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NFC East Rundown, Washington Redskins: Is Donovan McNabb Enough?

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The first installment of our “NFC East Rundown” Series featured the outlook for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010.  For the second part of the series (Washington Redskins), I spoke with Kevin Ewoldt, the Managing Editor of HogsHaven.com.

Q: What will be the biggest changes under new coach Mike Shanahan?

First and foremost, Shanahan did what the Redskins failed to do the last 10 years: address the offensive line. From 2000-2009, the Redskins drafted a measly total of eight offensive linemen. Two of those picks never played a snap for the Redskins and five of them, including Samuels, are no longer in the league today. Shanahan drafted three offensive linemen in this draft alone, and he was missing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th round picks to boot.

The other major change is the negotiations. The Redskins were always a team to jump the gun in trade talks. They were always giving away high draft picks or more than they should. It’s clear those days are over. The Burgundy and Gold received Jammal Brown for a conditional 3rd/4th round pick next year AND the Redskins got back a late round pick from the Saints.

In their trade with the St. Louis Rams, the Redskins acquired former 1st round pick, Adam Carriker, for essentially swapping their 5th and 7th round picks. In short, Shanahan always makes sure he gets something back.

Q: What sort of impact do you expect from Donovan McNabb?

Huge. Jason Campbell was a nice guy, his teammates liked him, but he was not a leader. The Redskins players were instantly thrilled when the trade went down, and it’s clear in their interviews his experience shows in the huddle. Campbell wasn’t allowed to audible, so imagine the problems that brings.

With McNabb, the Redskins have a true veteran with an intimate knowledge of the NFC East division. The Redskins averaged 16.7 points last year. I haven’t found a way that average doesn’t go up at least three points a game next season.

Q: The ‘Skins drafted OT Trent Williams in the first round and traded for another tackle in Jammal Brown. Which player is going to play on the left side?

Trent Williams will play left tackle. He’s inked in to be the left tackle the next 10 years, so they might as well get him going on it. Jammal Brown hasn’t played right tackle since college, but he said he’s ready for it and will adjust.  He’s coming off a sports hernia, but he is 100 percent and it appears the Redskins have book-end tackles for the next several years.

Q: Owner Daniel Snyder is always keen on bringing in veteran players, even if it means yielding future draft picks. Do you see a difference in how this task was performed this year under coach Shanahan? Who was more in charge of the trades and signings, Snyder or Shanahan?

Shanahan is 100 percent running this show. When Al Davis fired Mike in 1989, Shanahan vowed he’d never accept another head coaching job unless he had FULL control of his staff, personnel, and players. When Pat Bowlen announced Mike Shanahan as the new Broncos coach, he declared Mike had the full control. Twenty-one years and two Super Bowls later, you think Shanny would hand that power back over to the likes of anyone, much less Snyder?  No chance.  And the quality of roster moves prove it.

Q: The Redskins signed Willie Parker and Larry Johnson to help Clinton Portis carry the load at running back. Who is going to start and who will play 3rd downs? How do you see the touches being distributed? Will Parker even make the team?

Portis will be the 3rd down back. Larry Johnson has impressed so far. A friend of mine attended Willie Parker’s workouts this off-season at UNC and said he’s in the best shape of his life and running a sub 4.4.

I don’t know how many running backs the Redskins can carry that don’t play special teams, though. None of the three aforementioned do and that’s a problem. This problem (a good one to have) exemplifies what Shanahan has brought to the Redskins. Competition. No one’s job is safe, and Portis has been at EVERY single off-season practice. The Redskins are a team again.

Q: Do you envision Washington using safety Laron Landry differently this season? If so, how?

Towards the end of the year they finally moved Laron back to strong safety. It was agonizing to see how long they left him at free safety.  Jim Haslett said he plans to use Laron close to the line of scrimmage, which is exactly where he belongs with his size and speed. He actually even bulked up more this year. He looks like a linebacker.

Q: Tight end Fred Davis showed a lot of talent last season after Chris Cooley went down. Is there any chance that Davis can beat out Cooley in camp? Will the Redskins use more two-tight end sets this season?

It’s unlikely Fred will beat out Cooley, but both will see a lot of action. Shanhan uses 2 TE sets 25 percent of the time, and both are too good not to have on the field. Mike is not happy with the wide receiver situation at all, which was evident when he had a whopping 12 receivers at the last minicamp.

Bruce Allen and Mike have also inquired to the Bolts about Vincent Jackson. Malcolm Kelly hasn’t proven anything, so the WR situation has a lot of Redskins fans concerned. McNabb, however, has had far worse talent than this in Philly, so I’m not too beat up about it.

Q: Albert Haynesworth has obviously caused a lot of drama this offseason. Will he be on the squad by opening day?

