2011 Record: 8-8
Offense: 336.7 YPG (16th), 235.8 Passing YPG (14th), 100.9 Rushing YPG (25th), 18 PPG (26th)
Defense: 339.8 YPG (13th), 222.1 Passing YPG (12th), 117.8 Rushing YPG (18th), 22.9 PPG (21st)
2012 Potential Free Agents: QB Rex Grossman, RB Tim Hightower, WR Donte Stallworth, C Will Montgomery, DEs Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston, MLBs London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh, S Laron Landry, CB Byron Westbrook
The Redskins started off the year 2-0 and everyone rushed to proclaim them the sleeper team in the NFC. Rex Grossman is a real quarterback look at him play well! They run the ball and play good defense! Well unfortunately for the Redskins, that spiraled downward into a 5-11 finish on the season. Lowlights of the season include:
- Two of the Redskins' good young players were suspended for the final four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy
- Mike Shanahan playing QB Carousel with Rex Grossman and John Beck
- Mike Shanahan inexplicably not playing Roy Helu consistently until the end of the season
The first thing I would suggest the Redskins do is get a new coach, new GM, and new owner. But since none of that is realistically happening, we'll move on to the real needs of the team.
The Redskins offense was pretty bad, despite the statistics suggesting they were mediocre. Rex Grossman and John Beck are decent back-up quarterbacks, but past that, they shouldn't be seeing the field. Mike Shanahan "staked his reputation" on these two, convinced that since he "developed" John Elway and Jay Cutler, he could develop any quarterback even if they are devoid of talent. Quarterback obviously will be the number one priority this offseason, and with the sixth overall pick, the Redskins won't have to move up too far to get the quarterback of their dreams. The Redskins will likely either trade for a quarterback like Peyton Manning, sign Matt Flynn, or draft a quarterback early in this year's draft, as it's their biggest hole right now.
Moving to the skill positions, RB Tim Hightower is a free agent, and even though he was injury-prone throughout the year, he should return with Roy Helu, and that's a decent enough group if Mike Shanahan manages them right. At wide receiver, the Redskins are pretty thin. Santana Moss is 33, but still effective. If he was pushed to the slot, his quickness and lack of straight-line speed compared to his younger days may be more effective. Jabar Gaffney played in the slot a lot this year and it resulted in his leading the Redskins in yards and receptions, but he's no special talent. Leonard Hankerson, a 2011 3rd round pick, played well in his first two starts and then suffered a season ending injury. He'll be back this year, and should start with Gaffney and Moss. The reality is, none of these guys are gamebreakers, so if the Redskins happen to find a solution for quarterback outside of the draft, they could use their first pick on a receiver. At tight end, Fred Davis was phenomenal until he let the team down by testing positive under the league's substance abuse policy. He was on track for a 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown season, and could produce that this year with a better quarterback. Fellow tight end Chris Cooley will return off of Injured Reserve and hopefully make a major impact alongside Fred Davis as well.
The offensive line should be okay, although they surrendered 41 sacks this season. Trent Williams and Jammal Brown will return at tackle, but look for the Redskins to bring in a veteran that can play either tackle spot to ensure they're covered if Williams is suspended again or Brown is injured again. At guard, Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester will return, with Lichtensteiger returning from a season-ending injury. Center is the one spot they'll definitely look to upgrade, as Will Montgomery is more of a back-up offensive lineman, and is also more of a guard than a center.
On defense, the front 7 was actually pretty solid. 3-4 outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan had solid years, and both garnered Pro Bowl consideration, as they will for years to come as pass-rushers off the edge, and underrated players in coverage. DE Adam Carriker had a break-out season with the Redskins and is likely to reprise his role in Washington next year, although he is going to be a free agent. DE Stephen Bowen, signed from the Cowboys last year, and NT Barry Cofield will also return. Backup DE Kedric Golston is thought of as likely to return, but nevertheless, he does hit free agency, so the situation must be watched. Inside linebacker is the major worry for the Redskins on defense, as London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh both hit free agency this offseason. McIntosh will likely be shown the door after some turmoil this past season, and while London Fletcher is 36, he made the Pro Bowl again, and is still pretty effective in the middle. Fletcher may pursue a ring as his career is winding down, so I don't expect to see him back in D.C. this year. Backup MLB Keyaron Fox is also a free agent, so the position is going to be completely gutted and the Redskins will have to start over.
