Infamous Five, No. 4 – Washington Redskins
2009 record: 4-12
Another day, another ill-advised Albert Haynesworth comment. So has gone much of the offseason of the Washington Redskins. But, for perhaps the first time in our ongoing 'Infamous Five' series, there are a lot of positives for this NFL franchise, Haynesworth notwithstanding.
Some lucky people saw this kind of crushing disappointment coming a while ago, but unfortunately we don't work in the Skins' front office. The maroon-and-gold days of Haynesworth look to be coming to a swift and acrimonious end, the big man walking away with league-wide infamy as well as well-stocked pockets.
But, enough is enough.
Much as we at PaP have deliberately ignored the (inhales deeply) BRETT FAVRE UNRETIREMENT NON-SHOCK, so too must we move on from the (second) most reported story of the NFL offseason. Besides, I'm almost sure we've written about Favre retiring before (note amusing belief that he was actually retiring – what fools we were to think such thoughts)....
So, what does 2010 hold for the Washington Redskins apart from incessant questioning regarding an unhappy cohort?
Well, quite a bit of hope, really.
After finishing a disastrous 4-12 in 2009, the Jim Zorn era (if you can call less than two years an 'era') was brought to a final halt. Dan Snyder, perhaps the most meddlesome NFL owner outside of Al Davis, went straight after a big name and recruited two-time-Super-Bowl-winner Mike Shanahan to DC.
Snyder being Snyder, he was not done with the big names; a remarkably reasonable (even, dare we say it, bargainous) trade for unwanted Eagles QB Donovan McNabb went down. The names brought in thereafter – Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, 'Sexy' Rexy Grossman – are still household ones, although the shine on those three careers appears to be dulling: While they'd make Washington a shoe-in for the 2006 NFC East, it's uncertain what they'll do for the 2010 incarnation of the 'Skins.
With the addition of McNabb (and subsequent trade of Jason Campbell), the franchise finally has a proven QB under center. Whilst 'Super 5' has never won the whole shebang, he carried the Eagles (often on his own) to five NFC title games and only lost the Super Bowl to the dynasty of the 2000s, Bill Belichick's New England Patriots.
Already well-accustomed to working with a subpar supporting cast – Todd Pinkston, Freddie Mitchell, we're looking at you – McNabb should sure up the 'Skins underperforming receiving corps. Dan Snyder has to hope at least one of 2008 second-rounders Malcolm Kelly (perennially injured) and Devin Thomas (perennially lazy) becomes good with McNabb at the controls.
One thing McNabb will be able to count on is a solid backfield. The aging triumvirate of Johnson, 'not-so-fast' Willie Parker and Clinton Portis have a lot of tread on the tires, but between the three of them should muster something resembling a rushing attack. Also exciting for the 'Skins O is the return to health of Pro Bowl TE and all-round hero Chris Cooley, who along with legendary oversleeper Fred Davis should offer a potent pass-catching duo.
The offensive line should also be better. Creaky tackles Chris Samuels and Stephon Hayer replaced by 4th overall pick Trent Williams and ex-Saint Jamaal Brown. Despite the now-customary lack of a receiver who's not Santana Moss, the Skins look far healthier on offense than they did a year ago.
Defensively, it's a trickier proposition.
LaRon Landry has moved to his natural position of strong safety and should get exposed less in coverage. Brian Orakpo is a terrifying force at outside linebacker. London Fletcher should, as usual, be one of the NFL's best and most underrated linebackers (seriously, he and Keith Bulluck should get jackets made).
It's on the corners that we find the biggest problem. In a division with a wide receiver depth chart including Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith (the other one), Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams and Jeremy Maclin (not to mention TEs like Brent Celek and Jason Witten), you need rock-solid coverage from your corners, something the Redskins haven't had consistently since they traded Champ Bailey to the Broncos in 2004. DeAngelo Hall can bring big plays, but still gets blown past too often. Carlos Rogers has just six interceptions in five NFL seasons. In the NFC East, pass D is key, and it's a serious weakness for the Redskins.
The Redskins, in sum, would look good for a winning season were it not for two factors:
One, the aforementioned secondary.
Two, the NFC East.
It's a brutal division, which consistently ranks as one of the league's toughest: Factor in 2010 games against the AFC South and NFC North to this year's schedule, and .500 seems far more plausible for DC's burgundy brigade.
In 2011, with a healthy McNabb and a year in the Shanahan system, Washington could be poised for a playoff run.
In 2010 the wildcard is a possibility, but not one to entertain with conviction.
Finally, nay necessarily, Albert Haynesworth is unhappy with the Washington Redskins over allegations about his health, desire, and fitness. There, we said it.
2010 prediction: 8-8