Seven days—that’s all we have left until real football is played.
For the next week, football fans will be dreaming about watching their teams hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
For Redskins fans, this is something that they are the professionals at.
Since Dan Snyder became the owner of the franchise, ‘Skins fans have been trained to think that the Super Bowl is won in July during free agency.
If Washington goes 4-0 in the preseason, its fans declare it will “definitely” win the division. If the Redskins go 0-4, those same fans remind you that the last time they won the Super Bowl, they went 1-3.
Basically, the preseason is a sign that the Redskins will be the best team in the NFL regardless of what happens. You have to give them credit; there is no way you can accuse them of not being loyal.
Jabs at the Redskins fanbase aside (I’m actually a fan of them myself, just the rare non-biased type), that isn’t what this article is about. Instead, let’s preview your 2011 Washington Redskins.
How many games will the Redskins win this season?
The real explanation of the other wins goes as follows:
Week 1 against Dallas—no one deserved to win that game. Possibly the worst display of football I’ve seen since refereeing flag football when I was 14. The Cowboys (12 penalties for 81 yards) were just sloppier than the ‘Skins.
Week 4 at Philadelphia—Vick got hurt. You saw what he did the next time he played Washington. Don’t be naïve and think it wouldn’t have happened in this game too had he not gotten injured.
Week 5 against Green Bay—The Packers had nine penalties for 63 yards. They GAVE that game to the Redskins and it still went into overtime.
OK, now let’s finally get to this season...
It is amazing how much better this year’s team looks
After 2010, I told myself that there were probably 10 players on the entire roster that were worthy of keeping. The team needed a complete turnover. It happened—and it was done the right way.
For the first time in the Snyder era, the Redskins used the draft to build youth, didn’t trade away high draft picks for over-the-hill veterans, and didn’t overpay for big-name free agents.
Everyone knows that coach Mike Shanahan has the golden touch when it comes to running backs, but he has found two that are going to be fun to work with.
Roy Helu, the fourth-round pick from Nebraska, has impressed a lot of people this preseason, and in front of him is Tim Hightower, a guy the Redskins got for almost nothing from the Arizona Cardinals. Hightower has looked even better than Helu, averaging 6.8 yards per carry in the three games.
The receivers are good—not great, but serviceable. Re-signing Santana Moss was a great move, as he will be the leader, but there are several guys that can contribute. Jabar Gaffney is coming off the best season of his career in Denver and if Malcolm Kelly can manage to stay healthy, the organization still thinks he can do great things.
Also, don’t sleep on Leonard Hankerson, the 'Skins third-round pick out of Miami. He is a big target that can shed arm tackles and is quick enough to blow by a lot of corners in the league.
How those guys do is going to be determined by the question everyone has been asking though: who is going to be quarterback?
Right now, it should be John Beck.
Shanahan said he would give Beck every chance to earn the starting job, and all Beck has done is complete 74 percent of his passes. Rex Grossman has played very well too, but I chalk it up to a hot streak.
Most people see Grossman as terrible every time he lined up under center, but that isn’t the case. He is just feast or famine. Look at his 2006 season. He had five games where he had a rating under 37—with weeks where it was 10.2, 1.3 and even a 0—but also had seven where it was over 100.
That’s why Grossman’s success isn’t shocking. He hasn’t suddenly understood how to be a great quarterback; he has just had a few good weeks. His past tells us he will eventually lay duds as much as he plays well and Beck would be better on a more consistent basis.
On defense, the Redskins have made significant improvements in getting the right personnel for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3-4 system.
Albert Haynesworth has been shipped out of town, and Haslett found the nose tackle he’s been looking for in former Giant Barry Cofield.
Cofield will be the x-factor on defense this season, as the success of every 3-4 system relies on having a nose tackle that can eat up blockers.
Behind that defensive line is a linebacker corps including Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo. Opposite Orakpo is the Redskins first-round pick, Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan will be the benefactor of defenses cuing in on Orakpo and could pile up the sacks if he can successfully make the switch from being a defensive end in a 4-3 to the OLB in the 3-4.
Finally, the secondary made some moves as well, upgrading at free safety with OJ Atogwe, and signing Josh Wilson from the Ravens. Wilson will replace Carlos Rodgers, who will be remembered by fans for nothing more than dropping would-be interceptions.
Overall, the Redskins are a significantly improved unit that could be contenders in a year or two if it continues to rebuild the way that it did.
There are still major issues on the offensive line that could significantly diminish the success of Shanahan’s running game, especially if Trent Williams can’t stay healthy at left tackle.
Also, the Redskins nickel package could be an issue to start the season because Phillip Buchanon will be forced to miss the first four games for testing positive for a banned substance.
Whoever is named quarterback is almost certainly not a permanent solution at the spot and can’t be expected to win games; we might as well give them the over-used “game manager” title now.
The Redskins are a 7-9 team right now. It’s only one win better than last season, but like I said, they should have only won three last season. For now, just be happy that it won’t be like nails on a chalkboard to watch your team play on Sundays.
Follow me on Twitter @NickCaffCT