Washington Redskins Looking Good, But Questions Still Remain

Philip SpeakeCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2010

LANDOVER - SEPTEMBER 19:  Trent Williams #71 of the Washington Redskins is consoled by head coach Mike Shanahan during the game against the Houston Texans at FedExField on September 19, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Texans defeated the Redskins in overtime 30-27. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Through five games the Washington Redskins 2010 season has been nerve wracking, exciting, extremely frustrating, and full of optimism. Standing with a 3-2 record and tied for first place in the NFC East, the Redskins are 2-0 within the division, the same division in which they did not win a single game a season ago.  

Donovan McNabb is showing Redskins fans how a truly good quarterback plays the game—especially the generation under 25 years of age, who may or may not remember Mark Rypien's MVP season in 1991.

Since Rypien, the Redskins have not had a consistent quarterback, who was capable of leading a playoff team outside of Brad Johnson. Washington also made the playoffs with Mark Brunell and Todd Collins under center, but neither year they figured as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

The defense this season is also extremely different than in years past. A time when the defense consistently carried the Redskins to mediocre seasons, instead of extremely poor seasons.  Gregg Williams and Greg Blache had the Redskins around the top 10 in the NFL in yards per game between from 2004 to 2009.

However, they lacked the ability to create turnovers and game changing plays. In a league where every game is so close and the talent level is so high, game changing plays are what are required, especially when you lack an offensive line and a high powered offense.

This year Jim Haslett is bringing blitzes from the secondary, getting London Fletcher to the quarterback and is finally creating some turnovers. While they are ranked last in yards per game, a definite concern going forward.

They are also ranked ninth in points allowed at 18.4 point per game.  When it comes to turnover differential the Redskins are plus four, and they would be plus five if you don’t count the Hail Mary interception thrown at the end of regulation last week.  

The five game stretch also includes two game changing plays by the defense. Deangelo Halls strip and score in Week 1 against the  Dallas Cowboys and Laron Landry's interception in overtime last week against the Green Bay Packers. Skins fan also must not forget Carlos Rogers dropping three game clinching interceptions, that guy could be so good if he could catch.  

So this year’s defense is giving up a ton of yards but holding teams to field goals in the red zone, and making plays when the team needs them.  Some don’t like it quite yet, but a 3-2 record for a team with only four victories last season is something that any Redskins fan will take.

With NcNabb and a new identity on defense, the offense has shown the ability to be explosive at times, another aspect of a winning team the Redskins have lacked in recent seasons. Santana Moss is currently fourth in the NFC in receiving yards, and McNabb is sixth in the NFC in passing yards. They both lack high touchdown totals, so the offense like the defense is still a bit perplexing.

Redzone struggles are a concern moving forward, especially with no big possession receiver on the team.

Optimism still reigns these days in DC, with new players like Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong and Trent Williams establishing themselves as valuable contributors.  Returning veterans Lorenzo Alexander, Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, Chris Cooley and Moss are playing at very high levels and

Laron Landry is becoming a fearsome safety, one that will be earning himself a Pro Bowl invitation if he keeps it up.

Trying to compare Landry's play this season to another safety of the past or present is difficult. The easy comparison is Sean Taylor, because he came before Landry and was the hardest hitter I have ever seen. Their styles are so different though and there will never be another Sean Taylor (see this video).

He is not the same player at Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed; he isn’t even within shouting distance of those two.  Landry has his own style in this defense and already he has seen receivers pull up early in fear of getting hit (see DeSean Jackson, 3rd and 10, third to last play of the Eagles game).  

So overall the franchise is in a far much better place than it was a year ago, and with a meaningful November and December expectedly on the horizon, this years version of the Redskins have a lot of things to be excited about. McNabb, Mike Shanahan, Orakpo, Landry and Fletcher are in it to win it. That’s a quarterback, head coach and three defensive leaders ready to lead the team, pretty good if you ask me.

Games against the Colts and Lions in the coming weeks will say a lot about how far this team has come.  The Redskins have continually played to the level of their competition the past few years, and it is a trend that has continued this year. With four of the first five games being decided on the last play of the game, it has been a heartache waiting to happen. 

The only game that did not go down to the wire was against the St. Louis Rams, a team the Redskins supposedly should have beaten easily.  That was until former Georgetown University Head Basketball Coach, clarified things on ESPN 980 in Washington DC, reminding Redskins fans that, “we are the Rams.” Sad but true if you think about it.

All in all be happy Redskins fans you are in first place right now, your offense has some hope and your defense is making plays. There is a real quarterback and head coach in place, and Dallas is on the verge of collapsing. Now just hope the lack of depth and youth don’t expose themselves as the winter bears down upon us.