Mike Shanahan will preside over a critical offseason for the rebuilding Washington Redskins. Joe Rogate/Icon SMI
The season's final game was a microcosm of the Redskins season. They stayed close to the Eagles on the strength of their defense, made enough offensive mistakes to make sure they couldn't score points, and then blundered about in the 4th quarter to lose a game that had been winnable.
The Skins enter the offseason with an array of personnel needs that must be addressed if the team is to compete for the playoffs in the near future. Most of those needs are on the offensive side of the ball, where they are bereft of playmakers. On defense, the front seven is fairly solid, but the secondary needs an overhaul.
I'll be looking at the team position by position in the coming weeks. For now, let's take a big picture look at what needs to happen in the offseason.
One thing Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have done well is position the Skins for rapid improvement. They ended up giving up little by beating the Giants in December -- they might have ended up picking 5th instead of 6th if they'd lost that game. More importantly, Washington has 8 picks (they have an extra 4th rounder from the Jason Campbell trade), and oodles of cap room. They can carve out even more cap space by cutting high-paid veterans who weren't productive this season -- guys like Jammal Brown and DeAngelo Hall. In addition, the 2011 draft class was solid, and young players from previous drafts emerged.
Here's my list of prioritized team needs this offseason:
Offensive Line -- I know most would put quarterback at the top of the list, and I agree that a new QB is vital. But, whoever they have under center is going to need some protection. At a minimum, Washington will need a new right tackle and a center. I think they also need a left guard, even if Kory Lichtensteiger can make it back from a wrecked knee.
Quarterback -- Rex Grossman and John Beck couldn't do the job this season. After 9 seasons, Grossman still hasn't figured out how to stop giving the ball to the other team. Don't be shocked if the Skins have 3 new QBs on the roster next year.
Wide Receiver -- Santana Moss had his worst season as a Redskin and (at age 32) should not be expected to regain his previous form. Jabar Gafney had the best season of his career, but really should be a 3rd or 4th receiver -- not a #2. Especially if the #1 is Moss. Rookie Leonard Hankerson showed promise before hurting his hip, and will hopefully return to form. Even if Hankerson comes back all that Washington hopes he'll be, the Skins still need a couple more play-makers at WR.
Cornerback -- Josh Wilson was okay, but DeAngelo Hall can't cover. Behind those two: not much. Hall has likely played his last game for the Skins. The team will need to add 2-3 good cover cornerbacks.
Safety -- Oshiomogho Atogwe performed at an acceptable level when he was healthy. Laron Landry was never healthy or productive this year. I don't think Washington can afford to take a chance on Landry regaining his health, and I don't think they should rely on DeJon Gomes or Reed Doughty as a starter next season. Which means they'll need 1-2 safeties.
Kick Returner -- I know Brandon Banks has big play ability. Unfortunately, he's an all-or-nothing proposition. If he can't find space and break a big one, he often ends up gaining nothing -- or worse. Part of that is his size. He's so tiny that he cannot simply put his head down and pick up a few yards that can improve the team's field position just a bit. Big play capability is important in a returner, but so is good judgement, the ability to make routine plays, and the ability to hang onto the football. It's time to replace Banks.
The team may also need an inside linebacker or two, depending on what they do with London Fletcher. At 36, Fletcher led the NFL in tackles. He's a free agent, and the Skins will need to make a decision about whether to re-sign him -- and for how much. Perry Riley took the other inside linebacker position from Rocky McIntosh in mid-season and should hang onto the job next season.
Within those 6 needs, I think the Skins will need at least 15 new players -- perhaps more. They may also need another running back, and a tight end or two. Those potential needs depend on what happens with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis at TE, and Tim Hightower at RB. Other needs could emerge if the team loses any free agents they'd like to keep.
It looks to be a busy offseason at Redskins Park. Shanahan and Allen need to make the right moves for Washington to become competitive again.