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Old Faces in New Places - Donovan McNabb
John Tuvey
May 6, 2010
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Other Players: Donovan McNabb  Jason Campbell  LaDainian Tomlinson  Chester Taylor  LenDale White & Leon Washington
  Nate Burleson  Anquan Boldin  Santonio Holmes  Antonio Bryant  Brandon Marshall

Donovan McNabb to the Redskins

Philly fans, you finally got your wish: no more Donovan McNabb to kick around any more.

With Kevin Kolb warming in the bullpen and McNabb in the final year of his contract, the Eagles shopped their veteran quarterback in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. The Cardinals and Vikings were rumored to be possible destinations, along with quarterback-needy teams like the Rams, Raiders, and Bills. Ultimately, however, the Eagles kept McNabb within the NFC East, sending him to the Redskins for a second-round pick in this year’s draft (which ended up being safety Nate Allen) and a conditional third- or fourth-round selection in 2011.

So McNabb stays within a division he knows well; he also joins forces with Mike Shanahan, a coach whose had some success wringing a title out of a veteran quarterback (see: Elway, John). The offense shouldn’t be markedly different from what McNabb is used to, but the pieces are most certainly not the same.

Let’s start with the backs at McNabb’s disposal. Instead of Brian Westbrook, who consistently added 600-plus receiving yards to Donovan’s bottom line in Philly, the Redskins’ committee features three backs for whom pass-catching has never been a priority. Clinton Portis has a career high of 47-389 back in 2007 and has one receiving TD in the past five years. In Shanahan’s offense in Denver, Portis posted receiving lines of 33-364-2 and 38-314-0. Fellow committee members offer even less: Larry Johnson’s best receiving season was 41-410-2, and he has 57-340-1 over the past three years; Willie Parker’s top pass-catching line was 31-222-3, and his three-year numbers are 33-243-1.

Much was made of McNabb’s lack of elite receivers in Philly, and he’ll be in a similar situation with the ‘Skins. At present Washington’s depth chart lists Santana Moss (70-902-3 last year) and Devin Thomas (25-325-3) as starters, with Joey Galloway and Malcolm Kelly backing them up. It’s a group that isn’t significantly better than last year, when the Redskins ranked 23th in WR fantasy points and next-to-last in WR TDs. Of course, they were catching balls from Jason Campbell; maybe the arrival of McNabb is just what Thomas and Kelly need to help them reach their potential. McNabb has certainly lifted ordinary receivers kicking and screaming into productivity before.

There’s also the issue of Washington’s offensive line, which gave up 46 sacks last season (fourth-most in the NFL); that’s more times than McNabb has ever been sacked in a season. Certainly, the addition of Trent Williams at left tackle helps, but he’s still a rookie who will be facing two of the top seven sacking teams from a year ago (Philly and Dallas) twice over the course of the season. And we are talking about a 33-year-old quarterback who’s missed 24 games over the past eight years.

On the plus side of the ledger, McNabb has always had a fondness for tight ends and in Washington he’ll have two good ones in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis; that duo helped the Redskins rank third at the position in fantasy points scored. McNabb certainly knew where to find Brent Celek last year (60-763-7 from McNabb in 14 games), and Kyle Shanahan’s offense is used to featuring the tight end (think Owen Daniels), so maybe the receiver problem won’t be as big a stumbling block for McNabb as some might think

Last year McNabb finished 13th among quarterbacks in fantasy points, 10th in fantasy points per game. His only top-10 finish in the past five seasons came in 2008, when he was 7th; not coincidentally, that was the only season among the past five in which he didn’t miss at least two games. So while the numbers suggest he’s no longer an elite fantasy quarterback, when healthy he’s a viable fantasy starter.

Whether or not the Eagles knew what they were doing in kicking McNabb to the curb remains to be seen. The lesser supporting cast and another year of wear and tear don’t point to a McNabb resurgence, but in an offense he knows—and with some serious motivation at least twice a season—he should remain at the low end of the fantasy starter pool of quarterbacks.

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