When Dan Snyder hired Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, no one expected that they could do the impossible and make a playoff run in their first season leading this organization. Even the most hardened Skins fans (you know, the ones that expect a Super Bowl appearance every year) have been forced into a reality check for the upcoming season.
The Redskins have a lot of personnel problems, and no one can make them a competitor for the playoffs or an NFC East title this year, not even Shanahan. Most Skins fans are happy with Shanahan and Allen leading the team, but they are much happier about the end of the "Snyderrato" nightmare.
As a Skins fan myself, I would have traded a couple of four-win seasons for Cerrato to receive his walking papers. To have that, and Snyder turning over the important decisions for the team to the professionals, makes me feel much better going into this season, even though I know it's going to be ugly.
In the last decade, the team has had poor drafts, a disastrous history in free agency, and an apparent lack of basic football knowledge (games are won in the trenches, not on fantasy football rosters). The Redskins reached a low point last year, as the offensive line looked more like a bad joke from a Cowboys fan than a group put together by leadership that actually wanted the Skins to be a winner.
However, there may be some good news. To paraphrase a guy who was in D.C. for a few years, it's "morning again" for the Redskins faithful. After the dreadful recent history of the team, Skins fans have something to look forward to in the next couple of years. Let's look at three major areas of concern for the offense and how they can be fixed to make the team competitive in 2011 and a contender in 2012.
Even though the most important position on the offensive side of the ball is quarterback, the quality of the offensive line is the key to any offense. The quarterback can't make reads if he is on his back, and the running back can't consistently gain four+ yards if he is dodging tackles in the backfield.
Shanahan likes guys with speed and power for his zone blocking schemes. Do any of the Skins on the roster fit the bill?
Here's the situation for the projected starting linemen on the roster:
LT: Chris Samuels. He has been the rock for the offensive line for years, but it's looking more and more like he is going to retire due to stenosis.
LG: Derrick Dockery. An average to slightly above-average guard in both run and pass blocking.
C: Casey Rabach. Same deal as Dockery; Not someone to rave about but also not one of the major issues.
RG: Randy Thomas. At this point, it's hard to rely on him at all since he tends to get injured when he puts on his pads.
RT: Stephon Heyer. He's just not a quality starting right tackle. He is a solid back-up, but there is a big difference between the two.
This is at least a two-year problem and the hardest fix for the Skins. It's likely that Dockery and Rabach could be part of a quality line, but two for five is pretty bad (just ask Jason Campbell and Clinton Portis). Barring injury, Dockery and Rabach both have a few years left, so let's look at the other positions.
Quality left tackles just don't show up every year in free agency, so it's likely you need to get your long-term solution here in the draft. The same is true at right tackle. The difference is that you can pick up a strong right tackle in the second round, while your guy at the left tackle position usually needs to be a first rounder to consistently supply the quality of play needed from that position.
It looks like it makes sense to fix the right tackle position this year with the second round pick and fill in the gaps at left tackle and right guard for this year. After taking a left tackle with next year's first pick and a guard with next year's second, years of neglect can turn into a regular drafting cycle for the offensive line, where positions are filled based on need for improvement and not a total crisis.
The reason I skipped this year for the left tackle will be more apparent on the next slide. Keep in mind that it took years of neglect for the line to get this bad and it's just not something that can be fixed in a year, even by Mike Shanahan.
Start of 2010
LT: Levi Jones/Same caliber free agent
LG: Dockery stays
C: Rabach stays
RG: Free agency/committee
RT: Second Round Pick from this year
Start of 2011:
LT: 1st round pick in 2011 draft
LG: Dockery (next to be replaced via the draft)
C: Rabach (possibly this year's draft, maybe a 2012 pick)
RG: Second round pick in 2011 draft
RT: Second round pick from 2010 draft
I know, I know: Most of the contributors here (and everywhere else) think the Redskins would be foolish not to take a LT with the top pick this year. I'm also sure someone will call me a "Jason Campbell hater", but I can assure you that it's not personal with Campbell.
