This is my first article here, so let me have your comments/critiques, I want to know what you think.
The 2008 NFL season brings about much change to the Washington Redskins, new head coach(Jim Zorn, first year as head man at any level), new Defensive Coordinator(Greg Blache, 2nd stint as DC, 1st was with the Chicago Bears), and a new offensive system(including new offensive coaching staff). While much has changed, much has also stayed the same. The Redskins will bring back all 22 projected starters from a year ago. This should be a good thing. Injuries could play a major role in the upcoming season, and WILL play a role in April's NFL draft. Carlos Rogers(last years opening day starter at RCB) and Rocky McIntosh(last years opening day starter at the weakside LB spot) on the defensive side of the ball, and Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen(last years opening day starters at right guard and right tackle respectively) will influence the draft choices new GM Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn make on April 26th and 27th.
In this first addition(for me) I will break down the Redskins offensive roster from my perspective. Agree or disagree as you will, I want to hear it(read it actually).
- Left tackle: Chris Samuels has yet another pro bowl year in 2007, and there is no indication he'll not be up for another in 2008. Depth is the only issue here, Stephon Heyer played well for an undrafted rookie at the right tackle position, and will likely be listed on the depth chart as the number 2 at both OT positions, adding depth(and a future starter) is key for this draft
- Left Guard: Pete Kendall did an admirable job stepping in at the position just 2 weeks before the start of the regular season. At 34 years old, the Redskins need to be realistic, his truly productive years are likely behind him. He has never been considered a "top level" guard, but "solid" is a good description, and still is. Depth and a future starter are keys at this position.
- Center: Casey Rabach has been solid and reliable since being signed in 2005. At 30 years old, he is not "over the hill", but experienced. The center position could be "upgraded", but is not a priority. Depth, as at most all positions, is needed.
- Right Guard: Jason Fabini filled in for Randy Thomas when Thomas went out with injury in week 2, and early results were not good. Fabini is a "life long" right tackle, and was thrust into the guard position without the opportunity work into it. He improved throughout the season, and finally seemed to reach some comfort level in the last 6 or so games. He has re-signed with the team and solidifies the backup spot at guard. Randy Thomas is considered to be a "top level" guard when healthy, but has missed most of 2 of the last 3 seasons to injury. At 32, many believe he may be reaching the end of his career. I disagree. His injuries have not been what I would consider "age related", and having taken 2 years off over the last 3, he should be good to go.
- Right Tackle: Todd Wade filled in for Jon Jansen after Jansen was injured in the season opener. While Wade has been a serviceable backup, he leaves much to be desired as a run blocker, and the Redskins running game suffered as the season progressed. The inability for the offense to "run right" became a MAJOR weakness, and played a significant role in the losses during the mid-point of the season. Stephon Heyer took over for Wade in week 14, and played well, this was also when QB Jason Campbell was injured and Todd Collins took over, both WRs(Randle El and Moss) seemed to suddenly get healthy. Heyer is likely the future starter at RT, but for now is the backup at both tackle positions.
- Tight End: This is a rather difficult position to analyze for me. Cooley is a pro-bowl player, but is he a TE? Apparently he is, and his blocking at the point of attack has improved every year since being drafted prior to the 2004 season. Backup has been an issue at the TE position for years, and still is.
Overall the offensive line is solid, but aging. An infusion of youth is absolutely required. Considering the depth in this draft, there is little excuse for the Redskins to not come away from the draft with 2 or 3 linemen.
- Jason Campbell is the unquestioned starter, and that's a good thing. He has shown flashes of good things to come, but obviously has growing to do. While he is learning a new offense for 6th time in the past 8 years, it is also an offense he ran during Auburn's run to the National Championship his senior year in school. There is great debate about how well his skills fit in the so called "West Coast Offense", only time will tell. Todd Collins returns as the solid backup, a guy the team knows is very capable of leading the team if necessary. Sam Hollenbach is currently the number 3 QB, but the team will look to bring in some competition for the spot.
Overall the QB position is good, the team will likely look for a youngster to be the number 3, but I would be surprised if the Redskins did anything of consequence here.
- The WR position is thin, and small. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El are the returning starters, and could well thrive in Jim Zorn's approach to the passing game. Both need to take a big step forward however, becoming the reliable players, down in and down out, they are being paid to be. The buzz is that a wide out with size is a top priority for Jim Zorn and new OC, Sherman Smith. Anthony Mix is getting a solid chance to prove he can play in this league, and no one at Redskin Park argues with his level of effort. We'll see if his effort can translate onto the field. James Thrash returns as well, and provides veteran leadership and a solid special teams player, but should not be counted on as a starter. Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell(signed by St. Louis Rams) are not in the team’s plans at this point. There are a few youngsters on the roster heading into the draft that the team is hoping to take a solid look at and hope to find a diamond in the rough. The Redskins are likely to draft a WR, the only question is, in what round.
Overall the WR position is NOT TERRIBLE, but could certainly improve. The improvement could come from players currently on the roster, but likely will see additions through the draft.
- Clinton Portis put most of the critics to bed in the second half of the 2007 season and showed he can still be "the" guy in any offense. He is perhaps the most physical RB in the league without the ball in his hands, and is still quite young(though his number of carries he has had in his young career is rather large, over 1700 carries in 6 years, not including pass receptions). He likely has plenty left, and should thrive in Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast Offense. Backup Ladell Betts is solid and has proven he can carry the load if needed. Rock Cartwright returns after testing his value on the open market, and will continue to be the Special Teams leader, and 3rd RB. The RB position is well set.
- Full back Mike Sellers is an absolute beast, but this new offense could struggle to keep him involved. He is also aging at 33 years old, so this is a position of need. Nehemiah Broughton is coming back from injury(after being released last year with an injury settlement) and has impressed the coaches before. A backup full back is likely on the Redskins' wish list.
Overall the RB position is in good shape, with depth at full back being the only real concern. Expect Jim Zorn to lean on the running game in the early stages of the upcoming season so don't be surprised if Zorn puts some emphasis on the full back position in the draft.
Offensively the Washington Redskins are set at the starting positions. Youth is badly needed along the offensive line, and the linemen could be well represented in the upcoming draft. The WR position should be solid overall, but will likely see attempts to upgrade through the draft. This unit is likely to play well, but there be some "growing pains" felt early in the year.
There it is, no predictions, just my opinions on what the Washington Redskins currently have and perhaps what they may look to do in the near future.