The Washington Redskins failed to deliver yet again. Daniel Snyder failed to deliver yet again
. Every year we see the same thing: a notable free agent acquisition, a high Draft pick, and a losing season. Things just don't add up. Snyder is one of the best owners in the league in terms of stadium, advertisements, and other non-football business. However, when it comes down to paying the correct amount to the right player, he almost always fails. Albert Haynesworth is the obvious example here. Snyder is responsible for most of the problems in the District of Columbia's football scene, but he's not the only one. Coaches have come and gone at ridiculous rates. Quarterback is always a major issue. There are many people who are responsible for the Redskins and their consistent losing, but it still starts at the top. On that note, this article will recap the 2011 Washington Redskins. I will review their key off-season acquisitions and losses, including Draft picks, as well as their highlights and defining moments of the year.
1. Albert Haynesworth
, DT, Traded to Patriots - This was, for obvious reasons, the best move the Redskins made all year. After Daniel Snyder offered the former All-Pro a seven-year, $100 million contract in February 2009, everything involving this colossal man went downhill for the worst. He was often overweight, out-of-shape, and lazy. He skipped practices, undermined the coaching staff, and cost the Redskins' organization millions of dollars. It was if his paycheck changed the way he approached his job - this is certainly fathomable. He appeared in just 20 games in two years and undoubtedly underachieved. The whole thing was a media circus, and clearly distracted the team. There was no reason why the Redskins should have kept him around any longer. Trading this mammoth of a man was the best move the Redskins made, considering his acquisition was the worst. The New England Patriots realized he wasn't worth their time and money. Tampa Bay will see it this way as well. Millions and millions of dollars were flushed down the toilet for Haynesworth, and all the Redskins got in return was a sixth-round Draft pick.
2. Carlos Rogers
, CB, Signed w/ 49ers - Ouch. This situation is in complete contrast to the previous one. Carlos Rogers must have bought a pair of gloves with his one-year-contract he signed with the 49ers. He was infamous in Washington for dropping easy interceptions, therefore allowing the offense to maintain drives and eventually score. With the 49ers, Rogers turned into the Pro Bowl corner that the Redskins had envisioned when they selected him 9th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. He helped turn the 49ers' defense into one of the best, if not the best, in the league. His six interceptions were a career-high, and he earned his first Pro Bowl bid and All-Pro selection of his career. And while the Redskins ranked only 12th in pass defense, imagine the success they would have had with this improved Rogers opposite of DeAngelo Hall; not to mention LaRon Landry and key free-agent O.J. Atogwe manning the deep third. This was arguably the biggest loss for the Redskins this past off-season.
3. Andre Carter
, DE, Signed w/ Patriots - Another ouch. This one is a bit more complicated, though. Andre Carter was not an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense. He's more of a prototypical 4-3 end rusher. In his earlier years in Washington, Carter played in this traditional 4-3 position. His second and fourth seasons with the Redskins saw him record 10.5 and 11 sacks, respectively. He was still a force. But when defensive coordinator Jim Haslett arrived in 2010, he immediately installed the 3-4, putting Carter in no man's land. Carter had difficulty producing as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment, but it wasn't neccessarily his fault. This machine was not built for that. In this sense, I can see why the Redskins released him. It made no sense to keep Carter someplace that wasn't a good fit. When New England signed him to a one-year-deal, they were in the process of switiching to a 4-3. Carter then blossomed in the old system, racking up 10 sacks in only 14 games; good enough for his first Pro Bowl in an 11 year career. Rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan was an upgrade in this case, as Carter couldn't perform adequately in the 3-4.
4. Donovan McNabb
, QB, Traded to Vikings - Donovan McNabb, as great as he once was, is no longer an NFL-caliber quarterback. Plain and simple. He was one of the best in the league for a decade, but his old age has finally caught up to him. We can't accurately guess that had he stayed in Philadelphia, he would still be at least above-average. But what we do know is that, for whatever reason, McNabb is not a starting quarterback in the NFL. It was a good move by the Redskins for this reason, but also for the mere fact that he created a controversy within the organization, and therefore distracted the team. I would agree that McNabb wouldn't have done any better than Rex Grossman or John Beck this year. As poor as those two were, he wasn't any better: he lost his starting job in Minnesota to rookie Christian Ponder and rode the bench to free agency. A big loss by name, but not by quality.
5. Clinton Portis
, RB, Released - Clinton Portis was a great running back in this league for almost a decade. He was a beast in Denver before they made the famous Champ Bailey trade in 2004. When he arrived in Washington, his statistics weren't nearly as good, but was still productive nonetheless. Basically, when Portis was healthy, he ran well. He earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2008 after a fantastic year. Then the next two years were injury-plagued. Running backs don't last long in this league, and Portis was no exception. Injuries and fatigue hit Portis over his last two seasons, and before the 2011 season, he was released. The Redskins did not have a choice. It was time to move on. He did not sign with a team this season.
