Midseason Review

After eight games the Redskins (3-5) aren't where anyone thought, or hoped, they would be. So what else is new? The glow from Joe Gibbs' return has worn off, but the hope he can eventually turn this around hasn't. But it's become clear that more work needs to be done. Here's a look back before we move forward.

Defensive MVP: Cornelius Griffin. Have to admit, I did not expect the 300-pound defensive tackle to be this effective. But he's been better than any Redskins defensive tackle in a long time, certainly more effective than Dan Wilkinson or Dana Stubblefield. The Redskins' defense needed to improve against the run and Griffin allowed them to do so.

Runner-up: Corner Shawn Springs. As good as Fred Smoot is playing, Springs' versatility has made him even better. He's covered well on the outside -- he's a terrific athlete -- and he can cover in the slot. That's not something every corner can do. The Redskins also have him drop into the deep middle as a safety on occasion. Plus he's physical. A nice, nice pickup.

Offensive MVP: Clinton Portis. The running game has been inconsistent, though he's still managed to gain 810 yards. Imagine what he could have done with a passing game to help. The Redskins also did a better job the past few games of figuring out how best to use Portis.

Runner-up: Seriously? Next category.

Joe Gibbs' best move: Tweaking his offense. In two of the past three games, both wins, the Redskins have used Portis' strengths more than in the first five games. They spread the field against Chicago, opening running lanes. They used more three tight end sets and ran more stretches and sweeps against Detroit. Both strategies worked.

Gibbs' worst move: See below.

Worst pickup: Quarterback Mark Brunell. It's not that they signed him, it's what they gave up to get him. They traded a third-round pick and handed him an $8 million bonus to be a manager, a quarterback whose best play has been to throw it away. Granted, the offense's problems go beyond Brunell. But considering what they gave up to get him, much more was expected of Brunell.

Unsung hero: The Redskins have many of them, mainly because so many unknowns have been forced into the lineup. It's hard to call Antonio Pierce unsung anymore so I don't place him in this category. But defensive tackle Joe Salave'a is. He's helped solidify the middle and occasionally does more than just occupy blockers. He's been a nice find. I love Ryan Clark, too. The guy is not that big, but fills as hard as any defensive back against the run. He's very, very tough.

Best development: The continued strong play of the defense, despite having players in and out because of injuries. Based on who they've lost, the Redskins should not have a No. 1 ranking. Give Gregg Williams a ton of credit. Not sure I've ever seen a coach who understands his personnel more than Williams. That's why there hasn't been any dropoff.

Worst development: Lack of a passing game. There's a lot of reasons for its failure: pass protection, inaccurate throws, poor route-running. One change won't cure the woes in this area, at least not in the long term. The Redskins simply aren't good enough in the other two areas to win without some big plays through the air.

Worst injury: Jon Jansen's Achilles' tendon. The trickle-down effect has been huge. God bless Ray Brown who has been consistent and tries as hard as anyone. But he's 41 and limited and needs more help than in the past. So the Redskins are forced to help on his side, leaving the interior exposed in one-on-one situations. When they lose those, sacks and pressures result.

Best fill-in: Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. And he's no longer a fill-in. If Mike Barrow returns, it's as a backup. Pierce has been very steady and is a heady player. The tackles have done a nice job keeping blockers off him, too.

Best non-story: Fred Smoot's contract situation. It was a season-long issue two years ago with Jansen. It was a season-long issue with Champ Bailey last year. But it's been a non-issue with Smoot. Why? Because of Smoot's personality. He wants to be here and the Redskins want to keep him. Jansen fretted about the contract all season and when things didn't happen fast, he was convinced he was gone. Bailey and his agent were irked by the initial offer, plus the manner in which they were treated. Smoot just doesn't worry about anything. That's why it never bothered him when the Redskins tried to trade him before the 2003 draft. Fortunately, no one accepted their wish to receive a third-round pick in return. Imagine that.

Next eight weeks: I can see the Redskins winning at least three more games, against Cincinnati, the Giants and San Francisco. There's no reason they can't sneak out a fourth win from the other games, possibly at Dallas. If that's the case, then they can at least point to progress and look forward to next season. They've established a mindset this season and a work ethic. Those two qualities usually combine to produce wins.

Breaking Burgundy Top Stories