Shanahan: rebuilding slower than expected

Having lost at least 10 games for the second consecutive season,

Washington coach Mike Shanahan admitted Monday the rebuilding

project he took on was a more difficult task than he expected.

”A lot longer than I first anticipated,” Shanahan said in the

wake of the 33-26 home loss to the lowly Minnesota Vikings that

dropped the Redskins to 5-10 heading into Sunday’s season finale

against the Eagles in Philadelphia. ”We had less depth than I

thought. We were a little bit older at a few different positions. I

thought we might keep those players a little longer than we

did.”

Since he took command of the Redskins in January 2010, Shanahan

has overhauled the aging roster he inherited from Jim Zorn. Only 12

of the 53 current active players ever suited up for the Redskins

before his arrival. And yet, Washington has clinched a fourth

straight last-place finish, a first in the NFC East’s 42-year

history.

”I never would have imagined,” said third-year outside

linebacker Brian Orakpo. ”It’s tough to swallow. But that’s the

NFL, man. We thought (last week’s 23-10 upset of the New York

Giants) was the turning point as far as us taking another step

forward. Obviously we took a step back (against Minnesota).”

Shanahan agreed with nose tackle Barry Cofield’s assessment that

the defense that had been carrying the Redskins most of the season

had its worst day against the Vikings. Minnesota ran for 241 yards

despite losing star running back Adrian Peterson and starting

quarterback Christian Ponder on the first series of the third

quarter in what was then a tie game.

”It’s depressing,” Cofield said. ”The way we got trampled,

it’s the worst defense we played all year. When teams run the ball

like that, it hurts me personally. It’s very disappointing,

especially coming off of last week where we played well.

”We got a lot to think about for next week. We got a lot to

think about for the offseason. Hopefully guys use it as a driving

force.”

Still, Shanahan and Orakpo remain upbeat about the future, which

is symbolized by a newly solid front seven on defense, and rookie

running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster, who combined for four

100-yard games the past five weeks.

”I see a big difference from two years ago,” said Shanahan,

who could lose 11 games for the first time in his 17 full seasons

with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver and Washington. ”We have a

much younger football team. We have a lot more depth at a lot of

different positions. I feel good about the type of players that we

do have. I feel good about the direction we’re heading.”

Aside from adding more talent via free agency and the draft,

particularly at quarterback and on the offensive line, Shanahan’s

goal for 2012 is to slash Washington’s 34 turnovers (23 by

quarterback Rex Grossman). Only Philadelphia and Tampa Bay have

more.

”We’ve got the right guys in this locker room,” Orakpo said.

”Guys are fighting hard. We don’t really have any issues. Guys

play for each other. Got a great coaching staff. We got an owner

(Dan Snyder) doing everything possible to win. … 5-10 is a

terrible season to have, but I’m a very optimistic guy, I want to

keep building and hopefully get this organization on top

eventually.”