The Redskins made headlines again this offseason, adding coach Mike Shanahan and trading for quarterback Donovan McNabb. But the hope is that this time those offseason headlines turn into in-season success.
McNabb and Shanahan give the Redskins reason for optimism since Shanahan is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Broncos and McNabb has been to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl with the Eagles. For the two to have success in Washington, Shanahan has to prove that the 33-year-old McNabb still can play at a high level.
Shanahan has a great history with quarterbacks, working with John Elway for four years (an average of 3,435 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions a year), Jake Plummer for three (3,212 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and Jay Cutler for two (4,011 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions). Elway was 35 in his first year with Shanahan in 1995, and he finished with 3,970 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions that year.
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That bodes well for McNabb, who also has the motivation of being traded in his own division, and he will face the Eagles twice (Week 4 at Philadelphia and Week 10 at home). You'll definitely consider McNabb a starting Fantasy option that week, and he's worth drafting as a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 quarterback in all leagues with a mid-round pick.
There are still plenty of things working in McNabb's favor. He goes from one pass-happy coach in Andy Reid to another in Shanahan, who also runs a version of the West Coast offense. He has similar talent in his receiving corps compared to the majority of his career in Philadelphia. The likes of Chris Cooley, Santana Moss and Devin Thomas are on par if not better than L.J. Smith, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown.
McNabb also is the NFL's all-time leader in terms of interception percentage, and he ranks third in NFL history in touchdown-to-interception ratio. He won't kill you with turnovers, and you can expect a healthy amount of touchdowns and yards.
Don't give up on McNabb just because he's not with the Eagles. He might not be an elite Fantasy quarterback entering 2010, but the Redskins and Shanahan will still give him a chance to succeed.
Sleeper ... Chris Cooley, TE
Cooley was limited to seven games last season due to a broken ankle, and he watched backup Fred Davis catch 48 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns while he missed the rest of the season. But Fantasy owners should remember that Cooley was an elite tight end prior to getting hurt. He averaged 75 catches for 818 yards and five touchdowns from 2007-08. He's had four seasons with at least 55 catches, 730 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
This year, Cooley gets McNabb throwing him passes, and McNabb has a good history with tight ends, especially last year when Brent Celek had 76 catches for 971 yards and eight touchdowns. Shanahan also likes using the tight end going back to his days with Shannon Sharpe and even Tony Scheffler. Cooley may see some time lined up at wide receiver with Davis at tight end, and both players will see the field a lot. But Cooley is the tight end to target, and we expect him to return as a No. 1 option. He's worth a late-round pick in all formats.
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Bounce-back candidate ... Santana Moss, WR
Moss is a receiver to target in all leagues as a No. 3 Fantasy option because the addition of McNabb in Shanahan's offense should help him play well. Moss had 70 catches for 902 yards last season, but he only scored three touchdowns. He should find the end zone more frequently in 2010 because of McNabb's ability to throw the ball downfield. Moss has three 1,000-yard seasons in his career, and you can expect this to be his fourth.
He has shown a good tendency of bouncing back from poor years as well -- the last time he scored only three touchdowns in 2007 he responded with six the next season. McNabb will also have to rely on Moss since this receiving corps is limited, with Moss the only proven commodity among Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. We're usually not so excited about Moss because of his consistently inconsistent play, but this is a good year to target Moss on Draft Day now that McNabb is throwing him passes.
Late-round flier ... Larry Johnson, RB
Johnson grew up a Redskins fan since he's from Maryland, and he's hoping his first year in Washington in 2010 can help resurrect his career. Johnson, 30, will likely be the No. 2 running back in Washington behind starter Clinton Portis, but Johnson is going to see his share of carries. There's also been speculation that Johnson can be used in short-yardage situations, which means he could be a goal-line option in the red zone. We also know that Portis has an injury history and was limited to only eight games in 2009 due to a concussion. Another big hit to the head could force Portis out and leave Johnson as the starter.
But Johnson isn't exactly the same player we remember from 2005-06 when he ran for more than 3,500 yards and scored 40 touchdowns with the Chiefs. He was released by Kansas City last year and did nothing once he joined the Bengals. The hope is Johnson, in a secondary role behind Portis, can still have some moments to help your Fantasy roster this year, and he's worth a late-round pick. We still like Portis, but health is an issue. And if Portis has to miss any time, Johnson could get on the field and help his hometown team -- and Fantasy owners -- if he still has anything left in his once bruising body.
Portis and Johnson might have more fun than McNabb and the passing game to start off since the Redskins face some premier pass rushers to open the season with DeMarcus Ware, Mario Williams, Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers. McNabb, however, should play well in Week 3 at St. Louis before his revenge game at the Eagles in Week 4. He then gets the Eagles in Washington in Week 10, and those are two matchups where you can expect McNabb to post solid stats.
Training camp topics
The Redskins offense will come down to three things: 1.) McNabb's adjustment to a new system for the first time in his career, 2.) the running back shuffle with Portis, Johnson and Parker and 3.) are third-year wide receivers Thomas and Kelly ready for prominent roles.
We expect McNabb to be fine, and Portis should open the season as the starter with Johnson the No. 2 option and Parker a candidate to get cut. As for the receivers, Thomas is ready for a bigger role, but Kelly still has work to do. We like Thomas with a late-round pick this season.
On defense, the Redskins are switching to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Jim Haslett. The key will be what happens with Albert Haynesworth, who was signed last year as a big-money free agent but is unhappy about the change in style.
Haynesworth has said he will be in camp, but his participation could be an important part of how this defense works. Despite his feelings and the move from defensive tackle to defensive end, the Redskins are definitely better with Haynesworth than without.
It should be another interesting year in Washington, but we're expecting things to improve. With proven winners in Shanahan and McNabb things should start to turn around in D.C.
Chris Cooley (ankle; probable for the start of training camp) ... Santana Moss (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Chris Horton (toe; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Maake Kemoeatu (Achilles' tendon; questionable for the start of training camp)
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