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Redskins at the bye week: first-half surprises

By LaVar Arrington

Given that it's the bye week, I thought that with all of the interesting conversations surrounding the Washington Redskins, I would do a series of posts breaking down the team at the halfway point of the season. The first will focus on the surprises so far.

A 4-4 record. My first surprise would be that at this point of Jim Zorn's first year as head coach he was 6-2 and Mike Shanahan is 4-4. I'm a bit surprised that Shanahan doesn't have a more impressive record at this point, but, then again, the Redskins have played tough teams all year and have done pretty well even in losing efforts.

What I will be watching for is improvement in the second half of the season. Zorn ended up going 2-6 in the second half of his first year, finishing the season with 8-8 record, which in my opinion is a respectable record for a new head coach. But we all know what happened in the next season. It will be interesting to see if Shanahan can be better than 4-4 in his next eight games.

His team is still in the running for a playoff spot and has a chance to win the division. Shanahan has shown some flaws, in my opinion, but it doesn't change that he is a proven winner. It will be interesting to see if the methods that he is using will ultimately turn this team into a winner.

Donovan McNabb. McNabb has been less than impressive all year. If you were to tell me before the season that by Week 8 Shanahan and McNabb together would not be producing an explosive offense, I would have called you crazy. Well, what's crazy is that it's true. McNabb has not been the QB we watched lead the Eagles to the playoffs pretty much every year. It seems as though he has been slow to pick up the new offensive scheme that he's in this year, so much so that it led to him being benched for a possible game-winning drive last week, and replaced by Rex Grossman.

If this team wants to sniff the playoffs this year, McNabb will have to improve. He has some tough odds he has to overcome to be better, such as a not-so-surprisingly horrible offensive line. The line just don't seem to be able to block well enough to give McNabb a fair chance to read his targets and make a throw. McNabb also does not seem to be on the same page as the offensive coordinator. It would appear that what Kyle Shanahan is trying to get McNabb to do in his scheme is not working. There will have to be adjustments made to fit McNabb's strengths, not trying to force something that isn't working. The improvement of play-calling and blocking could play a big part in McNabb's much-needed improvement.

LaRon Landry and Albert Haynesworth. Landry has gone from the cellar and being the punch line of jokes to being a possible league defensive MVP. Last season he was called double move because he kept getting burned by it. Well, he was being played out of position. Landry is a ball hawk and needed to be put at strong safety to utilize his aggressive nature, not free safety, where it's more about reading and pass coverage. He has benefited from Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense by being able to come down hill on runs, blitz the line of scrimmage on any given play, and disguise what he's doing, allowing him to also be more affective in pass coverages.

Haynesworth playing inspired football two games in a row, who would've seen that coming? With all the drama that played out with Haynesworth before the season even began, that alone was enough reason to believe he would not be productive for this team. But it got even worse when the season started. It got to the point that I don't think many people thought he would even be a member of the team beyond the trade deadline. Well, not only is he a part of the team, but he is playing football like the guy who earned a $100 million contract.

Brandon Banks. Banks a big man in a small body who has resurrected the days of Brian Mitchell with his explosive return ability. This team has not had this type of return man since Mitchell. The Redskins have gone through many -- Deon Sanders, Mike Bates, Eric Metcalf, and Antwan Randle-El just to name a few -- but none has had the impact that Banks has had since being given full-time return duties for both punts and kickoffs.

These are my midway point surprises, what are yours?

By LaVar Arrington  | November 3, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
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Next: Redskins at the bye week: first half positives


Kyle Shanahan is a snake......

Posted by: BeatDontStop | November 3, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

McNabb is a washed up 'never-was' looking for one more pay day before he retires. I hope we don't give it to him because he doesn't deserve it. He is done in this league.

Posted by: sjp879 | November 3, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

This is a strange team to watch. Most of their games have been against some quality opponents and I would even argue that Detroit is much, much better than their record would indicate. So at this point in the season I don't think people should be that upset. This team was 4-12 last year, so to be 4-4 at this point in the season given their schedule I would grade this squad at around a 5.5 or 6 out of 10. McNabb has not played well, but there are at least four good reasons behind some of his poor productivity.

1. First and foremost their offensive is BAD - you can't remake history without an offensive line people

2. Weak receiver corps - if I was the coach I would go the New England route and use more two tight end sets so that Cooley and Davis are on the field at the same time for blocking and receiving.

3. McNabb is banged up and isn't practicing a lot (first year in a new system with a new team - practice reps are vital)

4. No consistency in the running game (goes back to the offensive line), but I would say Torain and Portis are both middle tier backs who lack the ability to create something out of nothing. This forces the skins into a lot of 2nd/3rd and long situations making it easier for defenses to play pass.

