4 Washington REDSKINS

Mike Shanahan arrives to, ahem, adjust some attitudes in D.C.
September 05, 2010

HIS FACE baked by the Virginia sun, Mike Shanahan was walking to practice at the team's facility in Ashburn at 8:20 one morning when he heard fans hailing the Redskins' new regime. But the Skins' coach did not wave to his constituency. He did not crack a smile. Instead—and in marked contrast to new general manager Bruce Allen, who moonlighted this off-season giving one stump speech after another to potential season-ticket holders—Shanahan simply grimaced, especially at the loudest chant: "Give 'em hell, Mike!" As if anyone had to tell him.

The former Broncos coach, who also wields final say on personnel matters in Washington, had set a merciless tone back in March, cutting 72 years' worth of experience in what Allen deemed "a day of change." Among the 10 departed were seven players 30 or older (from defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin to cornerback Fred Smoot) and even a team captain (tailback Rock Cartwright). Then, as if there was any doubt that the page had been permanently turned, the Skins brought in 27 newly signed free agents. As Shanahan says, "We don't really care what guys have done in the past. It's what they do out here."

And, in one famous case, what they do not do. While the face of the new Redskins is assuredly that of quarterback Donovan McNabb—the team traded two draft picks, a second-rounder in 2010 and a third or fourth in '11, to the Eagles for the veteran on Easter Sunday—the spotlight burns most hotly on the biggest holdover from the miserable Jim Zorn era. Before he'd even set foot in camp, former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who had notably accepted a $21 million bonus on April 1, refused a switch to nosetackle in the team's new 3--4 scheme; demanded a trade; didn't show up to off-season workouts; and thereby felt Shanahan's hellfire upon arrival. Told to pass a conditioning test involving two 300-yard shuttle runs before he could even start practicing, an openly petulant Haynesworth took 10 days before he finally ran the drill and met the necessary times for his position. Said Shanahan at the time, "He probably doesn't like me very much right now, but I'm not here to be liked."

Indeed, boot-camp accountability, previously unheard of along the Beltway, was exactly what the organization had sought in hiring Shanahan. But he's not only monitoring on-field performance: On the very first day of camp, Shanahan laid out his expectations for keeping the locker room clean and treating building employees with respect. He then explained his strict system of fines, the same one he'd instituted to great efficiency in Denver. (A missed practice, for example, will cost you $9,000.) "In the past," safety Reed Doughty says, "a player would maybe say, 'Well, I broke [a rule], but can I have a break?' Now it's simple for everyone: You follow the rules or you don't."

"We realize we were 4--12 last year," Allen adds. "We were 0--6 in our division. We've been honest about where we've stood from the beginning, and we've been honest with the players about having to correct that."

Accordingly, few on the depth chart were safe. Tailback remained stunningly unsettled, with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and Ryan Torain all vying for roster spots. The team's weakest unit, wide receiver, saw 38-year-old Joey Galloway surprisingly grab a starting job. And the defense will turn from the 4--3 to the blitz-happy 3--4 under still another Shanahan addition, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. With or without a happy Haynesworth (who said he's content now with his nosetackle role) the defense—ranked No. 10 in the NFL last year but dead-last in takeaways—will be formidable, with two converted defensive ends who look to replicate last year's lofty sack totals as linebackers: Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, who each had 11 quarterback takedowns in '09.

Will all of Shanahan's engineering—and attitude adjustment—be enough to wrest control of the stacked NFC East? Not likely. But given the bar set by the coach's predecessors, this team already has one victory in hand: It will definitely be different.

PROJECTED STARTERS

WITH 2009 STATS

COACH MIKE SHANAHAN

OFFENSE

2009 RANK: 22

QB DONOVAN MCNABB

G 14

ATT 443

COMP 267

PCT 60.3

YARDS 3,553

TD 22

INT 10

RATING 92.9

RB CLINTON PORTIS

G 8

ATT 124

YARDS 494

AVG 4.0

REC 9

YARDS 57

AVG 6.3

TTD 2

FB MIKE SELLERS

G 15

ATT 0

YARDS 0

AVG —

REC 17

YARDS 176

AVG 10.4

TTD 2

WR SANTANA MOSS

G 16

REC 70

YARDS 902

TTD 3

WR JOEY GALLOWAY

G 3

REC 7

YARDS 67

TTD 0

TE CHRIS COOLEY

G 7

REC 29

YARDS 332

TTD 2

LT TRENT WILLIAMS (R)

