The main complaint about the Washington Redskins draft that is making the rounds is that they didn’t “address” the defensive line. It’s a complaint heard almost every year as the Redskins do generally ignore the D-line during the annual selection meeting.
Of course, Rob Jackson of Kansas State, the defensive end that the Redskins took in the seventh round in the last dozen picks might take umbrage to such remarks, but nobody is expecting big things out of him, probably not even Mr. and Mrs. Jackson.
Not since 1997, when they tabbed Kennard Lang in the first round, have the Skins used their initial pick for a defensive lineman. Since then the first line of defense has received very limited draft-day attention in the form of late-round draft picks like Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston.
A funny thing has happened during the time that the Redskins have been neglecting the defensive line on the last weekend in April. The defense has been pretty good. Not necessarily great, not dominant, but good enough to win with.
How good? Starting with the 2000 season, the Redskins defense has been ranked 7, 13, 21, 24, 5, 9, 27, and 11 in points allowed. In those eight years they’ve been in the top 10 three times and in the top half of the league a total of five times.
Whatever method the Redskins are using to acquire defensive players has been working. To worry about where they have acquired their personnel is to be concerned with process over results.
The Redskins have not been mediocre this decade because of their defense. They have struggled because they haven’t been able to score points. In that same eight-year span, from 2000-2007 their NFL rankings in point scored have been 24, 28, 25, 22, 31, 13, 20, and 18. They haven’t been in the top 10 once and they were in the bottom half of the league in seven of the eight years.
That sounds to me like a team that needs to score more points. They have a ways to go here to move from being awful to merely run of the mill.
We keep on hearing that the Redskins should go after beefing up the defensive line because that’s how the Giants won the Super Bowl. It’s a copycat league and trying to overwhelm the other team with a fierce pass rush is a solid strategy in any era.
But the Giants weren’t the team that was on the verge of being anointed the greatest of all time. That team was the Patriots, the team that added three veteran wide receivers in the offseason and became the greatest scoring machine in league history.
Now, which team do you want to copy? The one that lost six games, had to become road warriors, and needed a miracle throw and catch to become the champs? Or the one that cruised through its schedule undefeated, stayed at home for the playoffs and was a mis-timed jump by Assante Samuel on what would have been a game-ending interception away from the best season ever?
It’s funny how just a couple of plays can turn the perception of how you should build your team. If the ball bounces out of David Tyree’s grasp when he hits the ground, you should build your team to score points and obliterate the opposition. He catches it and suddenly every team needs to find an Osi and a Strahan in the middle rounds.
Devin Thomas, Fred Davis, and Malcolm Kelly will not turn Jason Campbell into Tom Brady. The Redskins will not win their first 18 games in 2008 or set the all time scoring record. But in time, perhaps as early as midseason, Thomas, Davis, and Kelly will be helping the Redskins score more points. By then Campbell should find the trio providing much more appealing targets than were Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell, and Todd Yoder.
If that happens, the biggest problem the team has had over the past eight years will be on its way to being solved.
They do not have to become a Pats-like dynamo to win more games. If they consistently can even score as many points as the average team in the league, that will be a major improvement.
Those who would rather fret over the process rather than look at the result will continue to do so. Too bad, they could be missing out on a lot of fun.