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Rick Snider: Redskins are better -- but their record might not show it

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

A year ago, the Washington Redskins tried to sell Rex Grossman and John Beck as legitimate quarterbacks. They finished a deserved 5-11.

Now the Redskins have rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, who are legitimate quarterbacks. Washington may finish 5-11 again, but this roster is definitely better than last season's.

The Redskins are so deep at receiver that returner Brandon Banks may be sacrificed during Friday's final roster cutdown. In past years, Banks and others would have made this team. Not now.

The defensive line is deep. The linebackers, too. The secondary has enough depth that the Redskins were able to trade Kevin Barnes on Monday.

"[Depth is] the problem you want to have," coach Mike Shanahan said. "We are a deeper football team."

Shanahan needed three offseasons to restock a team that was one of the worst leaguewide. Years of Vinny Cerrato-Dan Snyder drafts left Washington with practically no linemen, few quality skill players and a quarterback Shanahan didn't want.

But Washington still has two problems. Better rosters don't always result in more victories, and there aren't enough Pro Bowl-caliber players.

The Redskins' personnel was better in 2011 than 2010, but the team slipped from six to five wins. Injuries, suspensions and drama resulted in another losing season, but the team was improved.

Now Washington is better than last season. But will it mean more wins against a brutal schedule?

The Redskins have improved most at receiver. Pierre Garcon is better than Jabar Gaffney in yards after catch. Josh Morgan will compete with Santana Moss for the No.?2 spot. The team will cut a receiver or two it once would have kept.

Washington is better at quarterback, though it may take a year to prove that. Griffin is a great talent but needs time to develop. Listening to him sometimes makes me think he doesn't really understand how hard the NFL is.

A short preseason doesn't help. When things get crazy in New Orleans for the Sept. 9 opener, with the Saints' defense hitting Griffin regularly and the crowd howling, the Redskins will wish they had played the rookie more in August.

The offensive line, tight ends and running backs are largely the same as a year ago, so at best Washington will gain somewhat if those players stay healthy and mature.

Defensively, it's mostly about improvement in the secondary, but the line plays into that. The Redskins return nine defensive starters from a 13th-ranked unit, changing only the safeties. But Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler shredded Washington for 17 points in four series during the second preseason game. Either the pass rush improves or the Redskins will be naked.

Washington needs more playmakers, the kind who extend their season to the Pro Bowl. Playoff teams have a half dozen or more. Washington has maybe offensive tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis on offense and linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo on defense.

Somebody, a few bodies, must emerge. Until then, the Redskins will remain mediocre.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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