Ready to face youthful Philadelphia Eagles, aging Washington Redskins are built to win - now

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 29, 2010; 12:05 AM

In their first meeting since Donovan McNabb was traded from Philadelphia to Washington, the Eagles will host the Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

To be sure, the spotlight will shine brightest on McNabb - among the league's most successful quarterbacks during his first 11 seasons with Philadelphia - after the surprising Easter trade between NFC East rivals.

Something else, however, will be on display as well: Age vs. youth. For the second straight season, the Redskins have the NFL's oldest roster with an average age of 27.75 years. Washington (1-2) also has the oldest starting lineups and the most starters who are 30 or older (there are 10 of them).

Conversely, the division-leading Eagles (2-1) had the league's fifth-youngest opening day lineup and only three starters 30 or older.

"You need guys with experience to win in this league and show the young guys the right way to play," Redskins backup defensive lineman Phillip Daniels, 37, said recently. "There's a lot of things veterans bring [that] young guys [are] still learning. Coaches need to know they can trust in guys and have confidence in 'em, and that just comes with time. You also need young guys coming behind 'em for a good mix."

Long on experience, the Redskins lack the latter component of roster balance. Many poor drafts - including the most recent - have failed to provide the consistent infusion of youth and talent needed in a league where 30 is considered old.

The new regime, under the direction of Coach Mike Shanahan, inherited a team with glaring roster deficiencies and acquired more proven veterans in a short-term effort to address them. But as Washington struggled in consecutive losses to the younger Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams, it seems multiple drafts could be needed for the team to begin a long, successful run under Shanahan. And considering Shanahan's poor player-personnel record late in his tenure with the Denver Broncos, nothing is assured.

With few young players in prominent positions, the Redskins are built to win now, and that's what they still hope to do despite their disappointing start.

"Nobody around here tryin' to rebuild or even thinking about anything like that," said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, 26. "I look at the talent we have and the coaches we have . . . we got what we need to do it right now. Maybe we don't have as many young guys [in major roles] as some teams, but we definitely got some."

On defense, second-year outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, 24, is considered a rising star after producing 11 sacks as a rookie. In his fourth season, strong safety LaRon Landry, 25, is off to his best start. Big things are expected of third-year free safety Kareem Moore, 26, who had an interception in his first game of the season against the Rams after recovering from knee surgery in the preseason.

Rookie left tackle Trent Williams, 22, possesses the physical tools to become a perennial Pro Bowler and longtime anchor for the offensive line. Pass-catching tight end Fred Davis, 24, is still a backup in his third season, but he has a role in the passing game.

With the Redskins, though, those players are the exception.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company