Washington Redskins 2009: Expect Playoffs
Let's get in the DeLorean, pretend we are Marty McFly and "Doc" Brown, and take a trip back to week nine of the NFL's 2008 regular season.
After the Redskins jumped out to 6-0 lead with two field goals within the game's first three minutes, they allowed 23 unanswered points and quarterback Jason Campbell threw his first interception of the year.
From that point it was all down hill. The offense only produced 94 points the rest of the season while the defense allowed 128 points, and the 'Skins finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Back to the future we go with a look forward to the 2009 season. The Redskins decided that it was time to get back to spending money in free agency.
Albert Haynesworth was the big off season acquisition, signing him to a seven-year, $100 million deal. He will be expected to anchor the defensive line and bring pressure up the middle.
The 'Skins also locked up cornerback DeAngelo Hall, brought back former Redskins guard Derrick Dockery, and signed 6'6", 370-pound offensive tackle Mike Williams to provide some depth to an o-line that has had injury troubles the past few seasons.
In this year's draft, the Redskins selected Brian Orakpo out of the University of Texas to help a defensive line that had trouble finding the quarterback last year, recording only 24 sacks.
Right now, the 'Skins are working Orakpo in at strongside linebacker for first and second downs, and putting him on the line for third down.
So, they made improvements to both sides of the ball. Now all they have to do is win games with one of the easier schedules in the league outside their division.
It should not be too hard.
The NFC East has to play the AFC West and the NFC South this year. This includes the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs, which combined for a record of 63-65 last season.
By the math, the Redskins should be 7-3 outside the division. That means all they have to do is split their division games and Washington should finish with a 10-6 record and make the playoffs.
On the other hand, when it comes to playing against the AFC, winning is easier said than done for the Redskins. The last time they battled against the AFC West was in 2005.
They lost all four games.
The 'Skins are a pathetic 7-17 against the AFC since 2003. The last time they had a winning record was in 2002 when they played the AFC South and went 3-1.
Not to mention last year when they went 1-3 and had losses to the Bengals, Rams, and 49ers. If the Redskins found a way to win those games, they would have been sitting at 11-5 and playing in the postseason.
So the Redskins have no excuses when it comes to their schedule this season. In fact, they will have no excuses at all. The coaching staff is in its second year and will have experience under its belt.
Head coach Jim Zorn should be ready to step up his game and be able to loosen his play-calling. He kept a tight rope on Campbell last year, and that could have had a direct effect on his numbers.
Campbell threw only 13 touchdowns, six picks, and had a low 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which ranked 24th in the league.
Zorn needs to be more of a risk taker, especially in the passing game, in order for the Redskins to succeed. This also means the offensive line needs to step up and protect Campbell, who was sacked 38 times last season.
If they can't protect Campbell then they will have a hard time finding the end zone, just like in 2008 when they ranked 28th overall with only 27 touchdowns.
The 'Skins are looking for Dockery and Williams to be effective on the o-line when someone goes down with injury. It always happens to the Redskins and this o-line is not getting any younger.
Campbell is slowly improving each year, but in order for the Redskin fans to stay on his side, he will need a breakout season. The same thing goes for Zorn, who needs to be able to perform, or else another coach and another system will be in place in 2010.
Simply put, the Redskins have a great chance at being a solid playoff team. They have proved they can win in the division and have a soft schedule outside of the NFC East. They also added big time players and bolstered both the defensive and offensive lines.
Zorn and his staff have the experience and know how to win early in the season, and Campbell should improve after two full seasons under the same system.
The Redskins should finish no worse than 10-6 and be playing in January.
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