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Some thoughts about a wild last three days

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It has been a frenetic three days for the Redskins since the NFL re-opened for business at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Let’s take a step back and try to make some sense of it all.

>>Coach Mike Shanahan at times mishandled the Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb situations, but credit him for ending both before the team’s first full practice on Friday morning. Forget for a moment about the compensation Washington received in each trade; this is a positive for the team simply because the storylines have concluded.

Shanahan risked alienating players if he let Haynesworth or McNabb continue to be a distraction. Players’ trust was at stake. Several veterans during the offseason intimated as much. Shanahan couldn’t preach about a new beginning in 2011 while his battles of will continued. It was up to him to clean the slate, and he did it. Now when he talks about moving forward from a 6-10 campaign, players can get on board knowing he backed it up with actions.

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>>As for the compensation the Redskins received, both trades ended positively. The markets for Haynesworth and McNabb were diminished, but they weren’t non-existent, as numerous offseason reports suggested. Neither player was in Washington’s plans for 2011, so getting anything in return is gravy.

Also, compensation for Haynesworth—a fifth-round pick in 2013—is more evidence that Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen are focusing on the long term. Remember that they also deferred their compensation in the Jason Campbell trade last year and accepted a 2012 fourth rounder, perhaps one round better than if they had demanded a 2011 pick. The same applies to what New England gave up for Albert.

And how about Shanahan sending Haynesworth to a Patriots defense that runs a 3-4? A final thank you for his services.

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>>I was a tad surprised to see veterans such as Casey Rabach and Phillip Daniels released on Thursday if only because they are familiar with the Redskins’ schemes, and that knowledge and experience will be valuable following a lost offseason. Because the Redskins’ roster deficiencies have necessitated quite a few player acquisitions, they’ll be behind other (quality) teams that return a veteran core. Just another reason why the Redskins’ rebuilding effort is about making a major leap in 2012, not this year.

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>>Selfishly, we reporters lost two class individuals in Rabach and Daniels. In my two years covering the team, Rabach often served as a spokesman for an offensive line that was heavily criticized for its poor play. Daniels never tired of the Haynesworth questions and was always extremely generous with his time. I’m not sure if you all care about that stuff, but guys like them are critical to our ability to do our jobs. Both were locker room leaders, as well, and players are going to have to fill that void. Brian Orakpo, I’m looking in your direction. On the offensive side, candidates are more difficult to find. I’ll take suggestions.

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>>One of many questions we need answered Friday at the first practice is where the Redskins plan on playing newly-acquired interior lineman Chris Chester. Chester can play right guard or center, and he’d be an upgrade at either spot. But because the center must know the offense well in order to make run-blocking and pass-protection calls at the line, it would be risky to put Chester there and give him only six weeks to learn the scheme. With that in mind, let’s see if they slide Kory Lichtensteiger to center from left guard. 

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>>Consider these lineup changes: 2010 – NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu and RDE Kedric Golston; 2011 – NT Barry Cofield and RDE Stephen Bowen. At the very least, the new tandem should hold their ground at the line of scrimmage much more effectively. (Not a stretch, I know) Cofield is quick enough to penetrate, too, which is important in the one-gap approach that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett prefers up front. Cofield and Bowen also have fresher legs than Kemoeatu and Phillip Daniels. That will allow them to attack more instead of just holding their blocks.

Golston’s status is now especially intriguing. The Redskins drafted Jarvis Jenkins and brought in Bowen at defensive end, so it’s clear they weren’t pleased with his play last season. But Golston is a key special teams contributor. The thinking here is that the Redskins would be willing to let him leave if he receives any significant contract offer, but they’d bring him back on a cheap deal.

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>>A lot of you on Twitter came hard on Wednesday with jokes about the pair of 30-year-old receivers the Redskins acquired—Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth. And that’s good. I like jokes. But consider that the receiver position is one of the toughest at which to learn a new playbook. There are different route combinations against different coverages, particularly a lot in coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and mastering all that takes time. It’s reasonable to expect veterans like Gaffney and Stallworth to master it before the three rookies—Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson. Their NFL game experience will help them. In that regard, Gaffney and Stallworth are an inexpensive insurance policy. Anthony Armstrong begins camp Friday with a major advantage in the competition for the No. 2 receiver spot. I see no reason why he would fail to secure it.

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>>I’m interested to see whether strong safety LaRon Landry (Achilles’ tendon) practices Friday. Safety Kareem Moore (knee) and linebacker Robert Henson (knee), as well. You’d think Mike Shanahan would be cautious on the first day after last year’s Malcolm Kelly debacle. As you’ll recall from Kelly’s situation last season, anyone who practices Friday is not eligible for the Physically Unable to Perform list.

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>>A noteworthy stat for you: Newly-signed punter Sav Rocca averaged 43.8 yards per punt in 16 games last season. By comparison, Redskins punters averaged 40.2.

…I’m looking forward to the first practice. I’ll have updates for you from Redskins Park. Let me know your reactions to the thoughts I laid out here, and let me know what you want me to keep an eye on at practice. Leave a comment, send me an email at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.

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