The Washington Redskins were a team that faded down the stretch of the 2008 season. While the impatience of some fans increases year by year, others reason with the expectations of a squad led by an up and coming quarterback and a young head coach.
The 2008 draft saw first year head coach Jim Zorn, litter his roster with skill guys for his offense. Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly were all excellent pieces to add to the puzzle of the west coast offense. While expectations should always be tempered for rookies, as the Redskins approach season two of the Jim Zorn project, all expectations have been raised by quantum leaps.
Zorn knows of the expectations, the team knows and owner Daniel Snyder not only knows, he cherishes and often times creates the expectations with his free spending in the offseason. Snyder kicked off his busiest time of the year by acquiring the premier defensive player on the free agent market when he gave Albert Haynesworth over $100 million to make D.C. his new residence.
For his next move, he wisely retained cornerback DeAngelo Hall, his 2008 midseason acquisition that saved a fading secondary with some big plays. However, Snyder’s next few moves might have ruined the team’s chances of resigning its signal caller at the end of the next season as he tried two attempts to replace current quarterback Jason Campbell.
The first came in the Jay Cutler sweepstakes, trying to pry Cutler away from the Denver Broncos at whatever cost. There were rumors of a proposed deal that would’ve sent Campbell and tight end Chris Cooley to Colorado in exchange for Cutler but things never materialized.
The next attempt came in the Mark Sanchez draft sweepstakes, as teams were lining up, jostling position for a chance to draft the former USC shot caller. While Zorn failed at both attempts, the efforts to replace Campbell will probably weigh heavily as the fifth year man goes into the final year of his contract.
With limited picks in the draft, the team acquired arguably the draft’s best pass rusher in Brian Orakpo, a 6-3, 263 pound ball of explosion that took home every major award for a defensive lineman in his last year at Texas. The team also brought in local talent Kevin Barnes, the Maryland Terrapins cover corner who received the highest score on the Wonderlic test and may have been off the board sooner than his third round selection if not for a broken shoulder blade that cost him the later half of the year.
The acquirements of Orakpo and Haynesworth should immediately improve a faulty pass rush and give the team two instant starters. The presence of Haynesworth and Orakpo should help free up pass rush specialist Andre Carter who hasn’t been allowed to showcase his talents because of the heavy attention he receives from opposing offenses.
The Skins defense has nowhere to go but up, considering they finished fourth last year in total defense. With a secondary full of playmakers and a star studded defensive line, even the patchwork linebacking corps shouldn’t be able to hamper what has become the strength of the team over the last few years.
In a division full of teams that gets heavy pressure on the passer, the Redskins could've and perhaps should've drafted offensive linemen Michael Oher or Alex Mack to begin refortifying their aging offensive line, but the talent is still there to get the team by for another season or two. Snyder did bring back Derrick Dockery, the 6-6, 330 pound mammoth left guard who makes his return to the capital after two seaons with the Buffalo Bills. Oher to the line, excuse me, Other then the line, the offense didn’t need any major additions, just more experience for Campbell and his playmates at the receiver spots.
Clinton Portis proved last year that he is still one of the top backs in football and Cooley remains as dangerous as ever. This will be the first time in Campbell’s career in which he returns the following year without the task of learning a different playbook and major increases in production are expected from sophomores Kelly, Davis and Thomas as the team desperately needs one if not all of them to add spice to a receiving corps short on talent outside of Cooley and the diminutive but at times dominating Santana Moss.
Campbell should have success with another year under his belt in Zorn’s west coast offense and the defense should at the least, remain a top 5-10 unit. The 2009 season will largely rest on the production of the 2008 draft class. If they can increase their production and the team avoids another late season crash, the Redskins will likely make the playoffs after an 8-8 season last year.