1. O.J. Atogwe
, FS, FA (Rams) - One of the most underrated safeties in the league when he was in St. Louis, this former Stanford Cardinal was a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He became a starter for the Rams at the beginning of his sophomore season, and had a breakout year his third (2007), in which he recorded 75 tackles and collected an NFC-high 8 interceptions. He missed only four games from 2006-2010, and was very consistent; a premier centerfielder. The Rams rewarded Atogwe with a five-year, $32 million contract in 2010. The defensive captain and team leader had another solid season in 2010, but watched his interception number drop because his style was changed to a more in-the-box, Roman Harper-type safety. Essentially, this meant more blitzing. However, the Rams slapped Atogwe in the face by declining his $8 million roster bonus, and he was released.
The Washington Redskins immediately signed him to a five-year, $26 million deal. The logic behind his signing was to team him up with hard-hitting SS LaRon Landry, therefore solidifying the last line of defense for many years. At first glance, this was a very good move by Daniel Snyder and the Redskins. However, things didn't turn out picture perfect: Landry only played half of the year due to injury, and Atogwe struggled at times (possibly due to the lockout), and also missed time with injury. He played in 13 games and started only 8, finishing the season with 60 tackles and 3 interceptions. Even though he occasionally struggled, it didn't help that Landry was often hurt. Regardless, he still managed to vastly improve the pass defense; a significant jump from 31st in 2010 to 12th in 2011. Even with the loss of Carlos Rogers, Atogwe proved he that he was a worthwhile investment. If Landry can stay healthy, the Redskins might climb the rankings again.
, WR, Trade w/ Broncos - Let's face it. Jabar Gaffney is not a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He is 31-years-old and his ceiling isn't getting any higher. He's always been limited to a No. 2 role in his previous jobs. But while his potential is limited, he somehow manages to produce on a yearly basis. Coming from Denver, Gaffney was a decent No. 2 receiver behind Brandon Lloyd. The Redskins wanted a veteran receiver, so they traded the underachieving DE/OLB Jeremy Jarmon for Gaffney straight-up. The result was positive. Although not dominant, Gaffney led the team with 947 receiving yards. Given the quarterback situation and the lack of other playmakers, Gaffney did as best he could. He will be back next season, as long as the team wants to keep the savvy veteran, but his age and non-existent upside might affect this decision.
3. Chris Chester
, G/C, FA (Ravens) - Chris Chester was a decent off-season acquisition. He was a starter for most of his final three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, playing both center and guard. He signed a five-year contract wih the Redskins following the 2010 season, and started every game at right guard, showing consistency and improvement. He should figure to remain the starter in 2012.
4. Barry Cofield
, NT, FA (Giants) - The Redskins were in desperate need for a nose tackle following the 2010 season, in which they were 26th overall in rush defense. The consistent and underrated Barry Cofield started all but one game in his five-year NFL career preceding the Redskins. The Giants had made Cofield their fourth-round pick in 2006, and he had started in their 4-3 alignment since day one. However, the 6-foot-4, 306 pound, 27-year-old was capable of playing the nose tackle position in the 3-4, and therefore signed a six-year deal with the Redskins following the lockout. Cofield was arguably the biggest contributor of all the off-season acquisitions, as he smoothly transitioned to his new position, and performed better than anticipated. He finished the season with 25 tackles and 3 sacks, but these numbers don't tell the full story. The Redskins' rush defense improved to 18th in the league; Cofield was a big reason for this jump, starting all sixteen games in the process.
5. Tim Hightower
, RB, Trade w/ Cardinals - The bowling ball from Richmond University has never been considered a feature back. I agree. However, there was good value in the Redskins acquiring Hightower for only a sixth-round pick and the ancient 36-year-old Vonnie Holliday. He started in Arizona the past two seasons and is a workhorse, but ultimately failed to make a decisive impact. He was then named the starter in Washington until a torn ACL in Week 5 ended his season prematurely. He struggled with the rock, however, rushing for only 321 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3.8 YPC in those five games. With the emergence of rookie RB's Roy Helu and Evan Royster, and an expired contract (along with a major injury), I don't see the Redskins re-signing this mediocore player.
