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Is Philly Getting Nervous About D.C.?

Ed Barkowitz over at Philly News took a harrowing look at the Redskins eyebrow-raising offseason moves, their upcoming schedule, and he ends with a sobering conclusion that while there will be ‘growing pains’, the team will undoubtedly improve from last year’s 4-12 season.

Washington needed the audacity to change the culture of its football team and did so with sweeping alterations. There’s a new coach, new quarterback, new coordinators and a new general manager that will try to bring the pride back to the burgundy-and-gold.

The parts are surely there to improve on last year’s dismal 4-12 season. Bringing them together, and healing any damage inflicted by disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in the offseason, will be the primary tasks of Mike Shanahan’s first training camp as Redskins coach.

By the way, 74 days until that new quarterback makes his return to Lincoln Financial Field.

Coach: Mike Shanahan (first year with Washington; 146-98 in 16 years overall including consecutive Super Bowl wins with Denver in 1997-98).

2009 record: 4-12, which cost Jim Zorn his job. Shanahan is Washington’s seventh coach in the 11 years Dan Snyder has owned the ‘Skins.

2009 vs. Eagles: 0-2. Lost at home (27-17) in Week 7 in the game Brian Westbrook sustained a career-altering concussion after a collision with Washington LB London Fletcher. Lost at Philadelphia (27-24) in Week 12.

Key additions (former team): Head coach Shanahan (Denver in 2008), QB Donovan McNabb (Eagles), T Jammal Brown (Saints), RB Larry Johnson (Chiefs), DT Maake Kemoeatu (Panthers), DT Adam Carriker (Rams), LB Chris Draft (Bills), CB Phillip Buchanon (Lions), P Josh Bidwell (Buccaneers), T Artis Hicks (Vikings), DE Vonnie Holliday (Broncos), RB Willie Parker (Steelers).

Key losses (new team): QB Jason Campbell (Raiders), T Chris Samuels (retired), CB Fred Smoot (free agent), WR Antwaan Randle El (Steelers), G Randy Thomas (free agent).

Draft picks (round/school): T Trent Williams (1st/Oklahoma), LB Perry Riley (4th/LSU), TE Dennis Morris (6th/Louisiana Tech), WR Terrence Austin (7th/UCLA), C Erik Cook (7th/New Mexico), T Selvish Capers (7th/West Virginia).

Impact rookie: To some, Williams was a reach as the 4th overall pick amid questions about his work ethic. But the offensive line, which allowed the third-most sacks last year, needed a makeover.

Numbers game: 1 – Number of rushing touchdowns Clinton Portis had last year. Portis battled concussion problems and was limited to eight games, which is why Larry Johnson and Willie Parker were brought in. Johnson is the bigger threat to Portis, who is said to be rejuvenated by Shanahan’s arrival. Portis had his best seasons in Denver (2002-03) under Shanahan. Of course that was when Portis, who turns 29 on Sept. 1, had a lot more tread on his tires. We’ll see.

Camp battle to watch: DT Albert Haynesworth vs. his teammates. The enigmatic, and well-compensated, defensive tackle angered teammates by skipping offseason minicamps because he was upset the Redskins were switching to a 3-4 defense. “He really turned his back on us,” d-end Phillip Daniels said in June.

Developing storylines: When you post your worst record in 15 years – including a loss to a Lions club that had dropped 19 in a row – significant changes will occur. In addition to the above, Kyle Shanahan (Mike’s son) was brought in from Houston to coordinate the offense and Jim Haslett, who last was with the Rams in 2008, will run the defense . . . New general manager Bruce Allen is the son of Redskins’ coaching legend George Allen . . . Jammal Brown, acquired from the Saints for two 2011 draft picks, missed all of last season’s Super Bowl run because of a sports hernia. A two-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, Brown is moving to the right side . . . The all-important left side, a.k.a. Donovan McNabb’s backside, is being manned by the rookie Williams, who will see plenty of linebacker Brian Orakpo in practice. Orakpo had 11 sacks last year as a rookie and went to the Pro Bowl . . . Hicks, the expected starter at right guard, played 38 games in front of McNabb for the Eagles from 2003-05 . . . This is a crucial season for underachieving wide receiver Devin Thomas, a second-round pick in 2008. Thomas had 40 catches last year and is the primary candidate to start opposite Santana Moss. Thomas, Moss and Malcolm Kelly are among those working out with McNabb in Arizona this week . . . Graham Gano went 4-for-4 on field goals last year as a late-season signee and is the only kicker on the roster . . . Mike Shanahan has the two Super Bowl rings he picked up in the ’90s, but was just 24-24 in his final three seasons in Denver.

What to expect: Growing pains, obviously. While McNabb gives the Redskins stability at quarterback, he can’t win games all by himself anymore. There are some terrific pass rushers in the division which will put pressure on the offensive line, especially the rookie left tackle. The schedule is pretty tough, but an improvement from last year is doable. In fact, it’s imperative.

Notes: Schedule is the NFL’s eighth most difficult, based on opponent’s 2009 records . . . Bet NBC loves having McNabb open up against the Redskins’ biggest rival in the season’s first Sunday night contest . . . The Redskins have three primetime games, all at home . . . Week 4 might be a little interesting around here . . . The visits from Green Bay and Indianapolis in Weeks 5-6 certainly will be a challenge for Jim Haslett’s new defense . . . The Redskins last faced Peyton Manning in 2006, which – for Washington – was two coaches ago . . . The Week 15 trip to Dallas is the longest flight of the season.


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