Can the Redskins Make a Serious Push at the NFC East Title?

Josh McCainSenior Writer IAugust 31, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 25: Quarterback John Beck #12 of the Washington Redskins talks with the offense before the start of a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Had I asked this question out loud a month ago people would have laughed at me, heck I'm sure some people will still laugh at me for thinking it today.

Even though the preseason doesn't mean anything, I have seen one thing from the Redskins that I haven't seen from this franchise in a long time and that's heart.

Gone are many of the "me" guys brought in by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato from the past.

Now, general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan have brought in a group of guys who are going to go out there and play their guts out for 60 minutes.

The 2011 Washington Redskins don't look as sexy on paper with names like Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth, and Clinton Portis not there.

In fact with a very pedestrian quarterback core made up of John Beck and Rex Grossman, many NFL "experts" are picking the Redskins to finish worse than last season.

Here is a reality check for them.

The quarterback position, though important, is not the be all end all in the NFL. Yes this is a passing league but a brutal defense and a relentless running attack can get a team very far.

And you know what, the Redskins seem to have just that.


Even with the solid play by Rex and Beck in the preseason I'd still classify them both as question marks.  Even with the stellar play of Tim Hightower and Roy Helu I'm not ready to proclaim them as rushing champs either.

The defense also looks much improved from last season and in the first three preseason games everyone seems to be well versed in their roles.

With improvements on both sides of the ball the "experts" still focus on the quarterback and that is their sole reason for bashing the Redskins.

However, let's take a look at the three division rivals and see how the Redskins stack up.

We'll start with the Redskins week one opponent, the New York Giants.

Last season the Giants were very pedestrian—they were okay.  Outside of their usual pass rush there wasn't anything special about them and that's why they missed the playoffs.

Fast forward to this year and you have a Giants team that didn't really do anything to get better and has suffered injury upon injury in the preseason.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the New York Jets during their pre season game on August 29, 2011 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Normally the Giants own the Redskins, but this season it might be reversed. I think the Skins are going to come out of the gates in week one with all their pistons firing and are going to shock the heck out of the Giants and the rest of the NFL world.


In fact if things don't change health wise for the G-Men the Redskins could do something they don't normally do and that's beat the Giants in New York (well New Jersey actually).

At the start of the preseason I thought the Giants could be the NFC sleeper this year, but losing Steve Smith to the Eagles and having their defense drop like flies they very well could be cellar dwellers in the NFC East this season.

Now lets take a look at the hated Dallas Cowboys.  The Cowboys finished right there with the Redskins at 6-10 and like the Giants they didn't do anything to improve their weaknesses.

Jerry Jones put all of his eggs in the Nnamdi basket, to the point that he didn't really go out and sign anyone who could help his team.

I'm sure the Cowboy apologists at ESPN will say that Romo was hurt last season which is why the team did so bad, but news flash, the Cowboys sucked before Romo was put on IR.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys speaks with his teammates durning the game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Cowboys didn't really address their offensive line, their running game (which is very suspect), and worst of all they did nothing to help their pathetic secondary.

The Cowboys better pray their offense resembles the 2000 St. Louis Rams because teams are going to put a lot of points up on the Cowboys especially teams that can throw the ball a lot (Philly twice, Jets, Pats, Arizona, and maybe even the Redskins).


The Cowboys aren't some magical play-off team that ESPN and Jerry Jones would have you believe. By their week five bye this team could easily be 1-3 or 2-2.

Now we move on to the "Dream Team" as dubbed by the probably third string quarterback Vince Young.

Granted the Eagles are the front runner in the NFC East this season.  Unlike the Cowboys and Giants the Eagles did a lot to make themselves better, especially in the secondary.

However, they ignored their linebackers who are pretty undersized.  Where the Eagles are probably going to shut down most passing games they might have trouble against division opponents who have punishing runners like the Redskins and Giants do.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 25:  Travis Ivey #94 of the Cleveland Browns in action against Vince Young #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles during their pre season game on August 25, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McI
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Also, an area of concern for the Eagles is their offensive line. They have not looked sharp this preseason.  It doesn't matter how vanilla a playbook for the preseason is, blocking is blocking and no matter what the call they should be able to do that in the preseason.

Vick has only played a 16 game season once in his career and if he constantly takes a beating like he did against the Steelers and Browns this won't be his second season playing in all 16 games.

And unfortunately for Vick, the Eagles have nine games on the schedule against blitz happy teams (Redskins twice, Giants twice, Cowboys twice, Rams, Bears, and Jets). So if the offensive line doesn't flip the switch in week one against the Rams then this dream season could end in a nightmare.


So how do the 2011 Redskins stack up against their division?  Honestly I think they are at least on par if not better than the Giants and Cowboys.

Where the G-Men and Boys didn't do much to get better, the Redskins addressed many of their holes and got a lot younger and hungrier.  Sure the Redskins have some question marks but their play and consistency in the preseason has been sharper than these two.

As far as the Eagles are concerned they still have the inside track on the division title, but like I said with their suspect offensive line and a linebacking core that got bullied by the Steelers, the Eagles aren't looking like the sure-fire Super Bowl Champs everyone was making them out to be.

If their line doesn't get better the Eagles' season could come down to Vince Young or Mike Kafka and that might not be pretty.

I think all and all the Eagles will still probably win the division, but I think the Skins could very well come in second with a chance at a wild card.

Dallas will probably be better than last season, but I really doubt they'll be much better, and as for the Giants I think they're going to plummet and once again the New York media will start their annual Tom Coughlin hot seat debate.