1. Ryan Kerrigan
, OLB, 1st-round pick - The 6-foot-4, 264 pounder from Purdue University was the 16th overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The All-American defensive end made the switch to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Kerrigan is a highly athletic, prototypical 3-4 pass rusher, running a 4.67 forty and displaying rare agility and quickness for the position. Arguably the biggest and best acquisition of the 2011 off-season, Kerrigan immediately started at outside linebacker opposite of Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan was supposed to help Orakpo cut loose, considering many teams double teamed and keyed him. And don't get me started on the number of holding penalties on poor Orakpo; offensive linemen hold him at least three times a game, blatantly, but the refs don't throw the flag. Regardless, Orakpo was slightly outperformed by his new partner in 2011. Kerrigan finished his rookie season strongly, recording 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 interception returned for a touchdown. He certainly overachieved in his first year, starting the entire regular season. Orakpo, however, was no slouch. He totaled 59 tackles, 9 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in all 16 games. The edge rushing duo in Washington were a big reason for the jump in total defense from 31st in 2010 to 13th in 2011. I expect bigger and better things in 2012; the ceiling is very high.
2. Jarvis Jenkins
, DE, 2nd-round pick - The massive (6-foot-4' 310 pounds) 3-4 defensive end from Clemson was the team's 2nd-round pick in 2011. Some had him projected as a starter at defensive end for 2011, but unfortuantely, he tore his ACL in Week 3 of the preseason, abruptly ending his rookie campaign. He may not have made an impact, but his progression was certainly hindered because of the injury. In other news, WR Leonard Hankerson couldn't find his hands, and displayed poor route running ability. He was another disappointment.
3. Roy Helu
, RB, 4th-round-pick - The speedy back out of Nebraska was not meant to shoulder the running load in his rookie season. However, Helu proved that he could run just as well as anybody, and was easily the biggest surprise of the 2011 Redskins' squad. A Week 5 season-ending injury to newly-acquired starter Tim Hightower ushered in Helu and fellow rookie Even Royster (who also contributed more than anticipated). Helu took over the starting gig after breaking the franchise record in receptions with 14 in Week 9 against the 49ers. His streak of three consecutive 100-yard games is the most by any Redskins' rookie in franchise history; a record he was unable to extend to four games due to an injury he sustained. By the end of the year, Helu led the team in rushing. He finished with 640 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4.2 YPC on the ground and 49 receptions, 379 yards, and 1 touchown receiving. He was unquestionably one of the few bright spots on an otherwise porous offense.
Recap, Highlights, and Defining Moments:
The Washington Redskins opened the season at home on 9/11 against the division rival New York Giants. It was an emotional game because of both cities' involvement in the 9/11 tragedies. The Redskins started QB Rex Grossman, and ultimately won the game 28-14, thanks to rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan's interception return for a touchdown (in his first regular season game).
Positive vibes in Washington for once, as the Redskins start the season 4-1.
Rex Grossman throws four interceptions in Week 6 against the hated Philadelphia Eagles, and is benched in favor of the more mobile, but less experienced John Beck. This is the turning point in the season: Had Grossman not thrown four interceptions, the Redskins easily win. Then, Beck goes 0-3 and fails to perform adequately, and is soon benched in favor of (guess who) Grossman, who finishes out the year as the starter (and fails miserably).
RB Tim Hightower tears his ACL in Week 5 and is then placed on injured reserve, rolling out the red carpet for rookie RB's Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Veteran RB Ryan Torain can't keep pace and is later released. Helu accomplishes some major feats (see above Draft picks), becoming a breath of fresh air in an otherwise inept offense.
Week 13: The Redskins are informed that starting TE Fred Davis, who was another rare bright spot on offense, along with exponentially improved LT Trent Williams, would be suspended for the rest of the season for failing consecutive drug tests.
After starting the season 3-1, the Redskins lose six straight, and ultimately finish the season at 5-11, failing to improve on their 2010 record of 6-10, and adding another year of misery to Redskins' fans throughout the D.C. area.
The Washington Redskins seem to be a decent team on paper, but they consistently underachieve and fail. They have a Super Bowl winning coach in Mike Shannahan, a dedicated, yet far
from perfect owner in Daniel Snyder, and a lot of notable names on the roster. So what's the deal in D.C.? Looking back at this season, there were some serious holes on offense. Quarterback is clearly numero uno, and must be addressed via the Draft or free agency this spring. John Beck is not an NFL quarterback; he's too small (6-foot-1) and doesn't have a strong enough arm. Rex Grossman has had multiple opporunities to prove himself, but never succeeds. I'm not saying that Grossman is the worst quarterback in the league, but almost every other starter is better. The quarterback play, overall, was atrocious. Yes, there aren't any top-tier wide receivers, feature running backs, or dominant offensive linemen on the roster, but Grossman and Beck were flat-out awful. The Redskins' defense did everything it could considering they were on the field seemingly the entire game. I would go so far as to say that if the Redskins had above average quarterback play, they possibly flip that record to 11-5 or something close. They have a very talented, young defense, but the overall offense needs a total makeover.
