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Walters: Redskins 2005-06 Season Review

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Old 01-26-2006, 01:06 PM   #1
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Walters: Redskins 2005-06 Season Review

The usual answer most players offer when asked about a recently completed season that didn’t end in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is that the season was ultimately unsuccessful. While that is true to some extent, it is very difficult to look at Washington’s just-completed campaign and cast any sort of disapproving glance. The team made huge strides in previous areas of deficiency, and maintained its high degree of excellence in others. There are improvements still yet to be made, and the hiring of offensive mastermind Al Saunders to guide the offense is proof that the necessary enhancements are on the radar screen of Joe Gibbs and Company.

At the start of the season, most pundits forecast yet another long season filled with woe for Redskins players and fans alike. Everyone from Adam Schefter to Dr. Z felt sure that Washington would once again bring up the NFC East rear, thus providing the Broncos with a high selection in April’s NFL Draft to complete the trade that brought Jason Campbell to D.C. It gives me great pleasure to point out how wrong they were in their assessments, but rather than simply rely on my word, take look at the most notable accomplishments from the season and allow them to speak for themselves.

- The Redskins won their first playoff game since 1999 with a 17-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their first road playoff victory since Sean Salisbury’s Minnesota Vikings fell to the Burgundy and Gold 24-76 in 1992, in what was to be the penultimate game of Joe Gibbs’ first tenure.

- Washington compiled a 5-1 mark in the division, which represented not only the best division record in the east, but also equaled the number of division victories the Redskins had recorded in their previous four seasons against the teams that are still in the division (excludes the Arizona Cardinals).

- Season sweeps over the Eagles and Cowboys were completed for the first time since 1988 and 1995 respectively

- The painful recent history of futility against Dallas was finally put out to pasture. Dallas had won 13 of 14 against the Redskins dating back to the 1998 season before they were swept in exciting, then dominant fashion in 2005.

- The Redskins’ 10-2 conference record was their best since the 1991 season, and was tied with NFC Champion Seattle and the Chicago Bears for best in the conference.

- Washington compiled an impressive 6-2 record at home, their best percentage in on their home turf since 1999.

- The 4-4 record on the road during the regular season was also Washington’s best since ‘99.

- The six-game winning streak (counting the playoff win in Tampa Bay) was the longest winning streak by a Redskins team since a seven-game streak was recorded in the 1996 season.

- The five-game winning streak to close the season gives the Redskins the longest current winning streak in regular season play.

- On the individual level, Clinton Portis and Santana Moss established new Redskin records for rushing yards and receiving yards respectively, and H-back Chris Cooley set a new record for receptions by an H-back with 71.

- Mark Brunell established a new career high in touchdown passes with 23.

- The election of Santana Moss to the Pro Bowl was only the second Redskins offensive skill position player (Coles in 2003) to be included in the NFL’s version of the all-star game since 2000.

- The offense, despite some late season failings, improved from a dismal 30th in the NFL to a respectable 11th overall, while the defense maintained its place among the better units in the league by finishing ninth in total yards.

Perhaps the most important accomplishment from this past season was the Redskins’ heroic turnaround in the division. The five-win effort in what was arguably the strongest division in the conference is a resounding proclamation that the Washington will no longer be the doormat of the NFC East.

This also represents the most challenging aspect of the season to duplicate in 2006. The Philadelphia Eagles may have seen their chance at conference dominance pass, but they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2006. The Giants, while possibly hamstrung at the prospect of only getting the league-issue eight home games next season, are still quite solid. Dallas may be the division’s weakest link, which speaks more to the strength of the division rather than to any weakness on their roster. A 5-1 division record is an ambitious goal for any team not playing in the NFC West, but at least the Redskins can rest well in the knowledge that the path to which they aspire is one they have trod before.

Eleven wins, with one coming in the post-season, was certainly a team accomplishment, but looking back, the Redskins 2005 draft class played little more than a bit part in the turnaround. The first of the two first-rounder selections, Carlos Rogers, was easily the biggest contributor, eventually earning his way into the starting lineup and showing consistent improvement throughout the season despite struggling with injuries. His fellow first-round pick, Jason Campbell, watched attentively from the sidelines, getting good use out of his favorite Redskins hat.

The later rounds of the draft – the Redskins did not have a second or third round selection – which are normally used to provide depth on the roster, barely served this purpose. Linebacker Robert McCune was the only one out of the four that had any semblance of a niche on the roster, that being on special teams later in the season. Manuel White was on injured reserve all season from an injury suffered in pre-season play, and Nehemiah Broughton filled the role of the fourth halfback, one which many teams (including the Redskins) don’t even use.

From whatever angle you choose to look at it, this past season was a successful one and that isn’t something that could have been truthfully said for quite some time. Joe Gibbs has officially reshaped the culture surrounding Redskin football. All that is left now is to build on the accomplishments of this past season, and have an off-season that is just as triumphant. The hiring of Al Saunders is a giant step in that direction, but there is still a bevy of personnel decisions yet to be made.

With that in mind, check back in next week for the release of phase one my of official Washington Redskins 2006 Off-Season Plan, and for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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