The 2009 season is just months away, yet several questions still remain for the Washington Redskins. With yet another offseason of big name free agent signings (Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall to be exact) which has brought on yet again high expectations, the Redskins; again, find themselves as most people's choice to finish last in the NFC East.
With the signings of Haynesworth—seven years and $100 million—and DeAngelo Hall—six years and $54 million—the Redskins feel they have solidified two of the biggest things they are going to need to compete in the NFC East; a pass rushing defensive lineman and a shut down cornerback.
They also brought back left guard Derrick Dockery, who spent the last two seasons with the Buffalo Bills after spending the first four years of his career with the Redskins, to help solidify their aging, and at times shaky offensive line.
Yet, it still remains to be seen if these signings along with Coach Jim Zorn in his second season as head coach, will be enough to get the Redskins over the hump in the ultra-competative NFC East.
Haynesworth should bolster the Redskins defensive line and free up fellow defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and right defensive end Andre Carter to get to the quarterback, while Hall should help solidify a secondary that has young stars Carlos Rogers and Laron Landry and former first-round pick Fred Smoot.
Both Haynesworth and Hall, however, have both clashed with coaches and teammates in the past, most notably Haynesworth for stepping on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode during a game in 2006. If both can live up to the contracts they have been given, then the Redskins have the potential to steal a few games in the division.
Another concern with both, however, is that neither has played at a high level for long stretches of time. Haynesworth, who has been in the league since 2002, has missed 22 games over his seven years in the league and has only played a full 16 game season once, which was his rookie year in 2002.
Hall, on the other hand, clashed with two different coaching staffs while with the Atlanta Falcons, and was traded by the Falcons and released by the Oakland Raiders because of his inability to get along with his coaches and even some teammates.
Though a model citizen after coming to Washington for the team's final seven games last season, many believe Hall's good behavior was the product of wanting a long-term contract, and now that he has that contract no longer has the motivation to be a team player.
How Jason Campbell progresses will be another key factor if the Redskins hope to make a run at the playoffs in 2009. Campbell has been up and down since becoming the Redskins full-time starter in November of 2006, with much of that believed to be a factor of constant changes to the offensive system the Redskins employ.
That excuse is gone now. Zorn is back for his second season as both head coach and offensive coordinator, so Campbell should so signs of progression.
One of the knocks on Campbell has been has pension for staring down his first read and holding on to the football too long. With Zorn back for his second season, those errors should start to disappear as Campbell becomes more comfortable in the offense.
The last, and most glaring, obstacle the Redskins are going to have to overcome to have any kind of success in 2009 is their offensive line. Four of the potential five starters are over the age of 30, with three of the four having shown signs of slowing down.
Randy Thomas, who started all 16 games in 2008, is 33 and has suffered two major injuries in the last four seasons. Zorn, however, feels Thomas has improved his conditioning this off season.
Jansen, who, like Thomas, is 33 and has suffered two major injuries since 2004, started 11 games last year after being replaced by Stephan Heyer at the start of the season. Jansen, who is still a superb run blocker, seems to struggle in pass protection at this stage in his career, which is one reason Zorn benched him in favor of Heyer.
Samuels is the young buck of the trio, but is 31 and coming off a biceps tear in a game late last season against the Baltimore Ravens. Samuels is said to be fully recovered, but has been getting more help in pass protection as he has gotten older and struggles mightily now with speed rushers.