We can all be optimistic right? Well winning the NFC East in 2015 initially put Washington Redskins fans in good stead ahead of the 2016 season. But failing to reach the playoffs following a decisive week 17 loss their divisional rivals in the New York Giants concluded what was a very disappointing season. The Redskins finished with an 8-7-1 record, only good enough to finish third in the NFC East standings.
Ahead of the new season, there is an element of uncertainty surrounding the Redskins camp. The combination of a tough schedule and losses to key figures during the offseason has raised question marks over just how far the Washington Redskins can progress this season. Loosing general manager Scott McCloughan and offensive coordinator Sean McVay will hurt the backroom staff, especially considering the role McVay has played in Kirk Cousins’ success over the past three seasons. Many expect this season to be a rebuilding year for the Redskins. With a lot of young talent in the squad, this season could be an opportunity for the young talents to gain valuable experience.
The offense has certainly dominated the headlines during the offseason for the Redskins. Matt Cavanaugh has become the new offensive coordinator after being promoted from quarterbacks coach. Cavanaugh suggested that there may be some tweaks, but emphasised the desire to remain with the same offensive system Sean McVay adopted last season.
The majority of the attention has surrounded the future of Kirk Cousins. Signing the franchise tag for another year seems to have temporarily put to bed the speculation surrounding his future with the franchise. Cousins tallied 4,917 passing yards last season, with a completion percentage of 67%.
A big problem for the Redskins last season was their inability to establish a consistent running game. Early indications suggest that Rob Kelley will be the first choice running back for the upcoming season. Kelley posted 704 rushing yards with 6 touchdowns last season, but faced strong competition from Matt Jones and Chris Thompson. Add fourth round pick Samaje Perine into the equation, and the Redskins have a pretty stacked rushing unit. Establishing an affective running game may be crucial this season in order to help relieve some pressure from Cousins. The Redskins have been described as “one dimensional” over the past two seasons. But adding an effective running game into the equation may give oppositions something else to think about.
Loosing both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon in free agency dealt a huge blow for the Redskins offense. After all, both men did record over 1,000 receiving yards each last season. But optimism is key… right? The acquisition of Tyrelle Pryor from the Cleveland Browns has certainly excited Redskins fans. Alongside him will be 2015 first round pick Josh Doctson. After missing most of last season through an Achilles injury, it will be a big ask for Doctson to fill the void both Jackson and Garçon have left. Adding Jamison Crowder into the equation, who had a break out season last season, the Redskins receiving unit is not to be taken lightly this season. Is it enough to compete with the the other teams in the East? That is yet to be seen.
Having an effective offense may also rest upon the hope of Jordan Reed staying healthy this season. Reed has been phenomenal over the past two season. However, his grade 3 shoulder injury suffered in week 12 struck at a crucial point in the Redskins season last year. The injury dealt a huge blow to the Redskins playoff push. The re-signing of Vernon Davis has added depth to the tight end position. Davis recorded 44 receptions for 583 yards and two touchdowns last time out with the Redskins. It is clear however that the success of this Redskins offence this season may heavily depend on the fitness of their receivers.
The Redskins have hired Greg Manusky as their new defensive coordinator. Under Joe Barry, the Redskins adopted a one gap 3-4 scheme, a scheme that allowed players to be more aggressive. Manusky may decide to adopt a similar scheme, but is expected to be more aggressive on blitz packages.
The Washington Redskins made defence their top priority during the 2017 NFL Draft, as highlighted with their opening three picks. Johnathan Allen could be a potential steal with the 19th Overall Pick. Despite concerns over his reoccurring shoulder injury, when healthy, his speed and power will help bolster the Redskins pass rush. Alongside former Alabama team mate Ryan Anderson, the duo will help to add another dimension to this Redskins defense. Adding both Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee in free agency will hope to significantly strengthen the defensive line, bolstered by the news of Ryan Kerrigan’s return to the side to help the pass rush. Trent Murphy’s four game drug suspension however will provide an immediate test for Greg Manuksy in finding a suitable replacement to help get after the QB.
The arrival of Linebacker Zach Brown has fuelled Washington Redskins fans with optimism. Brown recorded the second most tackles in the league last season and was selected for his first Pro Bowl. But overall, the Redskins defense seems to be in a much stronger position than last season. In Washington’s 3-4, expect OLBs Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith to dial up the pass-rush and set the edge against the run. Will Compton, Mason Foster and Zach Brown will fight for the two starting inside linebacker jobs with Brown and Compton expected to win and become tackling machines inside.
D.J. Swearinger reuniting with former high school teammate Josh Norman will hope to form an effective partnership in the back end. With Brashaad Breeland having an inconsistent season last year, third round pick Fabian Moreau will provide strong competition at cornerback. Recovering from a pectoral injury suffered during UCLA’s pro day however will be Moreau’s focus for the time being. Su’a Cravens is one of the best young safety’s in the NFL and is a force against the run in and around the box, he is a fun strong safety to watch fly all over the gridiron.
Players to Watch
Kirk Cousins – It is a quarterback league, okay. Cousins has ultimately showed what he can do over the past two seasons. He is a quarterback who will gain quick yardage, make completions and get first downs. And with the quality of receivers around him, we can surely expect Cousins to post more impressive numbers this season.
Jamison Crowder – Crowder was undoubtedly the break out story last season for the Redskins, recording 847 receiving yards with 7 touchdowns. With the departures of Jackson and Garçon, the pressure is on Crowder this year to perform.
Josh Norman – In a division full of receiving talent, Norman will also need to post big numbers this season. After having a season to find his feet, alongside the defensive additions, the stage is certainly Norman’s to takeover this year.
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