31 Days, 31 Teams: Washington Redskins
After back-to-back seasons in the basement of the NFC East the Washington Redskins made wholesale changes in the offseason and it started right at the top. Jim Zorn was fired at the end of the '09 season and replaced by former Denver coach Mike Shanahan. With two Super Bowl titles on his résumé Shanahan brings a much needed change of pace to Zorn's seemingly stuck-in-the-mud demeanor.
With Shanahan in place the Redskins searched for a quarterback to lead the team in the right direction. Jason Campbell was sent packing and was replaced by former Redskin tormentor Donovan McNabb. Campbell simply wasn't living up to the level the Redskins were hoping for after trading up into the first round of the 2005 draft to get him. Under Campbell the Redskins ended last season ranked 26th in scoring and it was clear a change was needed. To complement McNabb the Redskins stayed true to their philosophy of targeting aging veterans. Nine year veteran running back Clinton Portis will be joined by Larry Johnson and Willie Parker while 31-year-old Santana Moss will be joined by 38-year-old Joey Galloway at wide receiver. While the veterans take over the skills positions the success of the offensive line will hinge largely on rookie Trent Williams. Washington had one of the league's least productive rushing units and gave up 46 sacks last season. The Redskins will need Williams to be an impact player upfront.
Already Washington's defense has created a stir but not the way the Redskins would have preferred. 2009 pickup Albert Haynesworth has turned out to be a bigger headache than anticipated and after more than a week of training camp Haynesworth still has not passed his conditioning test. Haynesworth was to be an upgrade to Washington's defensive line but injuries and ineffectiveness limited Haynesworth's play. Despite that the Redskins finished 10th in total defense but 18th in scoring. In Haynesworth's absence the linebackers took over. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher had a Pro Bowl year while rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo made an immediate impact with 11 sacks. Orakpo was also rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl. The Redskins will switch to the 3-4 defense this year and it's clear Washington has the LBs to make the switch a successful one.
Washington's offense completely dropped off in the second half of 2009 but with McNabb at the helm and a deeper backfield the Redskins should see an improvement over last year's 4-12 record. You have to wonder if the Redskins would be better off defensively without Haynesworth and the distractions he is bringing to the team. The Shanahan Effect should help prop up both sides but in the ultra-competitive NFC East a trip to the playoffs may be out of reach this year.