Barring critical additional injuries, I predict the Redskins will win the NFC East this year.
Here are seven reasons why:
- Rex Grossman and Will Montgomery
- Tim Hightower and Jabar Gaffney
- Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan
- Kyle Shanahan
- Mike Shanahan
- Bruce Allen, Scott Campbell and the NFL lockout
- The "Dream Team" Cluster****: 2011 Philadelphia Eagles
#1 Rex Grossman and Will Montgomery
I've banged the drumb plenty for Rex Grossman. He's a far better QB than almost anyone has given him credit for being. For more, see:
I'm including Will Montgomery as a critical variable, for two reasons:
- 12/25/10: Projecting NFL QBs from collegiate sophomore seasons: Rex Grossman > Brees > Luck > P. Manning > Roethlisberger > Rodgers > McNabb > Campbell
- 8/14/11: 5 NFL Secrets: The big lie about Grossman. Redskins have top 5 receivers by position in NFL. Grossman's best 5 years are in front of him. Median age of 13 out of last 24 NFL MVP QBs is 33. Super Bowl winning QBs are system QBs.
- 8/21/11: Preseason breakdown: Grossman’s Game 1 vs Beck’s Game 2. Sex Cannon dominates 13-4 Steelers. Admiral Checkdown rolls over 4-18 Colts. Mike and Kyle Shanahan’s Jedi mind tricks confuse everyone.
- 8/21/11: Rex Grossman, 2006, Chicago Bears: What Really Happened
- 8/28/11: Shanahan's Jedi Mind Tricks II: Sex Cannon in dead heat with Admiral Checkdown? Shanahan deserves Coach of the Year, if not an Oscar
The interior OL starters right now are very strong by Redskin standards, but there is no depth whatsoever. The Redskins have no backup guards on the roster. They have an awful player, Erik Cook, backing up Montgomery at center. See my thread, C/G Eric Olsen must be on 53-man roster in place of Erik Cook.
- Grossman lives on throwing between the numbers. This means he is highly dependent on his interior OL opening up passing lanes over the middle, and the most critical player for opening interior passing lanes (by frequency) is the center. The guards are also important.
- Grossman needs to be able to step up in the pocket and step into his throws. This means that the center needs to hold his ground. It's not enough to avoid sacks: he needs to avoid being pushed back. Grossman is best throwing from the gun, but otherwise mostly a pure pocket QB. He can roll out, but he's no threat to run.
For Grossman to succeed, he needs his interior OL starters to remain healthy, and he needs great play by Will Montgomery. Assuming good OL health, I expect Grossman to put up a career year, and part of the credit will have to go to Montgomery. Will Montgomery is much stronger than Casey Rabach and is massive upgrade.
#2 Tim Hightower and Jabar Gaffney
I expect Hightower to have a fantastic year running the ball. In addition, he offers superb pass protection, which looks to my eyes in the class of Portis. Finally, he offers a better pass catching option at starting RB since maybe Joe Washington in the early 1980s. This makes him a triple threat and will be a critical reason why the Redskins offense succeeds.
Another reason will be the balance of options provided by the top 5 receivers: Moss, Gaffney, Armstrong, Cooley and Hightower. A 3-WR set with Moss, Gaffney and Armstrong is far more powerful than anything the Redskins have had from three receivers since Monk, Clark and Sanders. Gaffney offers crisp route running to complement Armstrong's speed and ability to get open deep. This allows the receivers to play to their strengths. You'll see lots of combination routes with Armstrong deep and Moss or Gaffney underneath. Lots of options for Grossman, and more when Austin is on the field.
#3 Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan
Last year, the Redskins struggled and failed to stop the run. They also struggled to put pressure on the opposing QB. The Redskins will never crawl out of the NFC East cellar until they stop the run and put pressure on opposing QBs.
Cofield, Bowen and Kerrigan will make a huge difference. They would have done even better with help from Jarvis Jenkins, but so it goes. If the Redskins beat the Giants this year, these guys will play key roles. If the Giants run all over the Redskins, and if Manning has time to throw, these guys will have disappointed. I expect them to succeed.
#4 Kyle Shanahan
Kyle Shanahan is weirdly underrated by Redskin fans. He gets the nepotism tag by stupid media hacks, but as I posted in response, that's nonsense.
Shanahan is one of the best OCs in the NFL, and also shows talent developing QBs and WRs. His passing offense is a marvel of design. The design has hypnotized Cooley into a remarkably revealing quote:
When Grossman and Hightower blow the lid off the NFC East with easily the most high-octane offense in the division, much of the credit should go directly to Kyle Shanahan.“This is the first time in my career that an offense has fit so much that I’ve been willing to study it,” he said. “I’ve been willing to know it as thoroughly as I do. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It makes sense.
