One man’s attempt to dispel some of the myths being thrown around Ashburn…
Myth #1: The talent is there for another playoff run, perhaps even deeper than the first 1-2 weekends.
This team did make the playoffs and probably should have won on the road in the first round. They showed remarkable resiliency late in the season and – as Cerrato likes to point out – return all 22 starters & both specialists from the playoff loss. The reality though, is this is a 9-7 team that barely squeaked into the playoffs in a dismal conference. They finished 3rd place in a four-team division that includes the defending champ, a Super Bowl favorite, and perhaps the best 4th place team in the NFL. On paper, the other three teams all appear to have improved more than Washington, and certainly have more established, proven coaching staffs. All three have quarterbacks with dozens more wins under their belt than Jason Campbell, and all three have more youth at just about every other key position (other than QB). While most of the Redskins roster does return, big holes still remain in the secondary and amongst the depth on both lines. Young players like Carlos Rogers & Rocky McIntosh appear to have caught the perpetual injury bug that veterans like Sean Springs, John Jansen, Randy Thomas, and even Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El & Portis often fall ill with.
Campbell, who has yet to really prove himself to be the long-term answer at QB, is also coming back from a significant injury and has been slowed somewhat this spring by unrelated minor injuries. Running back appears set, but the line is in more trouble than one might think by glancing at the roster. All five starters are over the age of 30. Tackles Jansen & Samuels have made Pro Bowls in years based largely on reputation, but have been solid tackles when healthy even late in their careers. Both have played through nagging injuries, and Jansen missed all of the 2004 and 2007 seasons and fought other nagging injuries in seasons he participated in. The odds that both start all 16 games in their 9th NFL seasons is highly unlikely, and depth is very thin across the OL. 10th-year guard Thomas missed most of last year and has only started all 16 games once in his Redskins career.
Reputation would also indicate that WR is a position of strength, at least in terms of the two starters, Moss and Randle El. Consider that over the past two years the average combined output of the two was 1,339 yards and 6.5 TDs. In 2005, Moss alone had 1,483 yards and 9 TDs. The draft clearly showed that this is a position of need (more on that later), with Campbell telling the Washington Times after the draft that the two new receivers make it “a deep position, which means a lot because last year, we had a lot of groin and hamstring injuries. Now, we can throw guys in there and still continue to be successful.”
On defense, all 11 starters who took the field in Seattle in January do return. However, missing among those 11 were three young, highly-drafted, starters from earlier in the season – the team’s best player (Sean Taylor – RIP), its second-leading tackler (McIntosh), and a DB who started every game when healthy in 2006 and 2007 (Rogers). While there is optimism that McIntosh will be back from his Week 15 ACL/MCL tear by training camp, the Post reported he “also has a potential degenerative condition in both knees.” Meanwhile, Rogers may miss as much as half the season recovering from his Week 7 ACL/MCL tear. On the line, the odds of Phillip Daniels & Andre Carter remaining healthy for another whole season seem as long as those for Jansen & Samuels, but at least there is some proven young depth there.
With a schedule that includes 10 games against teams ranked ahead of the Redskins in espn.com’s latest NFL Power Rankings (Cowboys-2, Giants-2, Steelers, Seahawks, Browns, Saints, Eagles-2) and talent that is at best is on par with (and a year older than) what entered the season last year, it’s hard to imagine this team winning more than nine games.