- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back in August, when the Washington Redskins were in the midst of an uneventful training camp, there was much talk about what was to come for a team that had turned a 6-2 start into an 8-8 finish in coach Jim Zorn’s debut season.

The 2009 season seemed to be divided into two major segments. Washington’s seven games before the bye featured what looked like four easy victories and a closer one at home against Philadelphia. The nine games after the bye looked more daunting, with only games against rebuilding Denver and lowly Oakland looking like easy matchups. It would take sweeping visits by the Saints, Giants and Cowboys to make the playoffs.But logic began failing when the Redskins couldn’t score on 12 plays inside the 10 in Week 2 against hapless St. Louis. After escaping the Rams, the Redskins were dominated by the Lions, who hadn’t won since 2007. Washington needed to rally to beat winless Tampa Bay at home but blew a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead to lose at Carolina. The Redskins then lost to Kansas City to complete their pathetic performance against the softest five-game slate of opponents in NFL history.

Q: Were those summer thoughts of a playoff berth really just three months ago, or is the disaster that the Redskins have become just a dream?

A: Reality bites. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that the second half looks even harder now that the Saints are undefeated.

Q: What has gone wrong?

A: Where to begin? The biggest problem is that Zorn’s offense hasn’t worked as designed. The man of many interests has been unable to get his guys to play with ease. A year and a half into his regime, the offense looks confused way too often. Even the awful Raiders and Browns have scored more than 17 points at least once.

Q: Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato stripped Zorn of the playcalling two games ago, so is that Zorn’s fault?

A: Zorn isn’t solely to blame. Quarterback Jason Campbell, so super during a four-game tear against the Saints, Cardinals, Cowboys and Eagles early last season, doesn’t look comfortable even when he’s not being pounded to the ground. The pass protection by a line missing four starters from last year (the Redskins opted to let two go) has been horrid. Cerrato’s trio of second-year pass-catchers have been zeros again. And Clinton Portis hasn’t produced save a 78-yard run that set up a field goal against the Chiefs.

Q: Sheesh, is there any good news on offense?

A: Not really. Chris Cooley is hurt. Derrick Dockery is the same average player who left after 2006. Casey Rabach and Santana Moss are past their peaks.

Q: OK, OK. How about the defense - like being No. 1 in passing?

A: But the Redskins are also 25th against the run after being trampled by Atlanta’s Michael Turner last week. And four games against the formidable ground attacks of the Giants, Saints and Cowboys are still to come.

Q: The pass rush is big-time, though. So is Albert Haynesworth worth the money?

A: The pass rush hasn’t been this good since LaVar Arrington and Bruce Smith were wreaking havoc for coordinator Marvin Lewis in 2002. Haynesworth deserves plenty of credit for demanding double teams inside, which allows Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo (12 sacks between them) to rush outside one-on-one. However, Washington’s defense is fifth now with the tougher competition still to play. There’s no way Haynesworth is worth $41 million guaranteed - unless he can play two ways and keep Campbell from getting killed.

Q: Just how rough will the second half be?

A: Is 2-14 rough enough? Seven of the eight remaining foes are at least 5-3. And that 3,000-mile trip to the Black Hole to play their only remaining opponent with a losing record could be coming on the heels of eight straight defeats. The Redskins will have nothing left by then.

Q: What about the future? What happens for the Redskins come January?

A: Zorn and the offensive staff will be gone. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache will retire. The fate of the rest of the defensive staff and special teams coach Danny Smith will be in the hands of the new coach. If Snyder foolishly retains his buddy Cerrato, then expect him to try to hire Mike Shanahan. If Snyder mans up and cans Cerrato, then he could pursue another proven winner like TV talking heads Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.

Q: What about the players? How big a housecleaning can we anticipate?

A: Campbell; Portis; offensive linemen Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, Casey Rabach and Stephon Heyer; receiver Antwaan Randle El; defensive linemen Cornelius Griffin and Phillip Daniels; cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot; linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher; safety Reed Doughty; kicker Shaun Suisham; and punter Hunter Smith all could be gone by their choice or that of the new coach. Is that big enough?

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