The talent level has improved with three new starters. Unfortunately, they don’t have a leader and the transition to zone-blocking and new pass protections will take a while. The backups are versatile but a big step down. While this unit will be better by mid-season, it’s going to take until the next year before this line solidifies into a firm foundation. They are asking a lot of rookie LT Trent Williams, who has all the tools but must take several giant steps forward to reach his potential.
Formerly a scrambler, McNabb can still use his legs to move the pocket & bootleg; his rocket arm is as powerful as ever. McNabb is a vocal and respected leader. His close-range accuracy isn’t the best, but he never throws INTs and is excellent in his ball distribution and decision-making. He will make his receivers better.
Injury concerns must be acknowledged: McNabb played all 16 games only once in the past five seasons. The backup will be Gross Rexman, a garbage pail kid who, unfortunately, is virtually assured of playing time this season. I can't believe this turd is on my team.
Running Back: B-
Competition at RB will eventually shake out a starter, and I’m betting that it will be Larry Johnson by mid-season. Incumbent Clinton Portis must heed the growing criticism of his work ethic. FB Mike Sellers did not have a good year, but if he bounces back he'll be a valuable lead blocker. This unit could combine for 350 carries and 1500 yards.
But if that doesn’t translate into TDs and wins, then character issues will demolish this position. Shanahan would have no problem starting over with a new backfield next year.
Wide Receiver: C+
This unit is flooded with applicants, and the position battles are wide open. Whether Washington will be able to ever threaten with three-receiver sets is a major question. They lack an elite #1 receiver but this unit could be successful with a proven QB and a decent run threat. Santana Moss, Devin Thomas and Bobby Wade are my projected starters.
Tight End: A-
The strength of the offense. Chris Cooley and Fred Davis are explosive athletes with good hands. Only decent run blockers, if used together they will create mismatches which McNabb can exploit at will. Mike Shanahan hasn’t had a TE this good since Shannon Sharpe, and Washington has two of them.
Offense Overview: C+
Washington hopes to run powerfully to set up a deep passing attack. On paper, Washington should run better than any team McNabb or (coordinator) Kyle Shanahan has ever had. However, the line remains a work in progress.
Playing to the team’s strengths would be using two tight ends as a base offense. This run-first look could hit the deep play-action pass with frequency. The double tight end formation is something to watch for in 2010.
Growing pains are very likely for this offense. Until skill position starters emerge and the line jells, points may be hard to come by. They’ll face some dangerous defenses in the first half of the season. Look for this offense to emerge after the bye, when they travel to Philadelphia on November 15th.