Redskins Pay Price For Moves

(Preston Keres - Twp)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 29, 2006

On paper, the moves made perfect sense to the Washington Redskins last winter as they embarked on their annual sweeping foray into the free agent market. Sign a couple of big-name wide receivers, a pass-rush specialist, a hard-hitting safety, then hire an offensive guru and a 10-6 team reaches new heights, maybe even the Super Bowl.

Instead, with the bye week at hand, the Redskins are mired at the bottom of the NFC East with a 2-5 record, three straight losses and scant playoff hopes. The chemistry and momentum born in a six-game winning streak that got Washington into the second round of the 2005 playoffs is gone. And the newcomers acquired with so much fanfare seven months ago have failed to make a positive impact, save for wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.

As the NFL season nears its midpoint, some executives around the league are privately marveling at how, once again, the annual roster overhaul that has characterized the Redskins in the seven years under the ownership of Daniel Snyder has yielded so little except to set new records for player payroll and coaching salaries.

Joe Gibbs, the team's Hall of Fame coach who won three Super Bowls with Washington from 1981 to '92, has repeatedly defended the annual personnel changes, saying the aggressive pursuit of free agents is the best way to build a winning team.

"You can't go back, but I think those decisions were made the right way, they were made for the right reasons," Gibbs said. "And we've got players here and coaches here that can help our football team."

But the Redskins are 19-22 since Gibbs returned from a lengthy retirement before the 2004 season, and their poor start this year could point to deeper problems in the organization -- to its emphasis on free agents over draft picks, its evaluation of talent and, perhaps most centrally, its lack of a general manager with authority to oversee player personnel.

The offense has been erratic in the first seven games under Al Saunders, the former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator whom Gibbs hired in January to bring a new dynamism to the unit.

The players and their new coach are still adjusting to each other. Stalwarts such as tailback Clinton Portis and tight end Chris Cooley have slumped, while questions continue about the ability of 36-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell to execute the new system beyond the short-passing game.

Randle El, who left the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers to come to Washington, has been spectacular returning punts, but as the No. 3 wide receiver has been given only a limited window in which to shine. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, acquired from San Francisco for two high draft picks to be a complementary deep threat to Pro Bowl wideout Santana Moss, has flopped.

Christian Fauria, signed to be a blocking tight end to bolster the running game, has provided no significant help. Running back T.J. Duckett, acquired when Portis injured his shoulder during the preseason for the steep price of a high third-round draft pick, has carried the ball five times.

Free agent quarterback Todd Collins has yet to take a snap.

On defense, free agent end Andre Carter was supposed to be the energizing pass rusher the Redskins have lacked, yet opposing teams have attacked him in the running game and he has just two sacks. Adam Archuleta, another free agent who was considered a more rugged safety than former starter Ryan Clark, has failed both on the blitz and in pass coverage.

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