There is a lot of optimism surrounding the 2010 Washington Redskins. After a dismal 4-12 campaign in 2009, there are plenty of reasons to have high hopes this year. New coaches, new general manager, new quarterback, and plenty of new players have once again raised Redskins fans' expectations.
Regardless of the differences between the 2009 team and the current one, there are several reasons why this year's Redskins might have trouble making the playoffs. If they struggle with one or more of these issues, they could fall well short of the postseason and a winning record in 2010.
In 2009, the Redskins didn't have any good options at wide receiver outside of Santana Moss. Former second round picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have been slow to develop, although for the last two years part of the blame may have been on their quarterback, Jason Campbell and coach, Jim Zorn.
Either Thomas or Kelly needs to take a big step up this year in order for the Redskins to compete. Opposing defenses easily smothered Moss by double teaming him since there wasn't another receiver to take pressure off him.
If the Redskins don't have a legitimate second threat at receiver this year, it could be a poor season for the passing game. Is Shanahan considering a trade for Vincent Jackson to fill the void or does he have confidence in the group he has now?
The Redskins are old at running back and Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker are no longer the rushing threats they once were. Portis will likely be the starter over Johnson, given his familiarity with Shanahan's offensive scheme.
If Portis is out of gas in his "old" 29-year-old legs or if he succumbs to injuries this year, the Redskins might have some difficulty running the ball. Johnson might be fine in spot duty, but it is doubtful that he could carry the entire load by himself.
The Redskins offense is undergoing a major transition, switching from the questionable schemes of Jim Zorn to the Shana-plan. Shanahan's offense is a proven winning system, but it will take time for players to learn the plays and be able to smoothly operate on an every down basis.
The success of the season will hinge on how long it takes for McNabb and his crew to catch on to Shanahan's (and son's) ideas. If it takes too long to start clicking, the Redskins could quickly be in a hole they can't recover from.
The move to a 3-4 defense from a 4-3 is no minor transition. Besides the obvious need for different personnel, the players will experience a learning curve similar to what the Redskins offense will go through.
Some experts believe Brian Orakpo will be a perfect fit for the new 3-4. Others believe London Fletcher, despite his immense talent, is a poor fit. There are numerous personnel questions across the board for this defense and it may take another year before they have the proper type of players to make it work.
If it takes too long for players to understand the new concepts of the 3-4 or if the Redskins don't have the right players for it, Washington's defense might be much worse than last year.
Despite all of the questions surrounding the Redskins as a team this year, it would be a mistake to overlook their competition. The NFC East is always a brutal division to play in and this year is no exception.
Dallas is already being hyped as a Super Bowl favorite. Philadelphia is so confident in their chances that they shipped McNabb to a division rival. The Giants think they have made the necessary improvements on defense to be able to once again compete for the division title.
In the NFC East, the questionable aspects of the Redskins will be answered very quickly. Every weak point on the team will be exploited by their rivals. It will be known very early in the season which of these aspects will contribute to their success and which ones will cause their failure.