Many Redskins fans, myself included, have been calling for Daniel Snyder to improve the team through the draft.
We have grown tired of the multitude of free agent busts which consume their salary cap, and poor trades which result in the depletion of quality draft picks.
The Redskins need to acquire and develop young players, not sign aging players who have had great careers but are on the downside of their career.
The first reaction to signing Albert Haynesworth is “oh no, here we go again.”
Before letting our emotions overwhelm us with anger and disgust, let’s take a look at the overall situation.
Let’s start on defense.
Haynesworth is a big, physical presence who is not only adept at stuffing the run, but can generate pressure up the middle to collapse the pocket against opposing quarterbacks.
When the quarterback cannot step up in the pocket, it allows a speed rushing defensive end like Andre Carter get more pressure from the outside.
Haynesworth also requires constant double teams, which will help free up linebackers to stop the run, as well as open up lanes for the blitz.
Perhaps what I like most is that Haynesworth is only 27 years old. He is in the prime of his career, and can anchor the defensive line for years to come.
His presence should help the development of Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery, two young defensive tackles who have shown a great deal of potential.
As much as I have always liked Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs, it was a wise decision to let them go.
They are both highly competitive, and have had great careers. Unfortunately, injuries and age have led to a decline in production. Jason Taylor was also a good subtraction.
The re-signing of DeAngelo Hall is a smart move. Along with Carlos Rogers, they can be a formidable cornerback tandem for years to come. Hall is 25-years-old, and Rogers is 27.
Given the fact that the Redskins may actually begin to pressure the quarterback on a regular basis, their production should get even better.
Along with the Redskins other young, talented, and improving players such as LaRon Landry, Rocky McIntosh, Chris Horton, H.B. Blades, and Reed Doughty, this foundation could help elevate a very good defense into an elite unit.
I believe the presence of London Fletcher will provide leadership to these young players and help them mature. His intense style of play excites his teammates to play hard, and I believe he can elicit motivation from Albert Haynesworth.
Fletcher has led the Redskins in tackles since he joined the team in 2007. At 34 years of age, he still can be a force at middle linebacker as he helps tutor the young talent around him.
As we move to the offensive side of the ball, there are many more question marks.
The most underrated move in free agency so far this year was the signing of left guard Derrick Dockery. The Redskins drafted him in 2003, and he quickly became an important piece to the stellar offensive line.
In 2007, The Buffalo Bills signed Dockery in free agency, offering him a contract that (at the time) made him the highest-paid guard in The NFL.
Now he is back, and should take over for aging Pete Kendall at left guard. Dockery is 28-years-old, and is a vital addition to an offensive line which desperately needs an infusion of youth.
He joins five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, and reliable center Casey Rabach. Both will turn 32-years-old in 2009, leaving them with a couple strong years remaining.
If right tackle Jon Jansen can finally manage to stay healthy for a full season, this offensive line can protect Jason Campbell and open running lanes for Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts.
For any chance at long term success, however, The Redskins must address this offensive line in the 2009 NFL Draft.
As for Jason Campbell, I look forward to seeing what he can do in his second year in Coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast Offense.
Campbell has had to learn eight offensive playbooks in nine years, dating back to his college days at Auburn.
The only system he had for two consecutive years was Al Saunders’ playbook in 2006 and 2007.
This hardly counts as continuity since this playbook is one of the largest in the NFL, at over 600 pages in length.
As a matter of fact, When Saunders was in Kansas City, it took three years for the Chiefs offense to become the powerhouse that we all remember.
Despite all the criticisms about Campbell, I believe he will take a major step forward in 2009. Although he has yet to put up eye popping statistics, he has improved steadily for each of the three years he has played.
His quarterback rating has gone up steadily from 76.5 to 84.3 and his completion percentage has increased from 53.1 to 62.3.
An important sign of whether a young quarterback is developing nicely is how he learns to eliminate mistakes.
Campbell threw 17 interceptions in 20 games in 2006-2007. In 2008 (16 games,) he cut the interception total to just eight.
In 2007, Campbell fumbled 13 times, losing eight of them. In 2008, he reduced the fumbles to seven, and lost only one.
Given all the different offenses Campbell has had to learn, it is actually rather impressive that he managed to look decent. Many young quarterbacks take years to develop, even when playing in the same system.
It will help tremendously if Devin Thomas can show the abilities necessary to win the starting wide receiver position opposite Santana Moss. He saw limited action in 2008, but he has the size and speed to be a great wide receiver if he can mature into The NFL.
If Thomas can win the No. 2 role, then I believe Randle-El can play the role that suits him better, as a slot receiver/special teams/gadget player.
This is a role he thrived in while playing for the Steelers, and he will be better off returning to that role in Washington.
In conclusion, I feel very good about the Redskins defense being a fierce unit in 2009, and for years to come.
On offense, my optimism is heavily dependent on the offensive line staying healthy.
The collapse in 2008, after starting the season 6-2, was almost entirely due to losing three starting lineman, and then a couple backups.
It is extremely difficult to overcome a multitude of injuries to starting offensive lineman, and few teams in the league have the depth to overcome it.
If given the pass protection, Jason Campbell will prove that he belongs in the NFL as a starting quarterback. I am confident that his positive work ethic, intelligence, and competitive nature will lead him to continued improvement.
He will look like a capable and confident quarterback in year two of Zorn’s offense.
If any of the young wide receivers blossom into starting caliber players, this will further help Campbell’s development. I admit, this is a big question mark, but Thomas does have the skills. Malcolm Kelly was injured all of 2008, so he will essentially be a rookie again.
If the team can stay healthy, they have the talent to win football games. The Redskins should compete for the NFC East title in 2009.