The Redskins' usual offseason splash has resulted in the usual chatter and the usual question: Is this time different?
Under owner Dan Snyder, the Redskins have excelled at landing big names, creating outsized expectations and falling woefully short.
But Snyder, in charge since 1999, has now trumped his previous moves. Since December, the Redskins have added a legitimate G.M. in Bruce Allen, a genuine coach in Mike Shanahan and a possible franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb.
"It feels like Donovan has been here for a couple years," Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said. "You like a guy who has been there."
Despite all these moves, the franchise contained itself in free agency. And with Snyder taking a backseat to operations, there's hope for the Redskins in '10. However, the offensive line still needs fixing and questions abound at running back. But the defense should be sound despite switching to a 3-4 scheme, as there's enough talent to make it work.
So let the hyperbole begin. Again.
"Washington, get ready for a Super Bowl," said former Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski, who played seven seasons under Shanahan and won two Super Bowls. "Organizations win Super Bowls and that's the culture Mike is going to change."
Offense: The Redskins will continue running a West Coast offense, but it will be different and more complex than the one implemented by former coach Jim Zorn. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son, will call the plays as he did in Houston. But the offense is his father's. Mike Shanahan loves to run the ball using zone- and cut-blocking schemes, which create cutback lanes. He will call a lot of bootlegs, rollouts and play-action in the passing game, as well.
Defense: The Redskins will run a 3-4 front for the first time under new coordinator Jim Haslett. He'll also use a lot of three-safety sets. Mike Shanahan's teams never ran a 3-4 in Denver, but his year off gave him a chance to study this scheme. However, Washington will still run plenty of 4-3 looks on passing downs, as most of the players are more comfortable in this alignment. But Haslett is aggressive with blitzes, and the 3-4 alignment allows him to send guys from different angles.
The shift to a 3-4 will require a number of players to change positions up front, most notably Albert Haynesworth. He doesn't want to play nose tackle, and the Redskins have tried but failed to trade him. If he returns in '10, Haynesworth likely would play more end than nose tackle. The team did sign former Carolina Panther Ma'ake Kemoeatu as insurance at nose tackle.
Devin Thomas, WR. The third-year receiver was raw coming out of Michigan State and has caught just 40 career passes so far. But he showed flashes of explosiveness last season and looks to finally have developed. The Redskins are in a good place to help him—a better offensive coordinator, a better quarterback and two threats at tight end. Washington finally will put Thomas in favorable situations.
"We have a lot of play-action, a lot of things deep, a lot of double-moves and it suits me well. We used to throw one deep pass a game due to our O-line situation. Now our scheme for the offensive line is better; it suits them. Our play-action passes will be deadly because our running game will be serious, too. I have to continue to show my talent and athleticism and my big-play ability." — Thomas
"All the parts to be successful on the perimeter are good. The running game? I don't know. They could use a quality back. But if there's one thing about McNabb, he brought the level up. So in the perimeter they can win. I don't know yet in terms of the running game and the protection where they're at. If they can manufacture a running game and protect the quarterback—Shanahan has such a quarterback-friendly offense because he does a lot of play-action—it will take the onus off the line. McNabb can operate with a bad line; that's why they have a chance to be successful right away. ...
"Mike can operate without a top running back, but he needs receivers, and he has them there with Cooley and Fred Davis at tight end. All he needed was the quarterback. The defense has a chance to be pretty good. Haslett was very good at one time. He's complicated in the secondary. You don't see many ex-players be successful coaches, but he made the conversion because he truly understands coaching. But getting the quarterback was everything. They now have a good three-year window with McNabb."
The Redskins improved at quarterback, but they still have major question marks offensively. If the line dramatically improves, the offense could be dynamic. If not, the playoffs will remain elusive. And there's doubt about how effective McNabb can be with a weak line, not to mention three aging running backs. But McNabb and Shanahan make up the Redskins' strongest quarterback/coach duo since Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs.
QB: Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman
FB: Mike Sellers
RB: Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson
WR: Santana Moss, Joey Galloway
WR: Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly
TE: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis
LT: Trent Williams Will Robinson
LG: Derrick Dockery, Kory Lichtensteiger
C: Casey Rabach, Will Montgomery
RG: Mike Williams, Chad Rinehart
RT: Artis Hicks, Stephon Heyer
DE: Phillip Daniels, Adam Carriker
NT: Maake Kemoeatu, Howard Green
DE: Albert Haynesworth, Kedric Golston
OLB: Brian Orakpo, Chris Wilson
ILB: London Fletcher, Perry Riley
ILB: Rocky McIntosh, Robert Henson
OLB: Andre Carter, Lorenzo Alexander
CB: Carlos Rogers, Justin Tryon
CB: DeAngelo Hall, Phillip Buchanon
SS: Chris Horton, Reed Doughty
FS: LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore
K: Graham Gano
P: Josh Bidwell
KR: Byron Westbrook, Justin Tryon
PR: Phillip Buchanon
LS: Nick Sundberg
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