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This is the first in a series of three articles discussing what the Washington Redskins must accomplish in 2010 to contend for a Super Bowl.
With training camp a month away, now is the prime time for an optimistic evaluation of the Washington Redskins and their prospects for the 2010 NFL season.
There's a new coach in town and he's brought in a new quarterback. There's a new attitude and plenty of new faces at Redskins Park, and quite frankly it's an exciting time.
Washington has been active once again this offseason, but they went about signing free agents and making trades with a more cautious approach. Each step was calculated and measured, leaving the 'Skins with extra money and 2011 first-round draft pick intact.
So with all this goodwill gushing forth from our Nation's Capital why wouldn't everyone anticipate a good season?
Without question, the 'Skins are much improved from last season, but just how much of a push can they make towards the Lombardi trophy?
It really all depends on the following factors.
Donovan McNabb's Health
McNabb is the only player on the roster who has experience as a key component to a perennial play-off contender. Losing him can't happen if the Redskins want to make a serious push.
For starters, the depth behind McNabb is questionable at best. Rex Grossman , Colt Brennan, and Rich Bartel won't get anyone's vote of confidence. Grossman has faded since his days with the Bears while Bartel and Brennan have zero NFL starts between them.
If that's not an indicator the season rests squarely on McNabb , then how's this?
Washington has little to boast of in terms of skill players on offense. They have one of the worst receiving corps in the league, and a stable full of has-beens at running back.
However, all those players become a whole lot better with McNabb under center. In Philadelphia, McNabb led the Eagles to three straight NFC Championships throwing to the likes of Todd Pinkston , Freddie Mitchell, and James Thrash.
McNabb will elevate the play of the entire offense and give them something to believe in. Never in the past ten seasons has any QB been able to give the Redskins confidence they can score 20 or more points a game on a consistent basis. McNabb gives them that confidence.
Washington has been offensively challenged for much of the past decade, but with McNabb they finally have a QB who finds ways to make plays and score points. McNabb isn't without faults, but for the first time in what seems like forever, the Redskins have a leader they can depend on.
So long as he stays healthy.
The Offensive Line's Chemistry
This is essentially key 1a.
The offensive line's performance goes hand-in-hand with McNabb's health. If they can keep him upright, then consider their job done.
After several major injuries, McNabb can't move like he used to. He is aging and won't be able to take the pounding of a 46-sacks allowed season like the Redskins had last year.
Fortunately, the Redskins actually addressed their offensive line this off-season , bringing in six new linemen, including first-round pick Trent Williams and veteran Jammal Brown.
Williams and Brown will play left and right tackle respectively while free agent pickup Artis Hicks will play right guard. Casey Rabach and Derrick Dockery are holdovers from last season. Rabach will play center and Dockery , left guard.
The primary concern will be Williams at left tackle. Thus far, he has drawn rave reviews for how quickly he's adjusted to the pro game, but he will be lining up against big name pass rushers, i.e. Dwight Freeney , Trent Cole, Jared Allen, Demarcus Ware etc.
With those nightmare match-ups coming nearly every week, Williams will have to adapt quickly or the Redskins might have to have Brown move from the right side over to the left.
Overall, the line is light years ahead of last year's edition, and it doesn't hurt that Shanahan is a blocking whiz. His zone blocking schemes have long been the key to his success and it will be again this year.