The Washington Redskins were never counted among the elite prior to the start of the 2011 season.
With an offseason chalked full of high-priced assets being cut, head coach Mike Shanahan made it clear he would reconstruct the team in a new image. Hope teased fans as Washington came out of the gate with a 3-1 record and a highly motivated defense that provided something to cheer about.
Even still, ‘Skins fans are hesitant to being burned. In 2009, under head coach Jim Zorn, the team squandered a 6-2 record, only to finish 8-8 and no invitation to the playoffs.
The deficiencies on offense are very apparent for this young team. Because of season-ending injuries to several key starters, the team has found no traction in moving the ball. In the ground game, the loss of RB Tim Hightower was dismissed by some as the high-energy power of Ryan Torain was expected to step up to fill the void. Torain had an explosive showing in his first start against the Rams, producing 135 yards on the ground. In the three games that followed, he has only posted a grand total of 31 yards on 20 carries.
In the air, the Redskins have seen only minimal gains since switching to QB John Beck after Rex Grossman certified the consistency he has shown all throughout his career. Staple WR Santana Moss is sorely missed due to an injury, and TE Chris Cooley is out for the season. With the ground game showing no stability, reliance on pass plays have been the dearth of the team.
Not all hope is lost, however, as the team has been forced to give reps to players that would not have otherwise seen play. WR Leonard Hankerson may prove to be a valuable asset in the future, and RB Roy Helu is sure to break out in the seasons to come.
One question that remains for this franchise is what they will do at the QB position. The team hasn’t had a solid quality QB since the 1980s, and its reluctance to focus on the position has left much to be desired. The team does not need the next Tom Brady to be successful. An average guy who does well is all that’s required. The young defense has the potential to give this team the means to win—if only points can be put on the board.
Matt James is a freelance sports reporter covering the Washington Redskins. Follow his insights on Twitter.