More of The Same Works for Redskins
Intact Roster Leads To Winning Streak
Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page E01
Much of the rest of the NFL looked at the NFC East in the offseason and saw depth and talent. Dallas had Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and Marion Barber making up a terrifying offense. Philadelphia had a healthy Donovan McNabb at quarterback, multi-talented Brian Westbrook out of the backfield and cornerback Asante Samuel as an impact free agent. And the New York Giants had a Super Bowl trophy.
The conclusion: The Washington Redskins were the easy pick for last place in a division stocked with playmakers.
The Redskins themselves, though, found it necessary to reiterate one point. "We went to the playoffs last year," wide receiver Santana Moss said yesterday in a tone that indicated he believes people forgot. "I mean, come on."
Off to a 4-1 start that most of the league considers surprising, the Redskins are still reminding others of the four-game winning streak that capped off last season and put the team in the playoffs. With all the offseason tumult -- Joe Gibbs's sudden retirement, a lengthy coaching search that led to Jim Zorn -- that salient fact was easy to forget.
"That's why we didn't do a lot," executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato said.
They didn't pursue a major free agent. Their most significant veteran addition came in the form of defensive end Jason Taylor, who was acquired in a trade with Miami only after defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee went down with season-ending injuries on the first day of training camp.
The same team that finished 9-7 and lost a first-round playoff game at Seattle was left intact to come back and try to improve under a first-year head coach. An approach that might have seemed out of character is now being praised by the players.
"For us," fullback Mike Sellers said, "it's all about keeping continuity."
Cerrato said that was a contributing factor in the Redskins' lack of activity in an offseason that featured a weak free agent class.
"In free agency, there wasn't anything that was out there where we thought it was worth paying what was being asked," he said.
So rather than pursuing other players, they restructured the contracts of several veterans -- among them running back Clinton Portis -- so they could keep the roster together. Their only significant inquiry was for Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who had vowed not to play for the Bengals, but trade talks didn't yield a deal. Of the players on the 53-man roster now, 10 arrived in 2005 or earlier, 10 more in 2006. That core of veterans includes 13 starters.
"We have a good locker room," Cerrato said. "When you have good guys and a good locker room that [has] good players, why change? And usually the most successful teams have the least amount of turnover. We thought we could compete with these guys."