There is no fun writing (or reading) about the Washington Redskins' 11th loss of the season. Eleven in 'Eleven has a ring about it, all of it wrong when it refers to losses. We just won't deal with it today. Go read about the 'Skins' 34-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles here and here and here, or even here.
Here's an oddity to note. Opponents scored 34 points in three of Washington's last four losses. The lone exception was the Minnesota game when the Vikings scored 33 points.
You did not come here to read negatives. So, lets focus on a few positives, all based on the one thing Mike Shanahan and the front office got right—the offseason additions.
Kerrigan and Jenkins
Ryan Kerrigan is a hit. Kerrigan is more certain to be a star for the next five seasons than QB Blaine Gabbert would have been. Washington passed on Gabbert to take Kerrigan. The early returns on Gabbert don't show him to be the quarterback solution to Washington's problem. Gabbert played on a bad Jaguars team as he would have played on a bad Redskins team. He would not have helped Washington this year. Kerrigan was an immediate hit whose performance lessens the pain of seeing Andre' Carter and Carlos Rogers make the Pro Bowl as starters for playoff teams after the Redskins cast them off for being "poor fits."
Jarvis Jenkins is probably a hit, based on his 2011 training camp. Coach Mike Shanahan reported that Jenkins is ahead of schedule on his recovery from a torn ACL and will rejoin the team for offseason conditioning. Jenkins spent the entire 2011 season on Injured Reserve. Everybody anticipates seeing Jenkins on the active roster.
Rookie running back Roy Helu is everything I expected him to be and rookie Evan Royster is everything I hoped he would be.
With all the noise, yes noise, about the importance of the quarterback and the passing game, people devalue the importance of the running game. Washington ranked 12th in rushing (116.9 ypg, 15 rushing TDs) in the 2007 season, their last playoff season. They improved to eighth best in 2008 (130.9 ypg, 12 TDs). Then the wheels fell off Clinton Portis and the offense tanked to be the 27th-ranked run offense in 2009. This season, with Helu, Royster and Tim Hightower, Washington averaged 100 yards per game for the first time since '08.
While Helu and Royster are players, they are not yet proven playmakers. Clinton Portis started 12 games in his rookie season with the Broncos under Mike Shanahan (ahem). He rushed for 1,508 yards, averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns. That's the benchmark for a rushing playmaker.
The thoughtful analysis here is that Helu and Royster are playing above their Draft position and that's very sweet for the Redskins. They offer more than Ryan Torain who some fans believed to be the answer to Clinton Portis. The rookies may become that, hopefully will become that. But they are not yet the equal of other NFC BEast rushers. They are closer to that level than Washington's quarterbacks.
Smart veteran free agents
Barry Cofield, Stephan Bowen, Chris Chester, Jabar Gaffney are exactly the smart choices as role-playing contributors a team needs to fill holes on the roster. Throughout Daniel Snyder's ownership, the Redskins showed a stubborn bias to sign top end free agents stars to the neglect of real foundation players that help teams reach the top and stay there.
Too often, that meant devaluing in-house talent for outsiders. Joe Gibbs was as inclined to do this as Snyderrato. Gibbs signed Adam Archuleta to the richest contract to that point for a safety while letting Ryan Clark, Antonio Pierce and Walt Harris walk. Clark and Pierce started for Super Bowl teams. Harris went to San Francisco where he had a Pro Bowl season.
Mike Shanahan resisted the allure of signing other team's stars in favor of the grunts. Lets tip the hat to Scott Campbell and Morocco Brown, both Directors of Pro Personnel, for finding the right talent.
If only Shanahan thought this way about quarterback. That's where the real work begins for Messrs. Campbell and Brown. It is beginning to sink in that neither Andrew Luck nor Robert Griffin III will be a Redskin. Finding the right veteran quarterback from the thin choices available is the top priority for the front office, because the boss (Shanahan) cannot afford to blow this decision again.
Do a good job, fellas.