There was a buzz in the air at FedEx Field on Friday night that just couldn’t be explained. A new franchise quarterback seems to have that effect on a town. In his first start as a Washington Redskin, Donovan McNabb was both rusty and right-on as the Redskins dismantled the Buffalo Bills 42-17 in the team’s first preseason action. Cautiously considered a meaningless exhibition game, it was anything but such for all those that endured last season’s train wreck. With a host of new faces, Friday’s game was a formal introduction of the new Washington Redskins. The AFRO looks at three critical points from Friday’s action.
Throughout ex-quarterback Jason Campbell‘s tenure in Washington, Redskin Nation was evenly divided. Some blamed him, some backed him but whatever the reason, it just didn’t work in the District for the former first round draft pick. Enter McNabb: a rifle-armed commander that gives Washington its most prominent passer since 80s great Joe Theismann. Like he displayed on Friday, McNabb has the arm strength to get the ball wherever he wants to downfield. The receivers in Washington aren’t spectacular but McNabb has led contending teams with lesser talent than what Washington has at the position. As long as McNabb remains healthy the Redskins should be a dangerous team this season.
Washington’s offensive line received a lot of criticism last season. They couldn’t pass block or run block and for a unit that essentially only has two assignments, it’s safe to say they underachieved in their job description last year. But two new faces should turn the line into a functional unit this season: Trent Williams and Jammal Brown. With Brown sidelined because of a hip injury, all eyes were on Williams on Friday night and the fourth overall draft pick from Oklahoma did not disappoint. Williams showed excellent tenacity as he shoved defenders downfield and displayed the type of quickness and footwork that made him the surprise pick over the highly-touted Russell Okung. Williams, the starter at left tackle, only played the position for one season in college but the tools and potential are there for a future Pro Bowler.
The club’s switch to a 3-4 defense is going to be a work in progress for the early part of the season. Players were out of position on several plays against Buffalo but the talent is there to make the switch work. It remains to be seen if changing schemes was the right decision for a unit that has finished in the top 10 in overall defense five times since 2004.