The 2009 Washington Redskins will be about a .500 team.
I say this with confidence and not because I possess a crystal ball that allows me to peer into the future and see events to come with clarity. It's because I can see the past and recognize that a .500 team is what the Redskins are.
From 1995 through 2008, a span of 14 seasons, the Redskins have been within two games of the break even mark every year but two. Those two years, 2003 and 2006, they were just three games off the mark of mediocrity, finishing 5-11.
The Redskins are so average, in fact, that they are distinctively mediocre. Since 1995 every NFL team has either lost 12 or more games in a season or has won 12 or more at least once. Every team, that is, with the exception of the Redskins.
They are the NFL's perpetually half-full, half-empty glass.
They have tried to break out and either fill or empty the glass but the fates work against them. The '06 team could easily have dropped a dozen games but Troy Vincent blocked a late game-winning field goal attempt against Dallas and Sean Taylor's brilliant scramble—and a face-mask penalty committed in the process—set up a Nick Novack game-winning field goal on an untimed down.
On the other side of the coin the 2005 team won ten and could easily have won two more but they suffered close, frustrating losses to Denver, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Oakland, and San Diego.
It's clear that the Football Gods have determined that the Redskins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are a middling team. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that they will escape that fate this year.
Defensively they added strength to strength with the additions of Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo. Those two could move the Redskins D from good to great.
But there is little chance that the offense will be even good. Jason Campbell is in his make or break year and even if he makes it he won't be anything approaching an elite quarterback. Was Clinton Portis' slump at the end of last year an indication that his career has hit the wall?
The receiving corps could be good if at least one of the two receivers drafted in the second round last year, Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas, has a breakout year. That could happen, but holding your breath waiting for it is not advised.
The offensive line has potential—the potential to be a train wreck. The ten that they keep on the roster mostly will be a combination of the old and injury prone and the young and untested.
If the Redskins are to finish on the upside of the fated limit and win 10 games the defense must provide the offense with short fields. Haynesworth needs to collapse the middle and allow the defense to increase significantly its sack total from the 24 it posted last year. The pressure needs to make the opposing quarterback throw the ball up for grabs to force turnovers.
Should Campbell and company get opportunities to make some 14-yard touchdown drives or, better yet, watch from the sidelines as the defense records a pick six, life will be a lot easier and the Redskins could record a double-digit win total.
But if the defense merely remains strong but is of limited help to the offense in terms of providing highly favorable field position, the Redskins are likely to trend towards the down side of their potential. They simply aren't strong enough offensively to drive 80 yards to score every time they get the ball.
Where will the 2009 Redskins fall within the range of six to 10 wins? It says here that Haynesworth is enough of a difference maker on defense that the team will be able to overcome a leaky offensive line and score enough to post a 9-7 record.