- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This should be two grades: A-plus for the first half and C-minus for the second half. Clinton Portis was the NFL’s top rusher and a MVP candidate at midseason after he set a Redskins record with five straight 120-yard games. He turned it on when veteran Jon Jansen replaced Stephon Heyer at right tackle. But better defenses and Portis’ banged-up body added up to a mediocre second half despite his selection to the Pro Bowl.


Like Portis, Jason Campbell was much better in the first half (eight touchdowns, no interceptions) than the second (five touchdowns, six interceptions). Campbell was fairly accurate but wasn’t effective on third downs or in the fourth quarter. Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley set career highs in catches and yards but scored just once. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El had typical seasons, but rookies Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis combined for just 21 catches.


This unit lost run-stopping end Phillip Daniels on the first day of training camp and replaced him with former Miami pass rusher Jason Taylor and career backup Demetric Evans, but it still had a good year. Tackles Cornelius Griffin, Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery all missed time with injuries, and middle linebacker London Fletcher played hurt the final five games. Still, only three backs rushed for 100 yards against the Redskins.


Perhaps no pass defense faced more challenges during the first half of the season than Washington’s, but the Redskins kept elite quarterbacks and receivers under control. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was a playmaker after signing in November. Shawn Springs played well but couldn’t stay healthy. The pass rush finished with just 24 sacks. Free safety LaRon Landry made few big plays. Linebacker Marcus Washington was not the force he was in 2004-05.


Shaun Suisham, a revelation in 2007, was a mess in 2008. His .722 field goal percentage was the lowest of any kicker with as many as 10 attempts, and he also booted a couple of kickoffs out of bounds. Durant Brooks beat out incumbent Derrick Frost for the punting job, but after the rookie had two line drives returned for touchdowns, he was cut in favor of Ryan Plackemeier, whom coach Jim Zorn knew from Seattle. Plackemeier still finished last in the NFL.


Owner Dan Snyder tried to lure big names (Bill Cowher, Pete Carroll) and hot assistants (Steve Spagnuolo, Jim Schwartz) to Washington but wound up promoting Zorn, whom he had hired just two weeks before as offensive coordinator. Zorn, a coach of the year candidate at midseason, looked overmatched in a 1-4 skid when his offense ran aground. But he never lost the players’ support, which they showed with their impressive Week 16 effort against Philadelphia.

David Elfin

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