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Free safety Madieu Williams has been, too. Shanahan signed him in the offseason to be a reserve, but Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The Redskins signed Jackson as their Plan A for free safety knowing he had a history of violations.
The defense has yet to hold an opponent to fewer than 21 points after doing so eight times last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has received the brunt of fan criticism.
“I come to work, I work hard, I do the best I can with what we got and try to put these guys in position to win games and be successful on defense,” Haslett said Wednesday. “That’s all really I can do.”
On offense, the outlook is much brighter. Shanahan’s aggressive move to trade up and draft Griffin appears to have been worth the high price. Griffin was one of the most electrifying players in the NFL during the first half of the season, and it’s clear he has significant room for improvement recognizing open receivers and throwing the ball.
Shanahan drafted rookie running back Alfred Morris in the sixth round in April with one of the draft picks the Redskins received as compensation for trading quarterback Donovan McNabb. Morris is fourth in the NFL with 793 yards, making Shanahan look like a genius.
Shanahan’s offensive line, which crumbled due to injuries, has not had to tap into its depth. No starter has missed a game.
And even though No. 1 receiver Pierre Garcon, the offseason’s top free agent acquisition, hasn’t been healthy but for eight successful plays in the season opener, Washington’s offense is one of the NFL’s best with Griffin at the controls and the coaching staff designing effective formations and option concepts.
In the big picture, then, Shanahan insists there is progress despite a record that doesn’t prove it.
“I know I’m going in the right direction,” he said.
To some, Griffin’s presence, by itself, validates that.
“When you look at the NFL in some instances where you say third year of a program, third year of a head coach, and you would like to see that team starting to ascend, but I think in our situation this is the first year we’ve actually had a quarterback, for the most part,” linebacker London Fletcher said.
“That definitely makes a difference, and you see with Robert he’s going to be a great player, and he’s going to give you a great chance to win. Now you just continue to build pieces around him to make sure.”
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