The first minicamp of the Washington Redskins' 2009 season failed to ease the concerns that many fans have had since the end of the 2008 campaign.
The Redskins are a better team than they were last year. No one of major importance was lost, and there are a few additions that should pay big dividends.
The problem is that most of the valuable additions are on defense.
Demetric Evans had a very good year last year, alternating between DT and DE, but he was lost to free agency.
Marcus Washington has been a valuable linebacker for the 'Skins for several years. But injuries caught up with him, and he is no longer worth the price he was being paid. So he was let go.
Those losses are more than made up for just by the signing of DT Albert Haynesworth, the biggest free agent available. In addition, DE/LB Brian Orakpo, the Redskins' first draft pick of 2009, appears to be making quick strides toward becoming a tremendous asset.
The trouble is that the Redskins were the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL last year. And there is considerable room for debate as to whether improvement on the defense is going to result in more wins.
Many believe that the Redskins' chief concern in the offseason should have been on offense.
The offensive line has been injured a lot in the last few years, and they are aging. The line started off well enough last year, but wore down significantly as the year went on.
The decision was made not to re-sign Pete Kendall. That was likely due to age. But Kendall was one of the more consistent performers on the O-line.
Fortunately, the 'Skins moved quickly to replace him, signing Derrick Dockery in his place.
Dockery began his career with the Redskins, and he was reluctantly let go as a free agent to Buffalo. (Buffalo had been willing to pay too much money for Dockery, and the 'Skins wisely did not match the inflated salary offer at that time.)
The only opportunity to seriously upgrade the offensive line occurred in the first round of the draft, and the 'Skins quite consciously chose not to address that concern. They opted for Orakpo instead.
That was a good decision for the defense. It was not a good decision for the offense.
It was decisions like this that Clinton Portis had in mind when he told the media that he wasn't the GM.
The Redskins also still sorely need legitimate targets at wide receiver.
Santana Moss has been the only legitimate threat for the Redskins the past several seasons. And he is not one of the very, very few receivers who can consistently beat double-teams.
Another good receiver is required to take the pressure off of Moss. And the Redskins did nothing to fix the problem.
The argument the Redskins seem to be making is that they have legitimate young prospects on offense that they hope will step up this year.
They have two developing young linemen in Stephon Heyer and Chad Reinhardt.
They used their first two draft picks last year for wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly.
Forgive us if we're a little skeptical about this plan.
Heyer was an undrafted player out of college who stepped up admirably when injuries forced him into the lineup. But his weaknesses resulted in his demotion last season.
Reinhardt was drafted, but was so far from meeting expectations that he hasn't been given chances to play, even when the Redskins have been depleted by injuries.
Many teams were afraid to draft Thomas and Kelly because of injury issues and lack of consistent experience in college. What have the Redskins gotten from them? Very little, due to injuries and inexperience.
The Redskins are trying to fill some of these holes by signing free agents that other teams did not want, like offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges and wide receiver Trent Shelton. D.J. Hackett is another wide receiver in that category that they are attempting to sign.
It is also possible that the undrafted free agent linemen that the Redskins signed after the draft may step up and be just what they need. But fans should not count on it.
The most room for optimism on the offensive side of the ball may be that it's the second year in Jim Zorn's system, and Jason Campbell and his receivers may connect better than they did last year.
And we can all pray that aging linemen like Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas, and Chris Samuels can stay healthy and not wear down through this season.
Here's to hoping.
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