As the title of the article suggests, these are long-term fixes to make the Skins a threat to put up some points again. I actually think Campbell is a starter in the league, but here's the deal with Campbell:
1. The Skins organization made it abundantly clear that they do not feel he is the long-term solution as they were once again ready to mortgage the overall quality of team last year to acquire (Gulp!) Jay Cutler and then Mark Sanchez. In fact, the only reason the Skins didn't move up to get Sanchez last year is because they didn't have enough picks to trade up.
2. Campbell does not read defenses well and is average with accuracy. He often takes sacks or throws incompletions because of his inability to read defenses and find the best options available in a given play. His decisions seem slow and too conservative.
3. At times, he looks like his legs are buried in two feet of cement. He is lumbering at best in the pocket, and when he actually does decide to run with the ball his slides look like he's actually trying to blow out every ligament in his legs. It's actually pretty sad to see from someone who has been in the league this long.
4. Look at the starting QBs in the league and ask yourself this question: It's the two-minute drill in the fourth quarter and the Skins are down by six points. How many other starting QBs would you rather have trying to win you this game?
My answer is 15-20. If it's the same for you, that means you don't have confidence that your quarterback can win you games in crunch time. In fact, can anyone think of five games in five years that Campbell has actually won in the fourth quarter? You need a QB that can do that at least a couple of times a year, and Campbell has proven that he is just not that guy.
5. If the Redskins offer him a tender of around $3 million this year, a team would have to give up a first and a third rounder to sign him away.
There are two issues I would bring up about this: For starters, try to think of a team that will give up a first and a third for him. I can't think of any (and the Raiders are still in the league!). The second thing to point out here is a question: would you give up a first and third from the Skins to get Campbell if he was a free agent from another team in the same scenario this year? My answer is no.
Since Campbell is not the answer behind the center, it's time to look for one. If you're going to draft a QB, it would be nice to have a scenario where you have a top-five pick and most of the teams ahead of you (if not all of them) would not be looking to take a QB that year.
It would also be nice to find someone with exceptional ability to read defenses and make deadly accurate passes. Take another look at the picture at the top of this slide and you have your answer.
I expect the Skins to take Sam Bradford with the No. 4 pick this year. Campbell will be running for his life again as he is used as the transitional QB before Bradford. If Campbell gets knocked loopy this year, which is very plausible based on the situation with the offensive line, we will see whether or not Colt Brennan has a chance to be a player in this league.
Solution: Draft Sam Bradford, tender Campbell for 1-2 years.
Clinton Portis has been a great back during his tenure for the Skins (although I still lament the trade that brought him here...we've been looking for a shut-down corner since giving up Champ Bailey). Having said that, he has obviously lost a step.
What makes it worse is that he is a cancer in the locker room and has made an art form out of attacking his teammates and coaches. Unfortunately, he has a huge cap number so we can't...
What's that? Thank you, Mr. Uncapped Year! He may not have any trade value, but the Skins can cut him this year without the fear of crippling the team with a salary cap hit.
So that leaves the Skins with Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, and some rookies from last year off of the scrap heap. OK, so you've got your back-ups for another year.
But where's your starter? This is where the Shanahan hire is so important. Shanahan may need to pick a RB in the fourth round (or lower) that can start this year. It's possible that there is a low-cost RB that will be available before the draft in April, so the Skins may look there to fill the need.
If they do, I think they still draft a RB in the later rounds because there is not much depth at RB in D.C. Since the Skins aren't worrying about the playoffs this year, I would bet that there will be a quality RB available at a reasonable cost over the next year or two.
I don't want to say RBs are a dime a dozen, but the truth is that RB is one of the easiest positions to fill when you have a full two years to do it. In fact, the reason I'm not listing names for options here is because they are practically limitless.
Solution: Shanahan saves the day with a quality RB in the bottom half of the draft to get us through at least this year
Let me know what you think! I am looking forward to your comments.