I was fortunate enough to discuss the Washington Redskins with Rich Tandler, the Redskins correspondent for Comcast Sportsnet Washington. Here's what I asked him about their rebuilt offense under QB Donovan
McNabb and new head coach Mike Shanahan.
Acme Packing Company: On Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan in D.C. It seems like they've had a smooth transition and been embraced by the fans, or have some of the boo birds already come out?
Rich Tandler: While there is some skepticism out there, by and large the triumvirate of McNabb, Shanahan, and general manager Bruce Allen has been well received by the fans. After years of mismanagement the feeling is that the team is one the right track and after years without a top-notch quarterback the feeling is that McNabb brings at least a short-term solution there. The skepticism revolves around Shanahan's .500 record his last three years in Denver and his lack of playoff success after John Elway departed and McNabb's propensity to miss at least a few games every year with an injury. Still, the fans generally are willing to give the new regime a chance and see what happens.
APC: The Redskins paid a big price to obtain LT Trent Williams and RT Jammal Brown this offseason. How have they played? Do you think Williams will be healthy enough to play this Sunday?
Rich: It's already apparent that Williams is the kind of guy that you can plug in to the left tackle position for the next ten years and forget about him except for once a year when you notify him that he's going to the Pro Bowl again. In his first two games he played well while going against DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys and Mario Williams of Houston. While nothing is certain at this point it appears very likely that he will be back in the lineup on Sunday. Brown still is adjusting to playing the right side after playing left tackle for the Saints for most of his career. He wasn't in full participation in training camp due to the sports hernia injury that kept him out of last season in New Orleans so he is still rounding into form. It's not like he's struggling badly or anything; his pass protection has been fine but the timing and technique are off in the running game.
APC: It doesn't look like McNabb is getting a lot of help from his receivers. Are their receivers good enough, or is there still a transition period for all the new coaches and teammates?
Rich: One of the things that McNabb was able to do in Philadelphia was have great success with mediocre receivers such as Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston. He will have to pull of similar magic here. Santana Moss would be a great number 2 wide receiver but he's forced to be an OK number 1. Joey Galloway, the other starter, will be eligible to join the AARP soon. Anthony Armstrong, a 27-year-old rookie, has made a few big plays but he isn't consistent. Roydell Williams is a bit player at best and Devin Thomas' picture is on the side of a milk carton. All that said, it is hoped that when the offense starts to click that the WR corps can be at least marginally productive. But that's just a hope. We will see what happens this year and then look for the Redskins to try to upgrade the position next offseason.
APC: What is the state of the Redskins ground game without RB Clinton Portis?
Rich: The transition to the post-Portis phase of the Redskins has begun. Portis will be out from four to six weeks with a groin injury. In the interim, Ryan Torain, a Shanahan draft pick in Denver in 2008, will be the starter. He set the tone for the win over the Eagles by blasting Philly safety Quinton Mikeel out of his path on the way to the Redskins' first touchdown. Torain is schooled in the one-cut running style that works behind the Redskins new zone blocking scheme. For depth they have Chad Simpson, recently signed off the street, and Keiland Williams, a rookie who made the team as a free agent. Shanahan made a decision to go with youth over the heavily-experienced backs who were here in training camp in Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, neither of whom still is one the roster. We will see if youth is served.