“A lot of offenses have contradictions. Instead, this offense has answers. It’s neat to see the way we get everyone involved. It’s the first time I care what we’re doing on the line. I care what our quarterback’s reads are. I care about other positions besides mine.”
#5 Mike Shanahan
Forests have been cut down to cover the remarkable cultural transformation that Mike Shanahan has achieved this offseason with the Redskins. I am in full agreement, and Mike Shanahan is the most obvious and deserving reason that the Redskins will win the division.
Let me illustrate with more Cooley quotes:
“Even back to Joe [Gibbs], I remember the Redskins’ Welcome Home luncheon I was at, Joe got up towards the end and said ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen this week. No one knows. We’re going to go see what happens,’” Cooley recalled. “And since then I’ve kind of always felt like, ‘Well, it’s the first game. Let’s go see what’s going to happen.’ I fully expect to win, and I fully expect this team to play well. We’re not going to go see what happens this week. Guys expect to win. As a group, we spent the time, and I’ve never seen a more confident group of guys or a group of guys that play as well together as well as we have this offseason.”
Cooley, who last season recorded a career-high 77 catches for 849 yards and three touchdowns, attributed that improved confidence and focus to the tone set by Shanahan and his staff.
“It’s the preparation; it’s so business-like,” Cooley declared. “The staff is extremely demanding on its players on knowing their responsibilities and knowing their assignments and eliminating all mental errors, playing fast. If you’re able to be part of our practice for a whole practice now, it’s so much faster. We’re getting in and out of the huddle, and it’s been impressive for me to watch, and I really have watched from a coach’s standpoint. It’s been much better than I’ve ever known.”
#6 Bruce Allen, Scott Campbell and the NFL lockout
Bruce Allen has turned in the most masterful Redskin offseason by a GM since Bobby Beathard in 1981. The team was bereft of talent, short of draft picks and facing a player lockout, then found itself at spending parity with much of the league due to minimum spending requirements enacted by the new CBA. The latter threatened to neutralize one Redskin advantage under Snyder, the willingness to spend cash for players.
The draft was a tour de force, starting from weakness, coming up with 12 picks, and avoiding the temptation to pick a QB high. This won't equal the 1981 draft (what could?), but set the team on a great direction with two high-impact defensive players (Kerrigan, Jenkins), many candidates to help the team depth (Roy Helu, Brandyn Thompson, Markus White, DeJon Gomes, Niles Paul, Chris Nield, Evan Royster), and finally that boom/bust wildcard, Hankerson. This was followed by smart free agent acquisitions (Cofield, Bowen, Atogwe, Chester, Wilson, Fox, Rocca), smart retentions (Grossman, Moss, J. Brown), a nice UDFA (Willie Smith), and then the highway robbery trades for Hightower and Gaffney. That's six (!) starters who weren't even on the team last year, plus 10 new depth guys. All of them are under 30, and most are under 25.
This is an all-star performance by Bruce Allen, together with Mike Shanahan. They couldn't have pulled it off without the key leadership of Scott Campbell, director of player personnel. Jim Haslett credits Campbell directly for Jenkins and other defensive players:
Finally, Allen, Shanahan and Campbell pulled off this coup in very challenging conditions, with the NFL lockout followed by the new CBA and short offseason. We'll see a lot of other teams in turmoil this year as a result of these factors. Much like in the strike-shortened seasons of 1982 and 1987, the Redskins organization rose to the challenge when other teams failed."Scott Campbell [Redskins director of player personnel] did a great job and his staff of targeting the guys that fit this defense," Haslett said. "He's ideal for it. He's a big human being. He's very coachable. He likes to work.
#7 The "Dream Team" Cluster****, the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles
I was going to post an entire thread on this topic, and may do so as I have time.
Suffice it to say, the Eagles are massively overrated and have critical problems across the board. They have no center and no RG, unless you count the guy they picked up off waivers on Sept. 3 and who will START game 1 at RG!. Their OL coach was pulled out of retirement from the Colts, is 69 years old, and rides around on a scooter due to poor health. Vick is being hit every other drop-back. Their defensive coordinator is their failed OL coach, "promoted" to defensive coordinator. They have 3 all-star CBs and no LBs, unless you count "Fredo" Matthews.
This is a team only Vinny could create, and he essentially did. The director of pro personnel (the guy who scouts the rest of the NFL) is Louis Riddick, who previously held the same position with the Redskins under Cerrato. He's a complete clown. That the Eagles have put him in such a position again, and allowed him to chase after star skill players while ignoring the OL and LBs, is classic Vinnyball.
Dream Team my ass. Karma's got #7 on speed dial.