Aside from the disgusting quarterback display that singlehandedly lost them four or five games, the rest of the offense struggled as well. Rookie RB Roy Helu made the best of his situation considering the early-season injury to RB Tim Hightower. Longtime reliable WR Santana Moss is begininning to show signs of old age. He was injured for four games, and had his worst season since his rookie year. WR Jabar Gaffney picked up the slack, but he can't stack up against the best cornerbacks in the league. Rookies Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul, and Aldrick Robinson were irrelevant. After a decent first season in the NFL, WR Anthony Armstrong slid down to the bottom of the depth chart and rarely appeared in uniform. Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley was injured for most of the season, only starting the first five games. He has been severely injury-prone the past three seasons, so it will be interesting to see what they do with him and TE Fred Davis, who is a free agent, and may be looking for a big payday elsewhere after the drug suspension and his career year (59 receptions, 796 yards, 3 touchdowns in 12 games). He was the only viable target for Beck and Grossman in 2011, and the Redskins may need to pay the man. The 2010 4th overall pick, LT Trent Williams, progressed immensely in his second season, but the drug suspension overshadowed his positive improvement. RG Chris Chester did a decent job in his first season in the system. The rest of the offensive line was average at best, and this is another area of need on this desperate offense. Every offensive position, barring tight end, is eligible for upgrade in D.C.
Defensively, the Redskins are in very good shape. Their D ranked 13th overall in total defense. Considering how often they were on the field, this is not bad at all. Turnover after turnover resulted in long drives and short rests for the Redskins' defense. They certainly earned their paychecks throughout the year. DE Adam Carriker made a strong case to remove the bust label as former first-round pick by having a very strong season at the 3-4 DE position. He started every game and recorded 5.5 sacks in a primarily run-stopping role. Free-agent acquisition Barry Cofield was a big (literally) reason for the vast improvement of the Redskins' run defense. He clogged up the middle time after time, proving to be a valuable asset, and allowing future Hall of Famer London Fletcher to roam the field, shoot gaps, and make plays. Fletcher, at age 36, led the NFL in tackles with 166. The iron man of football is still one of the best in the game, even at his wise, elderly football age. This year, his four-year co-starter at inside linebacker, Rocky McIntosh, lost his starting position to LSU product Perry Riley, a 2010 fourth-round pick. McIntosh had started next to Fletcher for a long time, but his inconsistent play and frequent missed tackles were his ultimate demise. Riley was a better player than McIntosh, from what I observed anyway.
The dynamic duo of rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo is impossible to go unnoticed. As I noted above (see draft picks), both players had impressive and strong seasons, and were major reasons for the defense's overall improvement. Their pass rushing skills helped the vaunted defensive backs improve upon their statistics as well. These two should be fun to watch for the next 5-8 years. In the secondary, CB DeAngelo Hall was O.K. as usual. He is often overrated and overhyped because of his name, draft status, and occasional huge game (Jay Cutler in 2010; 4 interceptions). Hall, in this sense, is a decent player, but nothing special. He's the Redskins' obvious No. 1 cornerback, and plays extremely well in zone coverage, but in man-to-man, Hall is exposed. Many times in the past have I witnessed Hall getting beat deep in man coverage. At the same time, Hall is a captain, leader, and good player. SS LaRon Landry played another injury-plagued season, starting only half of the games. When he plays, however, his impact is immediately felt. While not the most proficient in pass coverage, Landry is a big-hitter who's not afraid to come up and drill the ball carrier. He needs to stay healthy though if he wants to remain in the NFL. Free-agent acquisition O.J. Atogwe had a decent year as well; that is, when he was healthy. Although at times inconsistent, Atogwe proved that he could flourish in zone defense with Landry next to him.
The Washington Redskins were not a good team in 2011. Don't get me wrong. At the same time, there is a lot of talent on this roster, especially defensively. Quarterback is the No. 1 issue, however, and must be addressed this off-season. QB Robert Griffin III may be an option in the Draft, or maybe even Peyton Manning in a trade (crazy, perhaps, but possible nonetheless). With a decent quarterback this past season, I can almost guarantee the Redskins finish at .500 or above. The Redskins also need another running back, a top-flight wide receiver, and another lineman or two. They have to decide on whether to cut Chris Cooley and/or re-sign Fred Davis. I suggest the latter. Defensively, the Redskins must re-sign good ol' London Fletcher, or their will be huge shoes to fill in the middle of the defense. The front seven of the Redskins is very solid, although they may want to draft and/or sign another inside linebacker and defensive end for depth and future endeavors. The secondary is pretty set except for maybe the addition of another cornerback to help take the pressure off of DeAngelo Hall. Landry and Atogwe need to stay healthy, though, or their careers may be in jeopardy.
Ultimately, I see a lot of good things brewing in Washington D.C. If the Redskins can develop a young, promising quarterback and add some weapons on offense, they should be in good shape. Head coach Mike Shanahan should know that the third time is usually a charm, but for his sake, it must be. Otherwise, the Redskins faithful might call for his ousting, and around and around we go once more.