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Washington Redskins may be better, but still need to make major changes to their roster

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I can put a new starter in my 2001 Ford Explorer — but when I’m done, it’s still going to be a 2001 Ford Explorer. The engine’s going to turn over quicker, perhaps, but the left running board is still rusted, and it still has Metro parking lot dings. It still makes a funny noise when I turn left and it still doesn’t have heated seats or built-in GPS. (To answer the obvious question: It’s paid for and it has 37,500 miles on the odometer.)

The Redskins can put in a new starter, as they did Sunday, but it isn’t going to make a huge difference, not really. There are still too many other parts that need to be replaced, and the dings are starting to add up, as well.

I don’t think anyone but John Beck thought John Beck was the quarterback of the future. But he’s the quarterback of the present.

The Redskins have to find their quarterback of the future. Wait, where have we heard that before? It’s like a setup line for a joke — without the joke. When the punch lines include names such as Heath Shuler, it’s not funny.

But they also have other work to do. There is no point in drafting the quarterback of the future without beefing up the offensive line, and that is done through the draft.

And yes, injuries are piling up. When Santana Moss, Tim Hightower and London Fletcher head to the sideline in one game, that’s a major blow. Rex Grossman, meanwhile, was in the locker room with pneumonia. Let’s hope he was wearing a mask.

Hightower’s injury was the most costly. With him, the Redskins had a running game to take pressure off Beck. Without Hightower, there was no running game. Roy Helu and Ryan Torain between them gained minus-6 yards.

That meant Beck had to throw. And if he didn’t remind anyone of Steve Young, or Cy Young, or even Neil Young, he didn’t get a lot of help. Except for Fred Davis, the entire stable of receivers seemed to be suffering from an attack of jazz hands, like they were putting on a Bob Fosse production. Beck tried every one of them, too, including someone named Niles Paul, whom I thought played sax at Blues Alley.

(Davis is increasingly becoming Mr. Reliable for the Redskins, while the injured Chris Cooley was shown on the sideline during Sunday’s game looking like he just walked off the set of “Boogie Nights.”)

But every team has injuries, and everyone drops the occasional ball, and that’s life in the NFL. The truth is, what we saw Sunday are the 2011 Redskins. They got some breaks early on, and they were healthy. They were never deep, especially on the offensive line. Backups from last year were starting at the beginning of the year. And they were doing a credible job. But they were an injury away from trouble — and they got two injuries.

But everyone knew that the line was an injury away from trouble, and that the quarterback position was far from set. What no one expected was to see the much-improved defense so exposed, especially by a rookie quarterback who’d thrown nine interceptions this season. Jim Haslett had no answers for a 1-5 team and his defense was unable to get a turnover.

Unfortunately, with the state of the offense, the defense is going to have to force turnovers and keep opponents’ scoring low. If that doesn’t happen, the Redskins have no chance at salvaging a respectable season.

Meanwhile, what is the answer at quarterback? For this week, there’s not even a question. It’s John Beck. Mike Shanahan made that clear with his non-answer in Sunday’s news conference. For the coming weeks? Maybe he can call on his old friends in Denver for answers. Broncos fans put up billboards demanding Tim Tebow, they got Tim Tebow, and Tebow gave them an 18-15 overtime win. Maybe they’ve got some ideas. I’m sure they can find some space to rent in Ashburn.

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