A few notes about the Redskins as the season is about to get underway:
DT Albert Haynesworth will help the Skins a lot, but the move was a little risky to put so much money in one position when he has a history of missing a few games each year due to injury. The addition of first round DE/LB Brian Orakpo helps the Skins at a position where they haven’t had a Pro Bowler since Charles Mann in 1991. At a position that is arguably the second most important in football after the QB, the Skins have been pretty bad for most of the last two decades. So the Redskins improved their defensive line a lot but it makes you wonder if they could have spent money on several good players to provide depth at other positions such as the offensive line and running back instead of getting Haynesworth. It reminds me of a couple of years ago when they acquired both Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd at WR, when only one of them was necessary, and they could have gotten someone else at another position.
Speaking of Randle El, he’s been demoted to number three or even number four receiver, with Malcolm Kelly at number two. Kelly seems ready, Randle El isn’t getting any younger, it’s tough when both starting WRs are short, and Randle El has a chance to be used in the Wildcat QB this year. Still, it’s not as if Randle El had a terrible year last season. He had 53 receptions and 4 TDs, so we’ll see if Kelly’s production is any better. What is striking is that Randle El only had one carry last year. For a fast WR, he should be running a lot more reverses. Randle El has 436 career rushing yards for 5.6 yards a carry, yet only had one attempt last year? In fact, Jim Zorn didn’t do a good job last year of using either Santana Moss or Randle El running reverses, and he also missed the boat in not using Randle El as a wildcat QB. The former college QB has thrown 25 passes in the NFL, completing 20, for 281 yards and 4 TDs. They need to use Randle El in the Wildcat. He could have been very dangerous his whole career if teams had used him more. It also makes you wonder how effective former Skins RB Brian Mitchell could have been as a Wildcat QB. (Speaking of Mitchell, we all remember the punt and kickoff return records he set, but did you know that his career rushing average was 5.1 and he had 1967 rushing yards? Now I’m getting back to Skins history again, but what about Kelvin Bryant, known more as a pass-catching RB, who averaged 4.6 yards per rush during his four-year NFL career? He also tore up the USFL for a few years.)
Clinton Portis is ok but he’s getting older and losing speed, and has never been a very good receiver out of the backfield. We (yes, I will sometimes say “we” don’t have much depth at RB. TE Chris Cooley is a bright spot. Safeties and LBs look solid.
Back to money, I think the Skins may have overpaid for CB DeAngelo Hall, who hasn’t lived up to his draft status as a high first round pick, so again, the Skins could have gotten some lesser known players who didn’t have the big names. Reminds me of when the Skins acquired S Adam Archuleta and gave up Ryan Grant a few years back, but at least Hall can play.
Another point – the Skins during the last 15 years have had a lot of bad to mediocre kickers and punters, and in a league that is very evenly matched, special teams counts for a lot. In fact, the Skins have had a lot of 8 or so win seasons in which if they had had one or two more wins they could have made the playoffs. Our kicker and punter are again average. Our kickoff and punt return teams and coverage has been below average for the last 15 years. When was the last time the Skins blocked a punt?
The offensive line has gotten a lot of criticism, but this unit has actually been together for several years, so they should do ok, although they sometimes lose ground to bigger lines. The big problem is the lack of depth, unless there are some diamonds in the rough that we don’t know about.
As for QB, Jason Campbell should have a decent year. He needs to improve his accuracy on the deep pass. In the NFL, first round QBs like Campbell usually get handed jobs without having to earn them, but after just a few seasons, they get thrown to the side if they don’t produce, and the time to produce for Campbell is now. I have a problem with the Skins putting Colt Brennan on IR for the whole season when it appears that his injuries weren’t that severe. If I were him I’d be very upset. He’s already 26, though he’s only in his second season. He should get a chance to not only play but to be the backup QB. Todd Collins has played 16 games in the last 6 years. Don’t tell me he’s that good. He’s a statue. When I run I feel like I’m running in quicksand, and I don’t think Collins is much faster. Now that Brennan is on IR, though, the Skins should pick up Jeff Garcia. He would be a great backup, and realistically, is probably better than Campbell in the short run. I’m not saying he should start, but you make your team a lot better by getting an experienced player who has started for most of the last 12 years in the league and has had success.
I also told someone that in a weird way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dan Snyder almost wants the Skins to have a mediocre season. Since they’re probably not going to win the Super Bowl, Snyder probably doesn’t want the Skins to be better than making the playoffs with 10 wins and win maybe one playoff game. Why? So that he can hire Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, or John Gruden next year. Of course, he’d love a Super Bowl win, but since it probably won’t happen, look for Snyder to hire one of those guys, most likely Cowher, Shanahan, or Gruden.
What the Skins should really do, though, is hire an experienced NFL GM. I think Pat Kirwan, currently an NFL analyst for Sirius NFL Radio, NFL.com, and CBS’ NFL Today, would be a great GM. Kirwan was the Jets’ director of player administration in the mid-1990s to 1997. From 1997 to 2002 the Jets never had a losing season, and Kirwan helped build the foundation for those teams. You always have to look at a few years after a personnel person leaves a team to judge the players they bring in, since many of the new players are rookies. Kirwan’s radio show is very informative, and he brings great insight about the NFL. There is no shtick on the show. In fact, I’m going to use this show on my other blog at www.mikefrandsen.org as an example to show that sportsradio has surpassed newsradio in pure analysis – accuracy of information without any bias.
Back to the Skins: my prediction is that they will finish 9-7, which usually results in about a 50% chance of making the playoffs.