The secondary for the Redskins is decent, but there are question marks all around. CB Josh Wilson was signed from free agency and is a fine cornerback, but DeAngelo Hall on the other side is far more perplexing. He singlehandedly lost the Redskins some games this year, while he played shut-down defense in others. Hall needs to find some consistency if the Redskins are to be true playoff contenders, and throughout his career, he's failed to do that. Safety Laron Landry attempted to play injured this year and it resulted in him needing surgery after this season. He now hits free agency and should be able to be re-signed by Washington by virtue of his surgery lowering his stock. SS Reed Doughty is nothing special, but an average safety, which the Redskins could get away with if they shore up the other three spots.
At kicker, Graham Gano was pretty poor, and is likely to be shown the door this offseason. Punter Sav Rocca is 38, and after being released by the Eagles in 2010, the Redskins may opt for a new punter after the 2011 season as well. PR/KR Brandon Banks is electric and should reprise his role, although I wouldn't be surprised if the Redskins look for a bigger player to fill that role, as Banks is only 5'6" and 149 pounds.
1. Quarterback: Rex Grossman and John Beck won't cut it next year, the entire Redskins organization has their jobs on the line, so they need to make this season count. Look for the Redskins to try their hardest to trade up for the #2 pick to draft Robert Griffin III (Baylor). If they can't get that high in the draft, they may drop back a few selections and take QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M). Free agency/trade options include Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, and Chad Henne. Oh, and funny thing too, Jason Campbell, the quarterback the Redskins let go in favor of Grossman and Beck, is a free agent, and will never consider the Redskins. Whoops.
2. Inside linebacker: Almost the entire depth chart at this position won't be back next year, so this is a major need for the Redskins. The good news for the Redskins is that there are plenty of available options in free agency, such as Dan Connor (Carolina), E.J. Henderson (Minnesota), Stephen Tulloch (Detroit), Kirk Morrison (Buffalo), and Barrett Ruud (Tennessee). In the draft, plenty of options exist as well. They draft too high to select an inside linebacker in the first round, but in the second or third round, they can choose from Audie Cole (N.C. State), Dont'a Hightower (Alabama), and Emmanuel Acho (Texas). I wouldn't be surprised to see the Redskins sign two free agents and draft two inside linebackers, especially considering that they have eight draft picks this year.
3. Offensive lineman: I stay broad by saying "offensive lineman" because they really need a versatile guy that could fill in in case of multiple injuries here. They really need a center, and in the second round Peter Konz of Wisconsin could fit the bill, as could Michael Brewster (Ohio State). A sleeper to watch here is David Molk (Michigan), as he's seen more as a zone-blocking center, which fits Shanahan's scheme. At tackle, the Redskins need a swing tackle that can play on both sides of the line, so through the draft, there will be plenty of players available in the middle rounds to fill such a need. In free agency, there are a few solid centers available, but most either will return to their old team or don't fit the Redskins' scheme. Scott Wells could fit the Redskins' running scheme at center, so I think he's a sneaky signing to watch if he leaves the Packers.
4. Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are decent but not a great pairing of cornerbacks, and the Redskins could use a nickel corner anyways. In the 2nd-3rd rounds, players like Shaun Prater (Iowa), Leonard Johnson (Iowa State), and Casey Hayward (Vanderbilt) could be solid fits at nickel corner. In free agency, Carlos Rogers is unlikely to return to the Redskins, and I'm sure will re-sign with the 49ers where he had great success. Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan are both options the Redskins need to take serious looks at, as they have a couple #2 corners in Hall and Wilson, but no #1 cornerback.
5. Wide Receiver: This isn't a huge need, but in today's NFL where passing rules the day, the Redskins need a bigger #1 threat than Santana Moss. Should the Redskins go off the wall and take a WR early, Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) may be available at their sixth pick. If not, the Redskins could reach on Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) or trade down and select Michael Floyd (Notre Dame). Later in the draft, available options will include Nick Toon (Wisconsin), Jermaine Kearse (Washington) and Juron Criner (Arizona). I only included bigger receivers because no current Redskins receiver has any size to them at all. The Redskins have quick guys in Moss and Hankerson and a guy to stretch the field in Anthony Armstrong (although he's nothing special either), so a strong, big possession receiver would help in the red zone and on third down conversions. Jabar Gaffney is a possession receiver but also not exactly a big receiver. The free agent market offers plenty of options such as Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe and multiple other big receivers. The Redskins shouldn't have trouble improving here.