My two cents

Posted by: biffandchet | November 3, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

When the Redskins went to Detroit 2 years ago and barely won to go to 6-2, I think that game was a turning point for the Zorn era.

During that game Zorn had a shouting episode at Clinton Portis. In my opinion, after that game, Clinton Portis checked out. He has not been the same for the Redskins. Zorn lost the team around that time as well.

It seems like the last 3 meetings between the Redskins and the Lions have been a turning point for the worst for the Redskins. I hope this year is an exception and we bounce back from this one. I hope what Shanahan did to McNabb hasn't caused him to lose the team for the rest of the season. Otherwise 4-12 is not out of the question. At 6-2 in 2008, 8-8 seemed a stretch but it happened...

Posted by: alit1 | November 3, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The line is terrible, and MC5 is paying the price. MC5 has a great deep ball, but just like in Philly, he throws alot in the dirt. Why is that?

Landry, Orakpo, and DHall have been big this year, hopefully they can keep it up,and keep Haynesworth rolling.

I'm not really sure what Galloway is doing out there, and they need to involve Sellers more.

Bottom line is I like watching the Redskins this year, as opposed to the past couple of years. But, every game is a nail bitter. They need to learn how to put the game away.....I guess a good run game would cure that.

Here is a question for you LaVar...Loved watching you play, but always wanted a jersey, and could never get one....You didn't give licensing rights or something? Why was that?

Posted by: emiller2212 | November 3, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The conclusion I've drawn from first half of the season is that it will be some time (2-3 years) before the Redskins will be a good team. Sure, we have some outstanding players, but we also have areas that need major work. Our offensive line is old and poorly suited for the zone blocking / running scheme that Shanahan used to great success in Denver. We have some gaps in our skill positions. Our defensive squad will need changes to become good at the 3-4 scheme and realize all of the advantages in deception and pass rush it can have.
In time Shanahan will make the team better, but the key word is TIME.

Posted by: Sigma60 | November 3, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

McNabb does not look like himself. I heard last game that Shanahan's system looks long first then mid-range then short for passes. That would work if we had some blocking. Need to throw short passes first to open up the long ones. McNabb has missed some open recievers and there have been some dropped passes. McNabb can eat up a defense with those short passes to the running backs, regaurdless of the line. Thats the game he played in Philly.

Posted by: Skinsforever47 | November 3, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I haven't watched the video, but why is lavar wearing what appears to be his son's abercrombie tee shirt?

Posted by: AdamCr | November 3, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

AdamCr- LMFAO!

Posted by: luvdc808 | November 3, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I love to see "genius" at work. Genius sees things that are not broken--and breaks them. So Shanahan takes the fourth best defense, transforms it into a "3-4" that is now last in the NFL defenses. The defense transforms arguably the best 4-3 defensive lineman in Haynesworth--and transforms him into a run-of-the-mill performer. That's genius at work.

And where offense is concerned, he/son construct an offense so unsuited to McNabb particular skills, that his strengths become weaknesses. (If he was so far out of condition, how could he scamper 36 yards early in the Detroit game?)

But Shanahan is a genius--just ask anyone (until he is fired, and then his reputation will get a reality check.)

Posted by: JonesDT | November 3, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

My comment was rejected as having submitted too many in a short while. I have not commented more than once--you are not handling this comment section correctly.

Posted by: JonesDT | November 3, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Since the last superbowl and the HOGS, the skins have not had an effective offensive line. Every QB has had to learn to run for their life. Head coaches came and went and the line stayed lousy. Run or pass blocking seems beyond their capacity. Without that capability, no QB is going to be successful. They need to start looking at some of the 2d and 3rd tier schools out in mountain and northern states for their picks who can read the playbook and are hungry and don't cost too much.

Posted by: pauls4111 | November 3, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh, Lavar and Do*che...of course you guys are surprised that Shanahan doesnt have a 6-2 record like Jim Zorn did last year @ midpoint. I mean, nothing the Redskins do will ever meet with your approval.

Of course, that doesnt say much coming from a guy who didnt bother to read his own contract before executing it. Caveat Emptor, Lavar!

And in case you didnt notice, I detest the entire 106.7 mid-day and afternoon drive times. One thing the 3 stooges fail to understand (Mike Wise, Lavar, and Do*che) is that the Redskins were here well before you, and will remain well after you have have gone.

The point is, many people are growing sick and tired of you clowns trying to stir up trouble; tossing out moronic "hypotheticals" day in and day out(e.g. last week it was 'should Sexy Rexy get the start'--this week it's 'how dare they' put in Grossman).

