I've already picked on Thomas Boswell once this month for a peculiar column, and it's not something that I'm going to make a habit of doing. But after watching yesterday's frustrating 17-13 loss against the Vikings, how can Boswell say that the Skins "are getting closer" to much of anything?
Granted, I'll give the team credit for playing hard. And at 5-6, they already have more wins than last season with a shot to get a couple more. But yesterday's game can be used as a precise example of why the Skins are not close.
Even though Donovan McNabb was not the reason the Redskins lost the game, he did not make enough plays to win it. Boswell is right when he blames the lack of a running game, the poor offensive line play, and a few dropped balls by the team's receivers -- and a huge block-in-the-back call on Perry Riley -- but those are also all problems that the team needs to address. They are huge team weaknesses, not just a single week's problems that can easily be corrected after just one offseason.
Keiland Williams has had a few decent games, but he's not really an explosive player and shouldn't really be viewed as NFL starting running back material. James Davis deserves some more carries to see what he can bring to the table, but he didn't do anything special yesterday either. And Ryan Torain has also had a few strong performances, but he can't stay on the field.
Then again, maybe the lack of a running game can be blamed on the offensive line, which not only failed to protect McNabb (four sacks), but didn't open up any holes in the running game either. Trent Williams, the team's most recent first-round pick, is undoubtedly the best offensive lineman on the team, but there's little else to get excited about in terms of blocking.
And yet, when the blocking gave McNabb enough time, he did make several accurate throws. For the game, he was 21-35 for 211 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. As Boswell mentions, the interception was not McNabb's fault; it was Santana Moss who dropped the pass and had the ball deflect into the air for an interception. But McNabb did finish the game with a 74.8 quarterback rating, which has been about his average this season. It would be nice to get McNabb a ton of weapons and a huge offensive line that blocks every defender in sight, but the Redskins traded for McNabb so he'd be able to win games like this. Unfortunately, he didn't get much help.
And then, Boswell writes this uplifting paragraph: "This game also underlined the area where the Redskins have made the most significant improvement: in the game-breaking speed of Banks, who had a 65-yard kickoff return, and Anthony Armstrong, who caught a 45-yard bomb and now has 545 yards receiving."
I'm not going to debate the worth or skill level of Brandon Banks, who has been phenomenal in the return game and has easily been the team's most exciting player. But Armstrong? Yes, he has caught some long passes, and he even did so in yesterday's game (two catches, 53 yards). But even though he's not an old guy, he's still 27 years old. Has he really shown enough to be relied upon week in and week out? And is he really a big part of the team's future? The Redskins also have two seemingly reliable tight end options in Chris Cooley (28) and Fred Davis (24), but Santana Moss (31) is a free agent after this season and may end up on another team next season. It sure seems like more help will be needed in the receiving game.
Also, how can Boswell use speed as a positive and fail to mention the team's lack of speed in the Eagles game just a few weeks ago? The Redskins looked like they were playing on a different level -- a much, much lower level -- while the Eagles were running up and down the field with ease.
Anyway, my point is that the Redskins have a ton of holes to fill and not enough draft picks to fill them all adequately. Free agency will likely be the team's go-to option when it comes to bringing in more talent, but the past several years have shown that that strategy is far from reliable and may only create more future headaches for Mike Shanahan and the team's coaching staff.
Right now, the Redskins don't look as bad as they did last season, but they aren't really that much better either. I'm just not sure that I understand all of the excitement.