding,” but whether he wants to use that word or not, that is exactly what he and Bruce Allen are doing in D.C. The team he took over was about as functional as the New York Jets and I've seen bird baths deeper than that talent pool. At the start of the season, only 13 players from the 2010 team remained, six of whom were starters. You can bet your bottom dollar that number will continue to dwindle.
Fans and media complained about his draft selections, even though he said he would concentrate on rebuilding the defense first. That he did. They went from 31st in total defense in 2010, to 13th in total defense in 2011. Big Bert is finally gone. He can enjoy his Big Macs and couch crumbs in Tampa. In his absence, the line was bolstered with free agents, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, who dominated offensive lines and opened up the pass rush for Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.
The Redskins finished the season with 41 sacks, but imagine if Jarvis Jenkins had a chance to play! Jenkins was dominating camp and preseason, before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and damaging his meniscus in his third preseason game. He will be back in 2012, and I have no doubts that he will be another golden draft pick of 2011. Oshiomogho Atogwe and Josh Wilson also turned out to be solid additions to the defense, while DeJon Gomes continued to get better with experience.
Not only did the defense improve, but the Redskins got rid of Mr. “I Don’t Practice,” Clinton Portis, and replaced him with two young bucks, named Roy Helu and Evan Royster—a potentially lethal pairing.
In limited play, Roy Helu managed 1,019 total yards, catching 49 passes for 379 yards. Royster spent most of the year on the practice squad, but made his opportunity count, averaging 5.9 yards per carry over six games. Both are patient runners that explode through holes with power, and at times, surprising elusiveness.
They also showed great hands out of the backfield and the ability to make defenders miss in open space. Consider what Arian Foster and Ben Tate were able to do to opposing teams, with the same scheme. The Redskins may have found their Foster and Tate.
Another rookie, Leonard Hankerson, had trouble getting in the game for most of the season. He had a bad case of the rookie drops, the likes of which I hadn't seen in all his days at The U. Even with all the prolific receivers that have donned a Miami Hurricanes uniform, Hankerson still owns the record for touchdowns in a season, was the third receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season and only the third to have back-to-back 800-yard seasons—the other two were Michael Irvin and Andre Johnson.
I understand the trepidation of Redskins fans, when they see 13 catches for 163 yards on the season. Those are Chad Ochocinco numbers! He only played in four games, but when he started against the Miami Dolphins, he showed exactly what he is capable of. In that game, he racked up eight catches for 106 yards.
Unfortunately, his dominance was short-lived, as a torn labrum in his hip cost him the rest of the game and the season. I implore fans not to be so quick to judge this young receiver. He is not Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas. Hankerson actually wants to learn.
Bottom line, this t-e-a-m is much better and more cohesive, as a group. Quick fixes rarely work. The Dan Snyder experiment is over. Building a dynasty takes talent, character and time. It may not be a Super Bowl team in 2012, but it has the potential to be one in the near future. And quite frankly, with a bolstered offensive line and a real quarterback via free agency or the draft, this will be a very scary team for years to come.
This is the year they concentrate on offense, so keep your head up, Redskins Nation. Expect them to draft or sign a QB, G, RT, CB, and possibly another WR. There is a lot of talent in this draft, and I have no doubt Mike Shanahan will be all over it. In Shanny, I trust—and you should, too.