- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

If the Redskins need any extra encouragement this season, all they have to do is glance back at the last two years in the wild and wacky NFC East. The 2007 Giants didn’t even win the division - in fact, they wound up three games behind the Cowboys - but they won the Super Bowl. The ‘08 Eagles didn’t win the division either - in fact, they didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final week - but they came within a late touchdown of making the Super Bowl themselves.

So naturally, the Redskins are thinking: Why not us? Why can’t 2009 be our turn? There’s no reason we have to be the Toronto Blue Jays of the NFC East, always looking up at the Big Three. Besides, in the National Parity League, the pendulum has to swing back at some point, doesn’t it?

To which I reply: Well, the Redskins went from 1946 to 1970 - 25 postseason-less years - without the pendulum swinging back. Sometimes the pendulum is in no hurry to reverse course. Indeed, sometimes the pendulum stops for ice cream or pulls over to admire the view from the Scenic Overlook.

And anyway, this parity business is a bit overstated. Two years ago, the Patriots were less than a minute away from 19-0. Last year, the Lions became the first team since World War II to lose ‘em all. Where’s the parity in that?

Also, not to bring up a sore subject or anything, but the Redskins are wrapping up their worst decade since the Sorry Sixties. Counting playoff games, their record in the ‘00s is 67-80 (including playoffs), a 45.6 percent success rate. No fewer than three times - including last season - they’ve finished neither here nor there (read: 8-8).

They’ve accomplished this, moreover, despite the Open Checkbook Policy of their owner, Dan Snyder. The Redskins may not lead the league in wins, but they lead it in hood ornaments - be it Deion Sanders, Laveranues Coles, Joe Gibbs (and the World’s Most Expensive Coaching Staff), Jason Taylor or the latest extravagance, Albert Haynesworth, the extra-large defensive tackle.

One of these days, the reasoning goes, all of the overpriced pieces will fit magically together, and the Redskins will be back on top.

That day, of course, has yet to arrive.

Actually, if you look closely at the NFC East, there are some positive signs for the Redskins. The Giants, for instance, have cut the cord with pistol-packing Plaxico Burress, and their offense isn’t nearly as dangerous without him. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have bid goodbye to Terrell Owens, and Tony Romo will miss him a lot more than he thinks. As for the Eagles, the Redskins beat them twice last year - and have won in Philadelphia four times in this decade.

In other words, a rough, tough, ultracompetitive division has drawn closer still. And as we’ve seen, you don’t have to win the NFC East to do well in the postseason, you just have to survive it. Just qualify for the playoffs - any way you can - and there’s no telling what might happen.

The biggest surprise about the Redskins’ offseason machinations is that they did so little to help their offense - an offense that was next-to-last in the NFC last year with 265 points. (Even the toothless Lions scored more.)

This is, after all, a crucial season for Jason Campbell, who’s at the end of his contract and who the club has put much time and effort into. Throw the guy a bone, will ya? Give him another toy to play with - or sink some money into a blocker who will buy him more time in the pocket.

But Snyder’s major expenditures - signing Haynesworth as a free agent, retaining DeAngelo Hall, drafting linebacker/pass rusher Brian Orakpo in the first round - were all on the other side of the ball. He loaded up on D, moreover, even though the unit was already the strength of the team (and finished third in the conference in ‘08 in points allowed, just seven behind the top-ranked Eagles).

Yes, Campbell should be more productive in his second year in Jim Zorn’s system, and yes, you’d expect more of a contribution out of the sophomore pass catchers - wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis - but make no mistake: This is a club that’s built around its defense. Not quite to the extent the Bucs have been, maybe, but in that general vicinity.

Santana Moss, I’ll just point out, turned 30 last month, and Clinton Portis has 9,202 yards on his odometer. Then there are Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas, who are much closer to the end than the beginning - and are coming off injuries to boot. The Redskins are probably looking at a bunch of grind-it-out, 20-17/17-14 games this season.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Defense certainly served the Eagles well last year - and the Giants the year before in the playoffs. You just wonder whether the Redskins have put too many eggs in Greg Blache’s basket.

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