Of course, this week I made sure that I would not longer listen to either slot in the hopes that your Arbitron ratings nose dive to the point a flame thrower is taken to both shows.

Posted by: zap123 | November 3, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse


Dude, seriously ... step up your fashion game a little. Get a professional looking haircut, buy a coat and tie, burn that shirt you're wearing ... and invest in a better razor.

It's hard to take you seriously every week when you look like you just woke up 5 minutes ago.

Now I'll be checking back in next week ... and I want to see some progress.

Don't make me get up out of my computer chair!


Posted by: FootballCardSnatcher | November 4, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

How about Dan Snyder getting out of the way?

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | November 4, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Surprise - the only QB we can win with is Mike Vick! He's the only guy who can actually make our horrible OL obsolete.........maybe we can trade McNabb back with another 3rd round pick for Vick? New head coach, new GM, same old freakin mess! So my surprise so far is that the sheepish Washington Redskins fans are shocked with the output this season. Oh and don't forget everyone - buy your club tickets now there are still some available! The Skins are going 8-0 in the 2nd half of their season to win the NFC, and go straight to the super bowl. I also own a nice tropical island I am looking to sell in Antarctica.....

Posted by: dwilcox2 | November 4, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

McNab isn't the problem, the Shannahans are. I am not sure father and son are on the same page. Remember, they have never coached together. McNab looked good for the first 6 games but hasn't looked good the last 2. Why? Poor receivers, poor O line. Why is Dockery inactive when he is better than Lichtensteiger and why is Heyer playing when he should be on the bench? No running game. We have no ability to control tempo and grind a game out. Problem is poor blocking by O Line and no so great RBs. And then take a perennial top 10 defense (#4 last year) and change to a 3-4 without the personnel and be #31 giving up almost 400 yards a game.
Mike Shannahan, we know you are agood coach. Now suck up your ego and realize you made some mistakes: Sign McNab to an extension, start Dockery, only play Heyer in case of injury. Think about going back to the 4-3 or get some DE and LBs that can run. Don't forget to take McNab and Haynesworth out to dinner and apologize to them for being petulant.

Posted by: neil64 | November 4, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

The Redskins organization is the problem and it starts at the top. The fans have unrealistic expectations and they are joke because they are already bailing on the current coach and hof quarterback when they are 4-4. Living in the area I try to root for them but it's hard the fans and the media including the homeless looking lavar are for the most part focus on clueless dribble. Yes their line sucks yet no what do they do, the bring in Jamarcus Russel for evaluation. Again, if you want to watch and follow a real and LOCAL pro football team head up to 95 and watch the game of the week Miami/BMORE! I love writing checks to biscotti and not snyder!

Posted by: jdb70 | November 4, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Funny how Campbell has shines with an OL My apologies to any negative comment he was one classy Man

Posted by: southportwave | November 4, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

The team remains an enigma. D Hall goes from one week looking week in pass coverage to a 4 interception game the next. Last year, my perception was that D Hall's tackling was atrocious, but this year my perception is that he has been hitting people hard. One week, the team has over 150 yards rushing to the sorry production we saw last week. McNabb went from over 400yards passing against Houston to getting benched last week. Haynesworth went from a Fat Slob to Superman. What is the identity of this team? Shanahan went from a "football genius" the dumbest post game performance I've seen since ... well, Jim Zorn. Where has Dan Snyder been in all this drama? Thank goodness, we haven't heard a peep from him. What exactly is the identity of this team? To me, it's a total mystery. Will the second half be a train wreck in the tradition of Jim Zorn and the bingo caller? Or, will this team get some traction and develop enough momentum to eke their way into the playoffs? To me, the key to what happens is McNabb, and he is the biggest mystery of all.

Posted by: dannykurland1 | November 4, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Biff and the other dudes who think the majority of the offensive problems are the result of a poor offensive line. They have one good tackle and that's about it. I wish more of the media scrutiny would fall on the front five, those guys are the ones who need a serious wake-up call.

Posted by: pjsharpe19 | November 6, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

If we want to win, we need to follow the Patriots strategy. They're a play off contender once again, and they have 2 no.1 picks, and 2 no.2 picks. They've won 3 of the last 6 or 7 Super Bowls, and are building through the draft with youth. Belichick is a football genius. Shanny won with Elway, and that's it. You don't see New England trying out Jamarcus Russell.....

Posted by: Riggo2 | November 8, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

You can talk about McNabb all you want but the fact is that the Redskins do not have a single wide receiver or running back that could start for any other team in the division. That's including the putrid Dallas Cowboys. The middle of the line might be the worst in league. The reason McNabb kept getting stepped on was because Rabach lept getting pushed into the backfied after the snap.

Posted by: boodahbear823 | November 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

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