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Changes afoot as Redskins end disappointing season

ASHBURN, Va. -- Jim Zorn's departure as Washington Redskins coach has such a feeling of inevitability that even one of his assistants speaks of it as a foregone conclusion.

"There's no question it's been tough for him, no doubt about it," offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. "To understand that you came here with the hopes of being successful as a coach -- and I feel the same way -- and to see that you never get a chance to finish what you wanted to do, I think it's disappointing, no question."

The situation is so fluid that running backs coach Stump Mitchell said Thursday he has been offered the head coaching post at Southern University. He'll wait until next week to decide whether to accept -- just in case he still has a job with the Redskins.

"They've offered it to me. I don't know what's going to happen here," Mitchell said. "But if it's not here, it'll be there."

But the coaching staff is just the tip of an iceberg of changes, some expected and others very much needed, in what should be another newsy Redskins offseason. It's a good thing general manager Bruce Allen was hired with three games to go in the regular season; a head start was needed to compile a laundry list of roster deficiencies.

"A lot of guys understand the situation," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "There's going to be some new faces, and there's going to be some old faces probably gone, and we all know that, and that's part of the program."

Allen's list will no doubt look similar to this, starting with the most glaring need for a team that is 4-11 entering Sunday's season finale at San Diego:

Offensive line: Ex-front office head Vinny Cerrato arguably should have been sent packing for this gaffe alone. The Redskins haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of the draft since 2000, and this season they entered the season with no backups who played even a single snap in the NFL the previous year. Left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas, both battered going into the season, predictably ended up on injured reserve - and Samuels is strongly considering retirement.

Campbell has been sacked 42 times, and nearly all of his passes involve three-step drops because the line is so porous. The Redskins need two tackles, a guard and a center who will eventually replace 32-year-old Casey Rabach, but that's a lot to add in one offseason.

Quarterback: Campbell's contract is expiring, and owner Dan Snyder has already made it clear he wants someone better. Campbell's numbers improved slightly this season, but he still doesn't look like a franchise quarterback. The Redskins will be tempted to use their high first-round draft pick on a QB, even though left tackle is a bigger priority.

Running back: Clinton Portis was showing signs of wearing down even before the concussion that ended his season early. Backup Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright aren't young, either, so Quinton Ganther became the unlikely starter in December.

Cornerback:DeAngelo Hall is a good cornerback, but he's not the shutdown player the Redskins are paying him to be. Carlos Rogers will be a free agent and appears unlikely to return. Justin Tryon improved in his second season, but he seems a better fit as a nickel back. Same goes for veteran Fred Smoot.


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Safety: Considering he was a No. 6 overall draft pick in 2007, LaRon Landry has been a disappointment. He's a liability as a free safety and even has problems at strong safety. The death of Sean Taylor two years ago still has a huge impact on this position. Landry isn't going anywhere, but the Redskins have to decide whether second-year player Kareem Moore or veteran Reed Doughty can hold down the free position while leaving Landry at strong.

The bit of good news for the Redskins is that they appear reasonably set, at least for now, at tight end, linebacker, defensive line and fullback. Receiver also looks better with the improvements of second-year wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly.

The unknown factor in offseason planning is the status of NFL labor talks. Snyder has always been a free spender, and a season with no salary cap opens the door for a complete overhaul.

With that prospect, even the players under contract for next season have genuine doubt as to whether they'll be back.

"Nothing's guaranteed any more," backup quarterback Todd Collins said. "But with the recent change in the decision-makers, there could be more changes."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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