In the seasons that immediately followed the previous two work stoppages in the NFL history books, the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl both times. I hope you didn’t stop reading at the end of that sentence and empty your bank account on the ‘Skins in Vegas, because the third labor battle will not be as charming for fans of the Hogs.
On the bright side, there’s a lot to be upbeat about in Washington. The team rid themselves of two massive headaches in the condensed offseason, sending washed-up, overpaid quarterback Donovan McNabb to Minnesota and lazy, overpaid defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to New England.
It was the epitome of addition by subtraction, as the locker room is a much healthier, happier place with those two mistakes out of sight and out of mind. The ‘Skins also worked some addition by addition, re-tooling a defense that is on the right track.
But despite being a free agency winner and having a generally positive offseason, Mike Shanahan’s boys still have a long way to go.
2010 in a nutshell: They start strong, but don’t win a game in regulation after Week 7, finishing 6-10 and in last place in the NFC East for the third consecutive season.
Three predictions for 2011:
1. The defense will be much better: The numbers weren’t pretty in 2010. They finished 31st in total defense, 31st against the pass and 26th against the run, but I’d still consider them to be a unit that bent without always breaking. Ultimately, three division winners — Indy, Philly and Seattle — surrendered as many as or more points than the ‘Skins did last season. Consider, too, that it was the defense’s first campaign adjusting to Jim Haslett’s 3-4 formation — something that usually takes a year or two.
2. They’ll make a lot more plays: Again, we’re really focusing on the defense here. In fact, it might be better to consider this prediction 2-A. The team did a great job improving the personnel on that side of the football this offseason. O.J. Atogwe and Josh Wilson are upgrades and should complement DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty and Chris Horton in a deep secondary. Free agent acquisitions Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield will boost the defensive line (watch out for Jarvis Jenkins, too) and rookie Ryan Kerrigan should make the linebacking corps better. If Brian Orakpo can continue to progress into a star, there’ll be a lot of big plays coming from this defense.
3. They’ll have a hard time scoring points: Okay, I got the good news out of the way, now it’s time for the bad news: Rex Grossman is battling John Beck for the starting quarterback job. It’s really disappointing that Shanahan and the front office neglected to address the quarterback situation in the offseason, but now they’re sending those guys out there to work behind a young and mistake-prone offensive line, throw to a batch of unproven receivers and hand off to the likes of Tim Hightower, Ryan Helu and Ryan Torain. From afar, it appears the offense is in complete disarray.
The final word(s): I think they’re on the right track, but there are far too many holes that still have to be filled and the roster is quite young for a team trying to prepare in an abbreviated offseason. Plus, the rest of the division is just too good. They’ll be a 6-10 or 7-9 team once again.