2010: the year of the offense

(courtesy photo)

[Editor’s note: For those who still haven’t heard the news, I’ve started writing a weekly sports column for SB Nation DC. So every Tuesday, my contribution to society (or at least the D.C. sports scene) is located over there.]
I know this is going to sound crazy, but hear me out. Could it be possible that, for the first time in recent history, the Washington Redskins have a better offense than defense?

While it’s completely foolish to make bold declarations based on summer football being played in shorts and no pads, I can’t help but think the 2010 Redskins will be carried by their offense for a change, as opposed to the top-10 defense that has kept the team in games for most of the last decade.

By the numbers, here’s how the Redskins have stacked up in total offense over the last decade: 22nd, 19th, 15th, 13th, 11th, 30th, 23rd, 20th, 28th, 11th.

Conversely, here’s their total defensive rankings over the same span: 10th, fourth, eighth, 31st, ninth, third, 25th, fifth, 10th, fourth.

Doing some quick math, the ‘Skins have averaged the 19th-best offense in football since 2000 while failing to crack the top 10. The defense, even after finishing 2006 with the second-worst defense in football, still averaged 10th place in the NFL over the last decade, thanks to eight top-10 finishes.

And yet, I’m still of the mindset that this year the offense will outperform the defense. Why? That’s where all the time,money and resources have been spent this offseason.

First, the team added Mike Shanahan. Dude’s a two-time Super Bowl winner who just so happens to be an offensive-minded coach. And nothing against Jason Campbell, who was serviceable, but the huddle is now being run by Donovan McNabb – easily the best quarterback the Redskins have had in 20 years.

Even at 33, McLovin’ is still a top-10 talent in a league where quarterbacks matter most. Just having him around is going to make a difference because younger players have seen him lead his teams to countless NFC championship games. Sure, he’s only been in town for 10 minutes, but his words are already going to carry more weight than most in that locker room.

At running back, the team has Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. I fully concede that this isn’t 2006 and no one can say for sure that any of these guys has much left in the tank, but at least Shanahan and friends have been smart enough to stockpile these aging veterans. I am of the mindset that Portis will do just fine as the every-down back with Johnson excelling as the short-yardage/goal-line back, but that’s far from a certainty at this point.

But here’s why I’m feeling good about the running back rotation: if one guy (i.e. – Parker) doesn’t have it anymore, there are two other established vets who can step up and make plays. If they still don’t feel like there’s enough there to get through the season, Brian Westbrook is only a phone call away. This isn’t a situation where a coach foolishly ties his season to an over-the-hill running back. No, what we’ve got here is a guy bringing in anyone who might be able to contribute and saying: “It’s your job to lose. Make plays or we’ll find someone else who can.” Now, you tell me that when your livelihood is at stake you wouldn’t step up your game. I know I would.

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