For Redskin players, staff, and fans alike, the 2008 season can be summed up in one question: "What went wrong?"
At the halfway point of the season the Washington Redskins could do no wrong. After beating two of their strongest rivals, and coming off a winning streak, the unexpected Redskins found themselves 6-2 and right behind the Giants for the NFC East title.
The rest of the season dwindled away and left all who belonged to the Burgundy and Gold helpless and confused. "What went wrong?" is what we all asked, but things are not as bad for the Redskins as people might think.
In fact, the Washington Redskins are in better shape than people might realize.
One element that was seemingly forgotten was the Redskins defense, which was ranked third in the league in overall yards allowed. Regardless of what people might say, the defense is getting younger, and with a talented secondary of Landry, Horton, Rogers, and the newly acquired DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins are in good shape at defense for years to come.
Where the defense sadly lacks is its line—all of it. The Redskins need to transform their line and get something that at least resembles a pass rush, and their defense will be a juggernaut for years.
Many people seem to think that the entire Washington offense decided to stop performing halfway through the season. However, the explanation for the offensive drop-off can be told in two words: "Offensive Line!"
As Clinton Portis took the beatings, so did the offensive line, and it came to the point where the run game became useless. The run game, however, was the secret to the Redskins' early success. When they could run the ball effectively, it opened Jim Zorn to bring in the pass. Jason Campbell also had time to pass, something that ceased to exist in the season's second half.
When the Redskins could not run, they were forced to pass, and Jason Campbell had barely two seconds a down to do it.
With the run game beat up and the passing game's passer on the ground, all fingers point to the offensive line. Not Jason Campbell, not Clinton Portis (although he did have a laundry list of injuries), not even the rookie wide receivers. The secret to success is a young, durable, operating offensive line—which the Washington Redskins lacked as of week six.
Things seemed so bad in Washington that fans were beginning to wonder about Zorn's job security. As Vinny Cerrato answered earlier in December, this is ridiculous! How could anyone even consider firing a coach who is implementing a West Coast Offense, and at one point was 6-2, after one season? The players respect him, he has shown that he can win, and it's only been one year.
As with many positions in football, the rookie year is not always the best. Just as Devin Thomas showed signs of promise, so did Jim Zorn. However, next year Jim Zorn needs to win consistently, and finishing another season 8-8 will not be acceptable, especially when your boss is Dan Snyder.
Things may have seemed dim, but Jim Zorn and the Redskins showed many, many signs of promise. This next year will be extremely important for the organization. It will show if Campbell is really capable of performing, or if Colt Brennan is the answer. It will show if the rookie wide receivers, Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, will live up to expectations.
Finally, and most importantly, it will show the effectiveness of what Dan Snyder and Cerrato do in the offseason.
The line is of the upmost importance, both on the offensive and defensive side. So to all in Redskins nation I must say what we have all heard before: "Just wait until next year!"