G 12

HT 6'5"

WT 315

LG DERRICK DOCKERY

G 16

HT 6'6"

WT 325

C CASEY RABACH

G 16

HT 6'4"

WT 288

RG ARTIS HICKS

G 16

HT 6'4"

WT 314

RT JAMMAL BROWN

G 0

HT 6'6"

WT 313

DEFENSE

2009 RANK: 10

DE PHILLIP DANIELS

G 16

TACKLES 35

SACKS 1

INT 0

NT ALBERT HAYNESWORTH

G 12

TACKLES 37

SACKS 4

INT 0

DE KEDRIC GOLSTON

G 16

TACKLES 34

SACKS 2

INT 0

LB BRIAN ORAKPO

G 16

TACKLES 50

SACKS 11

INT 0

LB LONDON FLETCHER

G 16

TACKLES 142

SACKS 2

INT 1

LB ROCKY MCINTOSH

G 16

TACKLES 94

SACKS 0

INT 2

LB ANDRE CARTER

G 16

TACKLES 62

SACKS 11

INT 0

CB CARLOS ROGERS

G 16

TACKLES 39

SACKS 0

INT 0

FS REED DOUGHTY

G 15

TACKLES 91

SACKS 2

INT 1

SS LARON LANDRY

G 15

TACKLES 90

SACKS 1

INT 1

CB DEANGELO HALL

G 13

TACKLES 58

SACKS 0

INT 4

SPECIAL TEAMS

P JOSH BIDWELL*

PUNTS 77

AVG 44.5

NET 37.6

K GRAHAM GANO

FG 4--4

XP 6--7

POINTS 18

PR PHILLIP BUCHANON

RET 4

AVG 8.5

TD 0

KR DEVIN THOMAS

RET 20

AVG 22.0

TD 0

New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns *2008 stats

2010 SCHEDULE

2009 Record: 4--12

September

12 Dallas

19 Houston

26 at St. Louis

October

3 at Philadelphia

10 Green Bay

17 Indianapolis

24 at Chicago

31 at Detroit

November

7 BYE

15 Philadelphia (M)

21 at Tennessee

28 Minnesota

December

5 at N.Y. Giants

12 Tampa Bay

19 at Dallas

26 at Jacksonville

January

2 N.Y. Giants

(M) Monday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL Rank: 8

Opponents' 2009 winning percentage: .523

Games against 2009 playoff teams: 7

ANALYSIS

On the plus side the Skins' toughest nondivisional foes—the Colts, Packers and Vikings—are coming to D.C., and Donovan McNabb will face only two teams, Green Bay and Tampa Bay, in the top 10 against the pass in 2009. But Washington's own pass D faces a murderers' row of QBs early: Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.

SPOTLIGHT

London Fletcher, Linebacker

IF PRO BOWL berths are any indication, NFL minds still do not appreciate Fletcher's skill set. After 12 years in which he has displayed a field intellect to rival any middle linebacker in the league (including Ray Lewis), the Redskins' captain made his first Pro Bowl only last season, and then only because the first choice, New Orleans's Jonathan Vilma, pulled out when the Saints reached the Super Bowl. But Fletcher brings far more than good intangibles: He was the NFL's second-leading tackler in 2009, with 142, marking his 10th straight season with more than 100 tackles. Echoing the sentiments of many, tight end Chris Cooley says, "London Fletcher is probably the most underrated defensive player in the league."

But in a locker room never short on controversy, the veteran 'backer's role as de facto Redskins ombudsman might be just as critical. Fletcher, 35, lent critical support to Mike Shanahan's switch to a 3--4 defense back in June. The 5'10", 245-pound fire hydrant called out Albert Haynesworth for skipping workouts and fighting a potential switch to nosetackle. (Fletcher's message: "Stop being selfish.")

"If you can walk it, you can talk it," wideout Santana Moss says. "And London walks it every day." Moss actually isn't kidding: Fletcher has never missed an NFL game. And while some may wonder whether his skills can remain effective for much longer, his teammates, at least, know better than to even ask.

PHOTODAVID BERGMANFITS AND STARTS Haynesworth was one vet whose act ran up against the new regime. PHOTOLARRY FRENCH/GETTY IMAGES

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)