Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Washington Redskins Offseason

Initially I was going to just talk about the Redskins' draft, but I figured there was no harm, and in fact something to gain by expanding the topic, so I did just that.

(Not So) Sexy Rexy

Rex Grossman was brought in, and while the company line was that Jason Campbell was still the starter, talk of an "open competition" festered, and the writing was pretty much on the wall. At this point, Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen looked like potential draft picks for the 'Skins, so the expectation was that either Grossman or Campbell would be a placeholder while the rookie got himself up to speed.

New Running Backs

Three new halfbacks are in town, and each of them has a level of intrigue.

Larry Johnson had back-to-back 1700+ yard seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, but that was 4 years ago. It remains to be seen if he can recapture some of that magic.

Willie Parker was a home run threat for the Steelers during both of their Super Bowl runs, setting the all-time record for longest rush in a Super Bowl in 2006. But his productivity has slid recently, and last year he was relegated to a backup role when Rashard Mendenhall burst onto the scene.

Ryan Torain has essentially played in one game as a pro, and while he did well (12 rushes for 68 yards and a TD against Cleveland in 2008 as a member of Mike Shanahan's Denver Broncos), he obviously is unproven. Shanahan must like him, though, so you could see him breaking into the rotation.

These three acquisitions point to the Redskins potentially parting ways with Clinton Portis, or at least down-sizing his role. I'm not opposed to that, as Portis has been "too big for his britches" for a year and a half now.

Mc-Nabbing a Quarterback

You see what I did there? I incorporated the concept of theft into the title of this section, which is appropriate, because I really believe that the Redskins trade of their second round pick and a mid-round pick next year for Donovan McNabb is a steal. While he's not in the first tier of quarterbacks (where Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers reside), he's right behind them, and in watching the Eagles over the past few years, I think McNabb still has the ability to make a play at any time, which is something you haven't been able to say about a quarterback in Washington for...twenty years? Maybe more?

This was obviously by far the biggest acquisition the Redskins made this offseason, and I think it immediately puts them into wild card contention.

A Name Worth Mentioning

When Adam Carriker was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2007 draft, I didn't know much about him, but I knew he had the kind of name you'd expect out of an elite player, so I figured he must be pretty good. It's kind of silly to admit that, but seriously, when you hear names like Peyton Manning, Golden Tate, Knowshon Moreno, and Anquan Boldin, you just know they're football players. Carriker had that kind of name.

So naturally, when he struggled early on, I was pretty surprised. The Redskins dropped back 28 picks in the 5th round to pick up the former first rounder, and I won't lie, I'm a little excited about what he could do. I mean, the talent was there for him to be an early pick in the draft. Hopefully Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett can turn around Carriker's career, even if it's just to the point of being a starter. The price was right.

The Redskins' Brief Foray Into NFL Draft

Washington held the #4 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, and I don't think I'm the only one who was really hoping the 'Skins would be able to trade down a few slots, get some additional picks, and still acquire one of the top four offensive tackles, someone who can protect McNabb. They went 1/2, staying at the #4 slot and selecting Trent Williams out of Oklahoma. Everything I hear is that A) Williams is a great fit for Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, and B) Williams and Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis have the highest upsides of offensive linemen in the draft. I have to trust other people on evaluating offensive linemen, so I feel pretty good about the move.

I can't speak much to the rest of the draft, because they only took players I've never heard of. The Redskins traded down a couple times in the later rounds and acquired extra picks, which I approve of as a general policy. I hope that their two late offensive linemen selections, C Erik Cook and OL Selvish Capers, are uniquely suited to the zone-blocking scheme, and will end up being shrewd moves. But that's really just blind hope.

The Campbell Era Ends

As expected, the Redskins finally traded away Jason Campbell. Somewhat surprising, though, was the marginal price that he commanded in the trade market. The Oakland Raiders acquired Campbell in exchange for a 4th round pick...in 2012. It would have been nice to trade Campbell for a commodity that helps right away, but I guess you take what you can get. If there's no market, there's no market. And really, you can't expect there to be much of a market for a QB outside of the top 20, which Campbell most certainly is.

I think a lot of local fans have a slightly misguided concept of how good Campbell was, and how good he could've been "if he had an offensive line," as the line tends to go. As a direct comparison, I offer Aaron Rodgers, superstar QB for the Green Bay Packers.
  • Rodgers - 64.7% completions, 4,434 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 50 sacks for 306 yards, 10 fumbles, 4 lost.
  • Campbell - 64.5% completions, 3,618 yards, 20 TDs, 15 INTs, 43 sacks for 285 yards, 11 fumbles, 3 lost.
Rodgers received just as much pressure as Campbell, completed about the same number of throws, and was unequivocally a better quarterback than Campbell. I can't in good conscience say that Campbell was put into a position to succeed, but I'm generally of the opinion that QB talent will bear out, and with Campbell it just never did. I never saw a game where Campbell made me think, "Holy cow, this guy is good."

I do wish the best for him this season and going forward, as I do think he was put into a tough situation and handled it with class. But I never want him to be either of my favorite teams' starting quarterbacks again.

Going Forward

So that's what we're looking at so far. I don't think the Redskins are done just yet; I could certainly see them signing former Cowboy Flozell Adams for a year or two to add some offensive line depth. And I think they'll still likely look at other opportunities to trade disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. But even if no further changes are made, I think we're looking at a very productive offseason for the 'Skins. The addition of McNabb alone adds a couple of wins, and if Shanahan adds a couple more, we're looking at a playoff-caliber team.

And that's all we Washington fans want. We just want the opportunity to be disappointed in December and January. We want to care just enough to get slapped down by the hand of god.

And yes, I'm alluding to the Washington Capitals' crushing loss in seven games to the Montreal Canadiens. I'll try to talk about what happened at some point, but not now. I have not the heart to say. For me, the pain is still too near. But someday, when I've cooled off, we'll have a heart-to-heart about it, just you and me. Promise.

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