ESPN Bottomline 2.0

Sunday, June 27, 2010

McNabb short on tools in D.C.

A new era is upon the Washington Redskins. Mike Shanahan now has control of the ship and Daniel Snyder once again has a big name coach to oggle for a couple of years. Larry Johnson joins Clinton Portis on a full time basis with fast Willie Parker and Ryan Torain rounding out the options for Shanahan's vaunted running scheme.

And run they will. It is what Shanahan does. Has always done. There are no other coaches in the last 20 years to craft a running game the way Shanahan did in Denver on a year-to-year basis and there is no reason to think that it is going to be any different in D.C.

Yet, Shanahan has a new (well, new to Washington) quarterback to play with -- Donovan McNabb.

The reports of McNabbs demise are, somewhat, exaggerated. His time in Philadelphia had run its course as the city never really forgave him for his fourth quarter meltdown against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX (or the plethora of botched NFL Championship games before that) and it was just time for him to get out of Eagle territory. Curious that Philadelphia would trade him to the Redskins. The notion here is that the Eagles must think they sold Washington a poison pill of which will slowly kill it or that the Redskins are such a non-factor in the NFC East that, even with McNabb, they are no threat.

Are the Redskins a threat? It is a valid question.

Lets assume for a second that the defense will be adequate and the running game above average. Kind of a stretch, I know. Really though, when it comes to rounding out of the offense, who does McNabb have as toys in his play box?

Foremost, his X receiver, Santana Moss. The same Santana Moss that was just recently implicated in an Human Growth Hormone scandal in May and who, at 31, is coming off his lowest average yards per catch of his career (12.9 on 70 receptions). Even with McNabb throwing him passes instead of Jason Campbell, Moss is on the wrong side of 30 and his numbers do not project to be much better in 2010. Backing him up is Joey Galloway. Galloway is still blazing fast but if his time in New England is an indication, he is also a bit too long in the tooth. Galloway had trouble running routes in the Patriots system and could not hold onto the ball when Tom Brady put it in his hands anyway.

On the other end Malcolm Kelly and and Devin Thomas are not exactly names that bring to mind images  of touchdown dances and prolific scoring. Between the two last year they were mildly productive -- 50 catches (25 apiece), 672 yards, three touchdowns (all by Thomas). Any team with a decent second cornerback will have little trouble containing either receiver, assuming that Shanahan does not cut Kelly outright in training camp.

I know what you are thinking, Redskin fan. Who needs wide receivers when we have one of the best tight ends in the league in Chris Cooley? Well, the venerable Mr. Cooley missed the last half of 2009 with an ankle injury and this year he will definitely be asked to help in the run game as Shanahan likes his tight ends to chip in on the zone-blocking scheme. Through his career Cooley averages 3.9 catches a game at 43.6 yards and has scored 30 touchdowns since 2004. Somewhere Tony Gonzalez is snickering at the notion that Cooley is a top end tight end in the NFL.

Then there is Fred Davis, who played well in Cooley's absence last year with 48 catches, 509 yards and six touchdowns. Not bad production really but still falls in line with what an average receiving tight end in the NFL does on a yearly basis. Really, when it comes to producing offense, outside of a couple exceptions, tight ends are not viable threats as stand-alone players. They are much better in supplementary roles to quality wide receivers and running backs. It is hard to imagine, given the state of the Redskins wide receivers, that the Washington offense can take any giant leaps forward from the 22nd overall (26th scoring) offense from last year.

So where does this leave McNabb? Facing the twilight of his career with a franchise that has no option but to go through a lengthy rebuilding process in a division where the other three teams are consistent contenders.

That does not mean that McNabb will not be viable. There is a good chance that he can approximate his last three seasons -- between 3,000 to 3,500 yards with 19 to 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and a QB rating between 87 and 92.

The problem with those numbers? They are not all that different from Jason Campbell's from last year. Campbell was the 14th ranked quarterback in the NFL last year. McNabb?


Given his regression, age, new system and the lack of tools around him, do not expect McNabb to be much better than his predecessor going forward.

Which will probably make for a long year in the nation's capital.


No comments:

Post a Comment