Fat Albert. What a waste. He’s getting KILLED in the media down here on a daily basis by ex-Redskins Hall of Famers, current players, the local priests, everyone you can imagine.  He really is a pinata.

Shanahan is a hard-nosed guy and it would set a horrible example if he let Haynesworth get away with playing after skipping all of his camps. Since Albert has been this lazy so far, I don’t see how he shows up to training camp in shape. He has yet to even open Haslett’s playbook, so I don’t see how this works out well. London Fletcher, the heart and soul of the Redskins, called him ‘selfish.’  How can the team welcome him back after all this?

Q: Any final NFC East standings prediction?

Dallas: 10-6 (1st round exit in playoffs)

Redskins: 8-8 (Injuries hit again given our older roster)

Eagles: 8-8 (The two games Kolb started were against the Saints and Chiefs, and he threw 3 INTs vs the Saints. I’m not buying into his success.)

Giants: 7-9 (Nothing they did this off-season impressed me.)

I’m telling you now the Redskins will win Week One. Shanahan is a perfectionist and has been watching Cowboys game film since he took the job. Plus, of course, it’ll probably be the only week of the year every Redskin is healthy.

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10 Responses to NFC East Rundown, Washington Redskins: Is Donovan McNabb Enough?

  1. Patrick Steele says:

    I see the predictions shaking up a bit differently.

    Dallas 11-5 (Superbowl winner)
    Giants 10-6 (Wild Card)
    Redskins 8-8
    Eagles 7-9

    Giants were decimated by injuries last year. If they are healthy, they are our biggest competition this year. They have relatively few weaknesses. They have a solid recieving core, an above average QB, a decent running game, and a very solid O-line. Their Definsive line is solid, their secondary, especially the safeties with Rolle and Phillips is solid….. Biggest question mark for them is middle linebacker and Brandon Jacobs. Giants will be a contender if Jacobs bounces back after last year.

  2. We will have our predictions out as the season gets closer, but I can tell you they will differ from his as well. Right now, I would lean towards 1. Dallas, 2. Philly, 3. NYG, 4. WSH…with the latter three all being at or near 9-7.

  3. Martin Long says:

    A little too optimistic. Shanahan is a good coach, but he isn’t a magician. Really, what has he done this decade? Not much. It was all good and dandy when he could create a game plan using Terrell Davis and a top-5 QB of all time (Elway). Since then, however, his record and resume scream mediocrity.

    The O-line is still pretty ordinary, the receivers are average to say the least, and they’re switching to a 3-4, even though they had a top-10 defense — with the 4-3 — last season. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they can’t make a successful switch, but there will be some growing pains.
    Cowboys win first match up and probably the second, too.

  4. A little too optimistic to say the least. First, Shanahan isn’t 100 percent in control of the team or they wouldn’t have Bruce Allen.

    However, I do expect the Week One matchup to be a tough one. National televised divisional night game, on the road, to open the season. I think the ‘Boys are 3.5 point favorites right now, which I think is a bit generous. I would call them only very slight favorites at this point.

    Washington MUST win that game to show they are capable of being competitive. Dallas can easily come back from a loss.

  5. Martin Long says:

    It is Redskins vs. Cowboys, so anything could happen… At the moment, I see the ‘Skins’ offense and defense, both being middle of the pack, which means it’ll just take either some good offense or defense to win the game.

  6. True, as long as there aren’t any “fluky” plays–a weird pick six, a punt return TD, etc

  7. Martin Long says:

    Reminiscent of the Giants game at the Meadowlands last season.

  8. Exactly…that one killed me.

  9. johncoleman says:

    I really think the Skins will be much improved and could see them going 8-8, maybe 9-7. However, I didn’t see them improve at all in the WR department. Point is who is the playmaker. McNabb always had playmakers in Philly even when it was just Westbrook. Portis is probably the closest thing they have to Westbrook and he is past his prime. On the other side of the ball they need Haynesworth and that is a sticky situation. Without him who is the nose? As far as the rest of the East, I don’t see how either team improved in the offseason. At least not with anyone who will be an immediate impact. Kolb will have problems with the top defenses and Eli has always been shakey. He as a Superbowl winning QB was just plain lucky. One thing you said that I disagree with is that the opening game is not a must win for us. While we could recover, we can’t be a serious Superbowl threat and not win the games we are supposed to win. We need all the division games with our schedule and lately the Giants and Philly have beeen our nemesis. So I definitely think we need to set the tone right out of the gate.

  10. I also think it is crucial to set the tone out of the gate, so we don’t disagree there. I don’t think they can’t make a Championship run if they lose, however. It is a very important opener, but not a must-win.

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