Coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb has become a distracting storyline.
Where they stand: The Redskins have already equaled their '09 win total, but 4-4 still seems pretty unsatisfying considering how things have transpired. The loss in Detroit marred what could've been an excellent first half of the season. But Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb late in the game has become the story of this season. The Redskins are a much-improved team under Shanahan, but no one's talking about that angle right now. And that's completely understandable.
Falling: Shanahan ended his honeymoon phase with a head-scratching decision. Everyone cut him slack on his overbearing treatment of the Albert Haynesworth controversy, but his explanations of the McNabb benching didn't hold water. It's hard to know what to make of this defense right now. Jim Haslett's unit gives up way too many yards, but they're among the league leaders in terms of takeaways. The transition to a 3-4 scheme is still a work in progress. The Redskins' punting situation has been pitiful lately. Hunter Smith hasn't exactly fortified the situation with his 26-yard blasts. And it's worth noting McNabb has played poorly for much of the season. You certainly can't place all the blame for that on the Shanahans.
Rising: Ryan Torain was released following training camp, but he was quickly re-signed and has become the team's feature running back. I'm not to sure what to make of his long-term prospects, but he's bailed the Skins out this season. And rookie Brandon Banks has been sensational in the return game. I'd find a way to get him on the field with McNabb. He's a playmaker and this team started the season without enough firepower on offense. And that's still the case. Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong doesn't have the pedigree to be starting in the NFL, but you have to admire how he's made some big plays for McNabb. I'd also say that DeAngelo Hall's career is on the rise. He's among the league leaders in interceptions and they always seem to happen at critical moments.
Midseason MVP: I'll go with Hall. He has been volatile at times, but I think some of that may have been necessary. He has spearheaded a takeaway movement. That's made a big difference this season.
Outlook: The Skins are two games behind the Giants and I just don't think they match up well with that team. The Giants will feast on this banged-up offensive line. I think the Skins will finish the season 8-8. And based on last season's results, that's something to take pride in. But again, all eyes will be on Shanahan to see how he handles the quarterback situation. My guess is that McNabb will be playing elsewhere in 2010.