Peruse many of the expert prognostications this preseason and you will find the Washington Redskins enter 2009 as the front runners in the NFC East….that is the front runners to finish last in a very strong division.
This is not a knock on the Redskins, who could just as easily win the division if certain things fall in to place; these aren’t big “ifs” mind you, but important ones nonetheless.
During head coach Jim Zorn’s inaugural season at the helm in 2008, he approached preseason with the same philosophy of his predecessor, Joe Gibbs. That was, get the starters in and out as quickly as possible and start the season healthy.
The strategy worked beautifully for Zorn, as there were no major casualties entering the season, which fueled the Redskins 6-2 start.
I wouldn’t look for a change in Zorn’s approach to preseason in 2009, as the NFL season is a marathon and it is vital to any team’s success to minimize injuries.
In a perfect scenario, that would be the way to proceed. However, the Redskins scenario is far from perfect as they have key personnel questions and position battles looming that need to be addressed in August and early September before they face the Giants in the Meadowlands the first week of the season.
The obvious and most glaring question concerning the Redskins is the quarterback position.
We all know the offseason saga that transpired as the Redskins flirted with the possibility of acquiring Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos (he was ultimately traded to the Chicago Bears) and hinted at moving up in the draft to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.
In an earlier article I stated and still believe that if Mr. Snyder wanted Cutler or Sanchez bad enough he would have made it happen.
If anything, the Redskins used this offseason to serve as a match that they hope lights a fire under their talented but underachieving quarterback in Jason Campbell.
Now don’t get me wrong, under the right circumstances, the Redskins would have made a move to acquire one of those talented quarterbacks. However, they weren’t willing to mortgage the team’s future to do so.
Campbell showed signs early in the 2008 season that he was prepared to take his play to the next level.
The old Campbell resurfaced the second half of the season, as opponents looked to shut down Portis and the ground attack while attempting to force Campbell to throw.
Entering 2009, the Redskins have no choice but to hold their collective breath and hope that Campbell produces during a contract year.
Plan “B” if Campbell should struggle in September is to turn the reigns over to second-year quarterback Colt Brennan.
Brennan, as you may recall, is the gun-slinging record setter out of Hawaii whose stock heading in to the 2008 draft plummeted with a poor performance on national television during the 2008 Sugar Bowl game against Georgia.
Redskins EVP of Football Operations, Vinny Cerrato, gladly scooped up the talented, but mechanically deficient, Brennan in the seventh round.
Brennan can play in this league, but he’s not ready to threaten Campbell’s spot in the preseason. Campbell and the Redskins would need to have a complete collapse for Zorn to throw Brennan to the wolves.
Plan "C" (a.k.a. Plan "V") would be the possibility of bringing in Michael Vick, who is a semi-local product from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Mr. Snyder will do whatever it takes to win, including taking on potential nightmares like Vick and the baggage in signing him would bring to the team.
I'm sure the Vick option has been discussed. Whether it is a viable option for the Redskins will clarify exactly how much confidence the organization has in Campbell.
The real preseason battle as far as quarterbacks are concerned is for the third-string spot.
Can 15-year veteran Todd Collins hold off undrafted rookie free agent Chase Daniel for the clipboard roster spot?
Zorn would probably like to keep Collins as the third quarterback and have Daniel spend a season as a member of the team’s practice squad, improving the one critical aspect of his game, arm strength.
One position battle I plan on closely monitoring this preseason is the duel to handle kicking duties for the Redskins this season.
Fourth-year veteran, Shaun Suisham, has held the job for two and half years. However, last season he missed 10 of 36 attempts for a 72.2 percent success rate, which is unacceptable by NFL standards.
Let’s face it; most of the Redskins games will be hard-fought battles all the way down to the wire.
Last season, 11 of the Redskins 16 games had outcomes decided by eight points or less. Five of those games were decided by three points or less.
Still think the kickers aren't important?
Kickers will determine the outcome of three to four games a year in this parody designed NFL, whether you’re a good team or bad.
To Suisham’s credit, he has a strong leg that is ideal for kicking through the gusty winds that accompany November and December northeastern games.
It is my belief that the Redskins still want Suisham to win the job, but just in case last season wasn’t fluke, veteran David Rayner will be around as the kickoff specialist should Suisham continue to struggle.
They will alternate throughout the preseason, but unless the challenger (Rayner) knocks out the champ, he will not take Suisham’s job.
As camp gets underway next week, look for more of my articles as I evaluate various position battles throughout the 2009 Redskins’ preseason.