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Shanahan’s Changes Face Challenge As Redskins Open Season vs. Cowboys

Posted By The SportsGroove On Sep 12 2010 @ 3:12 pm In Washington Redskins | No Comments

By Mark F. Gray
These are supposed to be times of change in the nation’s capital but as the Washington Redskins prepare for Sunday’s season opener against the Dallas Cowboys residue of the past continues to hover over the organization like the clouds of Sunday night’s weather forecast.
When Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan took control of the football operations there was supposed to be discipline, focus, and a new direction that is to define this new era. But instead the preseason has been more about dealing with
distractions from their disgruntled, out of shape, immature, $100 million defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and his fractured relationship with Shanahan.

Haynesworth was an inherited problem who Shanahan only made worse by singling him out in a conditioning saga that was as dramatic as an episode of Hard Knocks. Going into Sunday’s game with the Cowboys there are still questions about his role on the defense.

Will he start? Is he best at end or nose tackle? Does he play 35-40 snaps or is he a situational performer? Does he play or is he inactive? Inquiring minds want to know as the dictatorial head coach bristles at a far more voracious media than what he was use to dealing with in Denver. How that plays out will ultimately determine the success of the Redskins season.

The Haynesworth Shanahan affair took the focus off the most pressing question in Washington next to the economy. Donovan McNabb was acquired from the Eagles to restore leadership to the locker room and the huddle. There is no doubt that McNabb is the face of the offense. However, after the high ankle sprain that sidelined him for the final two preseason games, it begs the question of whether he will open the season in sync with starting receivers Joey Galloway and Santana Moss who’ve missed more games than they have scored touchdowns.

McNabb’s injury came when the retooled offensive line let the Baltimore Ravens defense treat him like a piñata in less than a full quarter of their second preseason contest. The acquisitions of Artis Hicks, Jamal Brown and first round draft pick Trent Williams seemed to have fortified that unit. However, there is nothing up front that should discourage Demarcus Ware, Jay Alford, or Marcus Spears from feeling that McNabb is a sitting duck who they peppered last year when he was with the Eagles.

As much as Allen has tried to create the back to the future atmosphere with his “Return To Glory” pep rally week around town the question of readiness still remains with the Redskins. For this to be just a season opener this game is more of a referendum on Shanahan and Haynesworth. The climate of training camp has created a question of credibility for the first year coach. A win validates his approach to preparation and a sense that change is on the horizon. However, a loss will plant the seeds of doubt in a locker room that is just a year removed from the days of Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato.

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