There's a word that pops up in every analysis of the Redskins as they move toward the 2010 season with a new general manager, a new coaching staff and no desire to repeat the 4-12 record of the past year.
They need a (fill in the blank). And they need a (fill in the blank). Actually, there's no shortage of blanks to fill in. Offensive tackle? Quarterback? Safety? Cornerback? Everybody has an opinion regarding the Redskins, their perceived needs and how best to acquire the critical parts.
What the Redskins need, what they want and what they will get in the NFL Draft come in to sharper focus as the front office and coaching staff get to work in Indianapolis at the scouting combine.
The college players began arriving on Wednesday for multiple rounds of drills, interviews, examinations and psychological testing. The fun continues through Tuesday.
General manager Bruce Allen kicks that term around a little. What, really, does it mean?
Need, he says, is not only in obvious areas but in every area. Needs are never fully met and continually developing as a team puts its roster together.
"The need issue? I don't really believe in that," Allen says. "Because you're one play away from having a need at a position. You can say you're fine at one position and a guy injures his knee at minicamp and guess what? You don't have the depth. The Redskins ran into that when they made the trade for Jason Taylor. You weren't thinking of trading for Jason Taylor before the injury."
True. In 2008, Phillip Daniels tore up his knee on the first morning of training camp. In the afternoon, Alex Buzbee ruptured his Achilles tendon. The theoretical "depth player" at defensive end, Erasmus James, was already down with lingering knee problems.
So the Redskins paid a heavy price to get Taylor, giving up second- and sixth-round draft picks. Then Taylor got hurt and suffered through a tough one-and-done with the Redskins.
Last spring the Redskins finally met that perceived need in long-term fashion by drafting Brian Orakpo 13th overall. The linebacker/defensive end earned a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie.
Allen says the Redskins' minds are open as they continue to pore over the work the area scouts have already done in writing reports on the players. The combine puts all the information and the folks who need it in the same place as the talent.
"People will talk about you going there to watch the 40-yard dash times, that it's just a track meet. The medical information is invaluable. The character, the interviews, is invaluable. Athletic ability is measured to the same degree as their character. It all plays into it," he says.
The history of teams seduced by workout warriors goes on without end. These sirens in shorts break the hearts of those who do not use their minds.
Remember the pure speed last year of Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey? The quickness from the edge in 2008 of Ohio State linebacker Vernon Gholston? The Raiders bit on Heyward-Bey and chose him seventh overall and they found out why the Terrapins struggled so to get him the ball. Gholston, taken sixth by the New York Jets, has spent more time on the bench than a Supreme Court justice.
Workouts fit into the overall portrait of the player. Whether or not that individual can actually function on the field carries more weight. Who does not love that ancient bit of combine wisdom – Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
"They're football players. The (game) tape is the most important part of the evaluation. However, all of these other factors are part of the overall grade. You will give them a medical grade and a character grade," Allen says.
By the time the draft rolls around on April 22, free agency will be six weeks along, as will the retooling of the Redskins' roster.
"We're going to have some vacancies," Allen says. "There's going to be good competition. For all the coaches, that's what they're looking for. I think the players will actually embrace that."
He's neither promising an overhaul nor threatening one.
"The core traditions of the Redskins are what coach (Mike) Shanahan and I embrace, the success based on teamwork and effort. That's what we want to reinstill in the building," Allen says. "As I said when we hired Mike, we're looking for a coaching staff that can help these players perform better. Now, not all of the players who were on the team last year are going to be here this year but that's not unique to the Redskins."
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.