When asked what word came to mind when he thought of the 2010 Washington Redskins, Kevin replied, "Vomit."
That comes to you straight from our latest episode of Redskins Lunchbox, and a day after taping it, I am still stupefied by that sentiment. What is the big deal? Listen, I have taken a few shots at the team and organization this year, so don't paint me as the Chief Apologist, but given where we are coming from, how can we not see some real bright spots?
Ten Yard Fight -- 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1. Shanahan is turning over this roster much quicker than his predecessors. I have already talked enough about this one, but it is a big deal.
2. Don't worry about guys like Joey Galloway being on this roster right now. Vonnie Holliday, Joey Galloway and even players like Larry Johnson and Willie Parker are being used by this new regime not just to push the younger guys to fight for jobs, but also to fill gaps that open up when they feel compelled to cut a Devin Thomas. I see Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan saying, "If this guy is not in our plans, let's get rid of him now and try and move forward." There is no sense in keeping a guy around who is not the kind of player you want (when you are trying to make wholesale changes in a banged up franchise). In the meantime, it helps to have older vets pick up the slack until reinforcements arrive. You see, it is much easier to create holes in your roster during the season than it is to fill those holes. There is no reason this staff should be scared to jettison players who are not part of the long-term plan. After all, that was a huge beef we had with Vinny, wasn't it? He held onto guys for no better reason than the fact they were his draft picks.
3. The whole flap between DeAngelo Hall and Jim Haslett was really blown up as yet another disaster from inside the dysfunctional Skins organization. While things seem to have calmed down a bit, I look at that debacle as more of an indicator of the growing pains this defense is having in the new scheme. When you change away from something that was clearly working for a group of guys, you have to expect some rebellion. That rebellion is healthy and allows a strong coaching staff to assert its authority. What happened next? Well, I won't credit Haslett with Hall's interception festival, but I will suggest that the whole episode helped the cause. And it's not just about a coach saying, "My way or the highway." It is about a coach saying, "It doesn't matter how good you think you are or how much money you are getting paid--do your job or you're gonna hear about it." That kind of accountability has to be installed as much as the 3-4 scheme does in this town. I take this as a sign it is, in fact, being installed.
4. Brandon Banks. 'Nuff said? It never is with me, is it? I'll keep it short. Even when he doesn't score, he is (for the most part) changing field position so drastically that even our offense can get points.
5. Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams and James Davis. Do my eyes deceive me or do we have three young running backs in the fold? I don't see any of them making the Pro Bowl anytime soon (unless Torain has 16 games in him next year). I grant you all that Larry Johnson and Willie Parker were questionable pickups that not only failed to pan out, but look pretty bad in retrospect. Yet here we are with some dudes basically off the street. I don't want to enter 2011 with just these three guys in the fold, but having youth at the position is a refreshing start. At worst, we have some depth if and when we bring in a more pedigreed horse. At best, one of these guys emerges as "the guy." Right now, Torain does have a chance to do that.
6. Anthony Armstrong. I understand he has not blown up all your skirts. A couple of his drops have been simply unacceptable. Yet he is 8th in the entire league in yards per catch (21.6) and is also 8th in catches over 20 yards (stands to reason given the first). His yards after the catch leaves a lot to be desired. A LOT. But having him on the field getting reps and learning on the go this season is an investment that stands to pay off. Who knows better than us what a crapshoot it is getting wide receivers to perform right away? The guys we have brought in over the last few years haven't even been able to get on the field. That makes Arsmtrong leaps and bounds ahead of them. Give him this year and see if he doesn't come back next season and take it to the next level. After all, we have to develop somebody eventually, right?
7. LaRon Landry. What a bright spot...I mean, at least someone is THRIVING in this new defense. Might as well be one of our most explosive players, right? I love what he is doing, as do most of you. He is finally playing at a level that justifies his high draft choice. I can't wait to see him in this defense next year when we have hopefully added a piece or two that will free him up even more.
8. Don't make me say Graham Gano...I don't want to do it. He has had a very uneven season...downright bad at times on the field goals. But he is very young, has a strong leg and can gain a lot of confidence by being given the year to learn how to make it in the League. His kickoffs have been a very huge addition to this special teams unit. Our ability to keep opposing offenses from starting out with great field position has a lot to do with Gano's kickoffs. I won't suggest there isn't a guy on the street who could come in and do the same job, but the experience Gano is getting this year could easily turn him into a career kicker for this squad. While the last thing I want to do is get excited about a kicker, I don't have to explain to this fanbase how important that could be to the Redskins.
9. More so than the above tries, this point is sunshine straight up the 5-hole. Wins over Philly, Green Bay, Dallas, and Chicago are meaningful. In the NFC, conference record is likely going to decide things in December and January. If the AFC could be compared to a major University, the NFC would be compared to a Community College. It will be much harder to get into the playoffs out of the AFC, while admission in the NFC playoffs is going to be a LOT easier. As bad as things seem right now amidst the benching of McNabb, the JaMarcus Russell tryout and the loss to Detroit, we can actually still partake in the NFC playoff discussion.
10. At 4-4, I am not asking that we be happy just to not have a losing record, although that is reason to be happy. I am not suggesting we settle for mediocrity, although "mediocre" is officially a step up from "laughingstock". And I am not at all suggesting that we ignore the potentially alarming willingness of this new front office to trade draft picks for veterans. What I am doing though is suggesting that during the BYE week, perhaps we should all think back to the midway point of last season and ask ourselves, "Are we better off today than we were 12 months ago?"