If you were to go back in time to six and a half weeks ago -- just before the start of the 2011 season --when most fans and local media were forecasting how the Redskins season would unfold, there seemed to be, for the most part, a consensus.
The popular opinion was that the team dramatically upgraded their defense thanks to the additions made in the draft and free agency. With the acquisitions of players like Ryan Kerrigan, Stephen Bowen, Barry Cofield and others, it was expected that the defense would probably improve from their 31st ranking from a year ago into a unit that could perhaps finish in the upper half of the league in total defense.
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As for the offense, most hoped the strength of that unit would be the run game, as the recalibrated offensive line with a year of experience in the zone-blocking scheme would help put the pressure off the pass game. If you pair the line that with the moves to bring in tailbacks Roy Helu and Tim Hightower to go along with Ryan Torain, and the Redskins fans were looking forward to seeing a three headed monster in the backfield.
Then, of course, there were the quarterbacks. Regardless of whomever you hoped/thought would be quarterback, it seems like most believed the following sequence would happen during the season:
- Quarterback A beats quarterback B out of training camp to be the Week 1 starter
- Quarterback A eventually struggles, and is benched in favor of quarterback B
- Quarterback B may provide a brief spark, but eventually struggles as well
- Quarterback B gets benched in favor of quarterback A
- Repeat steps 2-4
All of the above added up to what most believed would be a 7-9 or 8-8 season, with fans and media concluding that the Redskins must prioritize the drafting of a potential franchise quarterback in 2012.
Flash forward to Week 7, where the Redskins have so far stuck to that script, having 3-2 record and making their quarterback change with the benching of Grossman for Beck.
Granted, it's not a lock that Beck will struggle in the starter's role. In fact, he could prove Shanahan right and show everyone why he was the coach's top quarterback in the 2007 draft class, keeping Washington competitive all the way through the end of the season.
But going back to the expectations for this season: Has anything happened so far through five games that have done anything to alter the team's preseason outlook? Right now, it doesn't look like it.
The issue for observers of the team is that it's sometimes difficult put the entire season in perspective in the heat of a drive, a game, or even a three or four-game stretch.
The NFL is a week-to-week league, and we've already seen how a season's fortunes can change quickly. Just last week, the Redskins were atop the NFC East hoping to stomp on the throats of the Eagles in hopes of ending their season early. Four Rex Grossman interceptions and an injury-plagued loss later, and the Redskins offense will now feature a new quarterback and a completely reshuffled offensive line. Not to mention the team residing right back in the middle of the rugged NFC East division standings.
The bottom line is - this is a flawed, but improving team. Yes, the division they play in this year isn't the toughest in the league, and they certainly can surprise this year if things go their way and make a play for the division title.
But it's also okay to enjoy the building process, something this franchise hasn't seen in over a decade. It's easy to be impatient because the fanbase as a whole has been conditioned to expect immediate success, particularly due to the win-now edict that has been a staple of this organization for years. And yet despite that, fans have clamored for a rebuilding season, and most expected the 2011 season to be just that.
That doesn't mean fans shouldn't be upset when the team loses, or that they shouldn't be happy when the team is victorious.
Just don't lose sight of the big picture.