The 'Skins boldly traded for Minnesota's Brad Johnson after losing Trent Green to the Rams. For the first time since leaving Troy Aikman in Dallas, Norv Turner has a quarterback capable of leading his team deep into the playoffs. Johnson gives Washington an instant starter but with Gus Ferotte in Detroit, the Skins will need to shop around or draft a reliable backup. Casey Weldon will return as third-stringer.
Terry Allen has been productive when healthy but injuries have cost him significant time the past two seasons. That, coupled with that he will be 31 when next season starts and that he is due to earn $4 million next season, make him expendable. With Skip Hicks having proved he is capable of playing in the NFL and the possibility of drafting a premier back, the running back situation should be wrapped-up. Hicks, however, is the probable starter after scoring team-record eight touchdowns in five starts. Larry Bowie was having solid season at the FB position until breaking his ankle. Bowie has size and shows some power run-blocking. He should return as the starter as long as he proves to be completely recovered from the injury. Stephan Davis showed versatility by moving to FB at midseason and is tough between tackles.
The uncertainty surrounding Michael Westbrook's serious neck injury makes it imperative that WR help is found. Compounding the Westbrook situation, Leslie Shepherd might leave in free agency. Albert Connell is the reserve with the best size and speed to be a capable No. 2 receiver. His ability to go over the middle separates him from the rest. James Thrash has a great work ethic and will battle for a position next summer. Help is definitely needed at WR as the new stud QB would like some quality players to throw to next fall.
Stephan Alexander started slowly and battled injuries, but learned the system and developed his blocking. James Jenkins remains a one-dimensional blocking type. Jamie Asher was having good season until he was injured and has drawn some interest on the free agent market.
This unit allowed a team-record 61 sacks. Injuries caused constant reshuffling of four of the five positions. Joe Patton is a versatile guy that is more of a finesse run blocker, wall off type. Brad Badger, who was decent at LOT, is a better OG. Cory Raymer is a strong, tough guy who proved capable by playing the entire season. Rod Milstead re-signed giving the O-line depth. ROT Shar Pourdanesh struggled on the field and had abdominal surgery. Tre Johnson is the team's best lineman when healthy. Ex-Niner Jamie Brown was picked up this off-season to compete at right tackle.
This was the most underachieving unit, perhaps in all of football. Kenard Lang did contribute with 7 sacks but still struggled versus the run. Dan Wilkinson was a major letdown, but had a late push that helped win two games, while finishing with team-high 7½ sacks. His partner in crime, Dana Stubblefield played poorly in seven games before getting hurt. It's essential that "Big Daddy"and"Big Dana" have "big" years in '99. Ndukwe Kalu has some pass-rushing skills but is limited. Rich Owens is gone to Miami and Jamal Duff is now a Bear dramatically thinning the DE position that already lacked quality players.
SOLB Derek Smith was solid in '97, but slipped in his second season. Marvcus Patton is ready to go play for a team with a better shot at winning but hasn't been bombarded with offers and now the club doesn't want him back. WOLB Greg Jones won the spot over veteran Ken Harvey, but didn't shine. Harvey showed signs of aging, but he's still versatile and will contribute again next season. Second-year guy Shawn Barber is ready to make a push for a starting job but that move may have been delayed because of Fred Strickland's signing. Chester Burnett and Malcolm Hamilton have signed to return adding depth in reserve.
Chris Dishman had his worst season as a pro last year, while Darrell Green had a very productive season and did a fine job of covering up for mistakes around him. Expect the veteran cover tandem to rally the 'Skins defense. Leomont Evans emerged as bright spot last year playing smart, physical football. Darryl Pounds and Jamal Williams remain top backups and special team contributors. Cincy's SS Sam Shade brings a physical presence to the Washington secondary.
Punter Matt Turk returned to the Pro Bowl and he only seems to be getting better with good distance and hang time. Brian Mitchell led the league in combined yardage again this season, and at the age of 30, he doesn't seem to be slowing down much. Place kicker remains a serious need for the 'Skins after going through several kickers last season. Any consistency would be a huge upgrade.