By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
Don’t look now but the Redskins’ roster for the 2013 season is largely set. Sure, there will be a few more free agents added and there is a draft class to be added but right now we can identify the probable starters at 19 of the 22 positions plus all three specialists.
When all is said and done, will they be good enough to successfully defend their NFC East title? Have they managed to stay ahead of the star studded but underachieving Cowboys, the Chip Kelly led Eagles and the always-dangerous Giants? Redskins insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler debate that question in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: Who were the real 2012 Redskins? The team that started 3-6 or the one that finished 7-0? The truth is somewhere in between and that’s why they will take a step back this year. Don’t get me wrong, they earned that division title but they were not dominating in the way the perennially good teams like the Packers and Patriots are. Unfortunately, the salary cap penalty will prevent them from adding players to get to that dominating level this year. RG3 is great, he provides hope for the future but he won’t be enough to pull them over the top again, especially given that his offseason will be spent rehabbing and not sharpening his game.
Tarik El-Bashir: During their seven game run to the NFC East title last season, the Redskins figured out what all good teams eventually do: what it takes to win. How to prepare mentally. How to prepare physically. How to approach practice. And, most important, how to put it all together on Sunday afternoons. The core from last season’s NFC East championship team absorbed those valuable lessons – and the majority of those key pieces will be back this fall. Sure, the cap penalty hurts. But if the end result is losing your special teams captain (Lorenzo Alexander) and a veteran cornerback (DeAngelo Hall) that Profootballfocus.com had ranked as the 70th best player at his position, that shouldn’t have a devastating effect on 2013.
Tandler: The thing is, the Redskins could be just as good a team this year, maybe even better, and still slip from their 10-6 record. Going 5-1 in the division again is going to be tough. At some point Tony Romo isn’t going to throw the key interception in a game, under Kelly the Eagles have to be better than the lifeless bunch the Redskins swept last year, and the Giants are solid as a rock. Outside the NFC East the Redskins play four other division champs, three of them—Denver, Atlanta, and Green Bay—on the road. With that schedule, they could be a pretty good team and still finish .500.
El-Bashir: You’re right, the Redskins’ 2013 schedule is brutal. But you know who shouldn’t scare them? The rest of the NFC East. The Giants added tight end Brandon Myers, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and some depth. The Eagles hired a new coach and added a slew of mid-level free agents after last year’s disaster. The Cowboys? Well, they’re $51,000 under the cap and haven’t added anyone yet. With Friday’s news that Fred Davis is set to return, the Redskins have brought back every meaningful piece of an offense that averaged 27.3 points, more than all but three teams in the NFL. My money is on them defending their crown.