Often the league leader in splashy moves, the Washington Redskins’ offseason was noteworthy for whom they didn’t add.
The organization made it clear they wanted to upgrade from quarterback Jason Campbell, but they weren’t able to acquire Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez after public pursuits.
Dan Snyder didn’t hastily fire head coach Jim Zorn, even after big names like Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden suddenly came on the market. (Although timing may have been a factor.)
Just as importantly, the Redskins weren’t able to re-stock a thin roster with young talent because they only had two draft picks in the first 157 selections of the NFL. This is typical of recent Redskins teams and a reason they’ve struggled to find sustained success.
Washington’s offensive line is aging all at once, and the best backup plan they could come up with for their inevitable injuries was to drag former Bills bust Mike Williams out of retirement.
OK, so we haven’t mentioned that Washington signed Albert Haynesworth, perhaps the biggest difference maker to hit free agency since Reggie White bolted from Norman Braman and the Eagles in 1993. Haynesworth was the rare Redskins signing that was worth the money, a nightmare matchup squarely in the middle of his prime.
The pressure Haynesworth creates up the middle will ideally allow pass rushers Andre Carter and rookie Brian Orakpo to get favorable matchups on the outside.
Washington’s defense should be solid (although they overpaid to keep cornerback DeAngelo Hall), but the offense is likely to be held back by the offensive line issues, especially while playing in the rugged NFC East.
Even if Campbell takes a big step forward, would we really be able to tell? Campbell will be under constant pressure and his wide receiver group is below average, as youngsters Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have yet to show consistency. Running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts form a solid duo, but the offense as a whole is lacking explosive playmakers.
Put it all together, and you have a blah offense paired with a slightly better than average starting defense that is more vulnerable to injuries than most because the bottom third of their roster is sub-par.
This type of team could possibly make the playoffs out West, but they are stuck in a division with the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys.
And if Washington finishes in the cellar again, we suspect the Redskins will go right back to making headlines again on the coaching front.
Key Player: Chris Samuels. The stalwart left tackle is showing signs of decay after a torn triceps and a persistent knee injury. If Samuels goes downhill, the whole offense could crumble with him.
Rookie to watch: Orakpo. He might be a one dimensional pass rusher at first, but early reviews about his transition to linebacker have been positive.
Best veteran acquisition: Haynesworth. We thought about D.J. Hackett here, but we’ll give the slight edge to Haynesworth.
Key game: Week Seven, vs. Philadelphia. This is the first home game in the division, and it comes after a manageable early schedule. Pull off the home upset, and they could be set up well to stay in in the mix.