Former Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato didn’t do a whole lot of things right over the last two years, but one of the primary tenets of his work was that he wanted to take an aging playoff roster in 2007, and systematically make it younger. He failed in adding quality youth, but at the very least, he succeeded in dropping the average age of the Redskins football player.
After about four months with Mike Shanahan in charge of the same decisions, the “gains” Cerrato made in getting younger have pretty much been erased. In spite of the release/trading of more than 15 players from last years team, freeing up a significant portion of the roster with which to add younger talent, the Redskins by and large have just gone with aging vets to fill their needs.
There’s a difference between what Shanahan and Allen are building with, and what Joe Gibbs/Al Saunders/Gregg Williams built around in the middle of the decade when the age of the team roster reached critical levels: the new decision makers aren’t giving their mature acquisions the same type of contractual security that the Redskins offered in the past. When you look at the newest aging Redskins, players such as QB Donovan McNabb, RBs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, WRs Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade, TE Sean Ryan, OL Artis Hicks, DLs Adam Carriker and Ma’ake Kemoeatu, no player has received a larger contract than the base 2/$7 (years/millions of dollars) that Kemo got when he became the first of this class. The Redskins inherit the $12 million 2010 figure on McNabb, and figure to agree on some type extension for the future with him, but the short-term nature of a lot of these deals is really the only positive in a movement that appears to back the old “future is now” mantra of this franchise.
There are two takeaways here: that the Redskins have completely undone all of the incremental work accomplished under Cerrato, re: getting younger, and that the team is not tied to any of the players that they are assembling this offseason for future seasons, meaning that they can go in a completely different (read: younger) direction next year when they know more about the future of the NFL’s labor situation.
Still, I’m struggling to make sense of the whole body of work this offseason, on the offensive side in particular. There have been some moves I have liked better than others, and my reaction to each individual move has ranged from: “Good pickup, especially at the cost,” to “I have no idea what they are trying to accomplish with this.” On the defensive end, it’s at least clear that they are going to be a base 3-4 defense, and that they’ve largely left alone a secondary which is both young and talented, but badly underperformed last year. The one defensive pick in the Redskins draft, LB Perry Riley, directly fills a need at LB, and could play sooner rather than later. Conceptually, this makes sense, and we can judge the efforts in context of the results. On offense though, the changes have been a lot more drastic, but I’m not really sure where the Redskins are looking to improve.
The passing game? QB Donovan McNabb is a big name player with a big time history of production, but in a what have you done for me lately type of league, McNabb has lost more than he’s won against the NFC East in the last five years, and now he doesn’t get to play the Redskins anymore. If departed QB Jason Campbell’s biggest flaw was that he was dreadful in his W-L record against the NFC East (and he was), bringing in McNabb doesn’t really change that underdog mentality. His receivers? Today, the Redskins released Marko Mitchell, who many thought had flashed the best film out of any of the young Redskins receivers. In an analysis of the potential all receivers drafted in 2008, I gave Devin Thomas a 2 and Malcolm Kelly a (fringe) 3 (out of 5). That’s just the reality of where they were at. The guys to have from that WR class are DeSean Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Earl Bennett, Chaz Schilens, and Davone Bess. Despite all the draft value spent by the Redskins to acquire quality receivers, they were never sniffing around the best players in the class. Oh well, at least Santana Moss (100 cumulative receiving DYAR since 2007) is still around. The pass protection? That’s the one spot that Russell Okung was universally believed to be more advanced than Trent Williams, and as far as I know, this team doesn’t have a starting caliber RT, and is still starting Casey Rabach, who can’t handle NFC East defensive lineman. Yeah, this passing game is not improved.
The running game? Clinton Portis hasn’t been an explosive back since 2006, and he hasn’t really ever run with great vision, but had a pretty good half season between a power blocking line at the beginning of 2008. That line is now long gone, none of the tackles or guards who started on that team are on the roster anymore. The Center still is, but it’s 4 completely different players plus Fullback Mike Sellers who isn’t a lock to make the team this year (Rabach probably is, unfortunately). He’s supported now by old players like Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker, who don’t have any value either present or long term. Like the rest of you, I’m hoping for a great breakthrough on offense for the running game, but it’s not going to happen by way of magic, and the planning has been poor at best. I don’t see where the running game is any better than last year, except perhaps running off tackle to the left.
The Redskins offense looks horrible on paper. The Redskins defense looks excellent on paper. The team, as a whole, is again among the oldest in the NFL. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.