So the Redskins wanted Jay Cutler. Shoe-in, right?
After all, the Redskins under Daniel Snyder's ownership have repeatedly shown an aptitude for seeking out high-priced talents and luring them to the nation's capital. The team did so as recently as last month, when they signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a mega-deal that left the rest of the NFL shaking its head and thinking, "Too rich for our blood ..."
But a funny thing happened on the Cutler-to-Washington train ride. Apparently, the team was using Amtrak, because the deal derailed and the train wound up going to Chicago instead. The Bears got Cutler, while the Redskins were left wondering what happened and dealing with the reality of a potentially-fractured relationship with quarterback Jason Campbell.
Is Campbell the quarterback of the future for the Redskins? I don't know yet, but in their horribly-arranged attempt to snag Cutler, the Redskins have shown they don't think so. There were already rumblings of such, since Campbell's in the final year of his rookie deal and no one in the front office has brought up the idea of a contract extension.
Let's refer to that as "Red Flag #1."
Let's be honest here ... on the list of Things That Are Wrong With the Washington Redskins, quarterback isn't exactly high on the list. Sure, there are questions surrounding Campbell after his second full season as starter, but plenty of other issues persist that, if addressed, could help clear up the answer at quarterback.
Try offensive line, for one. The Redskins used nine offensive linemen last year due to injuries, and there was a significant dropoff once the team got past its starting core. Jon Jansen struggled with injuries all year, and though Stephon Heyer showed flashes in his place, there's still too much inconsistency and not enough quality bodies to protect Campbell.
The offensive line was at its best when blocking for running back Clinton Portis, but pass protection was an issue. Sure, Campbell could've used his mobility to avoid many of his 38 sacks last season, but the fact was a lot of the time, Campbell didn't have time to look down the field and throw the football.
When he did throw the ball, Campbell was lacking in weapons. Wideout Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley did what they could, but none of Washington's second-round picks last season -- wideouts Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, along with tight end Fred Davis -- contributed. Kelly rarely saw the field, and Thomas and Davis were MIA.
See how Campbell does if those three can produce this season.
The defensive line was also a problem last year, even though it didn't directly affect Campbell's production. The Redskins only managed 24 sacks last season and had no pass rush to speak of, thanks in part to injuries and the staff moving Jason Taylor away from his natural position along the defensive line.
Theoretically, the acquisition of Haynesworth will fix that, but there's no telling if he'll be even half as productive as he was in his last two seasons in Tennessee, when he had 14.5 sacks and 91 total tackles.
One thing that does help, though, was the re-acquisition of Renaldo Wynn. Add him to Haynesworth and a healthy Phillip Daniels, and Washington's pass rush should be vastly improved in 2009.
But back to the issue at hand -- can Washington and Campbell still make it work? To his credit, Campbell has been the good soldier through all this, saying all the right things publicly and demonstrating an understanding that the NFL is a business and this sort of thing happens. You produce, the team keeps you. Don't produce, and you're likely to get shopped around.
I'd rather have Campbell than Cutler for that reason alone. Cutler doesn't seem to get it.
Not to mention, Campbell has played in three different offenses, with three different offensive coordinators, in three years. Give him a little continuity -- head coach Jim Zorn was the only high-ranking Redskins official to come out in public support of Campbell -- and who knows what the strong-armed Auburn product can do?
Mel Kiper's latest Mock Draft on ESPN.com has the Redskins taking USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with the 13th overall pick. I hope he's wrong, because that would be yet another signal the team doesn't believe in Campbell, despite not really giving him the fair shake his talent and first-round pick status deserves.
I'm not sure if Campbell is the answer in Washington behind center, but I don't think we've really been given a chance to see if he can be the answer yet, either. Going after Cutler was a mistake, failing to get him an even bigger one. Drafting Sanchez instead of a prime offensive or defensive line talent. Sure, Baylor's Jason Smith and Alabama's Andre Smith might be off the board by then, but there are other offensive linemen in this draft Washington can go after.
Hell, if Andre Smith is still on the board at No. 13 (Kiper has him going No. 6 to the Bengals), snatch him. Campbell needs protection, and that aging offensive line needs depth. How about we see what Campbell, who threw for 3,245 yards and 13 touchdowns (as opposed to just six interceptions) last season, can really do.
How about we give the kid a fair shake before throwing him away in favor of the shiniest toy some other kid has?
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