Redskins Are Still Trying to Put the Pieces Together

By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Speaking with reporters before the season's first game, Vinny Cerrato, the Washington Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, ran down the team's roster, sprinkling praise on nearly every position, starting with the team's young wide receivers and the depth at offensive line. He was hardly the only one who thought the team had upgraded its personnel from last season and positioned itself for a return to the postseason.

Five games into what has begun as a frustrating season -- from the locker room to the head coach's office -- every corner of Redskins Park has faced intense scrutiny. While the speculation outside of Ashburn might focus on Coach Jim Zorn's uncertain future, the questions surrounding the roster -- and those who assembled it -- are increasing.

Critical words and finger-pointing have come from all directions, including from inside the franchise's insular house. Redskins alumni, the icons from the team's glory years, have joined the chorus, whether it's Joe Theismann on the radio, Sonny Jurgensen on the postgame show or John Riggins on YouTube.

Current players, too, have started to question whether the right pieces are in place. In attempting to take some heat off Zorn, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, "I think we're the ones out there playing every day, practicing, trying to do the right thing, but I don't know if we've got the right personnel here to do it."

Said fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers: "It starts not only with the players and the coaches. It starts with the ownership. They bring everybody in, and they've got last say-so of everything, so that's where it starts, I guess."

Cerrato declined multiple requests to respond to his players' comments and discuss the team's roster for this story.

But talent evaluators say that while the Redskins might never have been built for an immediate playoff run, they were a team that was clearly built for 2009. They started the season with the oldest team in the NFL. The average NFL team has 10 players age 30 or older; the Redskins have 17. With surprisingly few players guaranteed money beyond this season and an unpredictable uncapped year likely looming, the future of this Redskins' roster might be considerably less certain than that of its coach.

Not Deep Enough

Across the league, eyes widen when the Redskins' defense takes the field. Linebacker London Fletcher leads the league in tackles. Despite some conditioning questions, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth continues to impress pro scouts and overwhelm opposing linemen. And rookie Brian Orakpo shows bright flashes of potential when rushing off the edge.

"Defensively, it could've been an 11- or 12-win team," said Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns who runs the Web site "The problem is, you're looking at a four-win team on offense."

One veteran, high-ranking NFL player-personnel official who has studied the Redskins' roster said he thought the team had some talent, though too little depth and thus no margin for error.

"They can compete," said the official, who requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of commenting on another team's roster. "What I mean by that is, they're an 8-8 football team if everything goes well from a talent standpoint. That's what they are. If they get lucky, maybe you win nine, 10 games."

With early injuries to right guard Randy Thomas and left tackle Chris Samuels, luck was not among the team's offseason acquisitions.

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