Redskins Offensive Analysis
The Redskins offense has been the strength of the team for the last few seasons. Since his arrival in 2014, head coach Jay Gruden has led his pass-heavy offense to success. The production of the offense is the main reason why this team has been in the playoff hunt for the last 3 years. In those years, a number of different players have been shuffled in and out of the lineup, with Kirk Cousins being the one stable piece at the quarterback position. In 2015, we saw players like Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris lead the offense to the team’s only playoff berth in the Jay Gruden era. 2018 will bring another season of new players that will need to contribute in order for the Redskins to make another playoff run.
Injuries made it tough for the Redskins offense to be consistent throughout the season. Pro Bowlers Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams both missed multiple games with knee injuries. Countless other playmakers like Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson finished their seasons on Injured Reserve. With so many injuries to the offensive line and running backs, the Redskins struggled to be productive running the football. As a result, Washington relied heavily on the pass to put points on the board. The offense was ranked 16th in the NFL this past season, but they will need to be much better going forward. Although there are a number of returning players from their 2017 offense, the Redskins will need to make some key free agent acquisitions to get this team from playoff relevancy to true Super Bowl contention.
Although he has faced much scrutiny throughout his time in Washington, Kirk Cousins has played his way into becoming the top rated free agent for this upcoming season. This past season he posted his 3rd straight 4,000 yard passing season. He also threw for 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with starters in and out of the lineup at nearly every position on the offense. With multiple teams in need of a quarterback, Cousins’ numbers have warranted talk of him being signed to an NFL-record $30 mil per year contract. Signing a player to a deal of that size would take up a huge piece of a team’s salary cap. The Redskins have about $50 million in salary cap space this offseason.
For this reason, Washington should pursue a free agent QB if there is not a viable option in the draft. It is likely that promising QB prospects like Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Josh Rosen (UCLA) will be already drafted by the time the Skins make their first round pick at #13. If that’s the case, they could look to free agents like Sam Bradford or AJ McCarron to replace Cousins. Although those two are not ideal options, signing one of these affordable free agents will give Washington the flexibility to bolster their roster at other positions. We have seen teams throughout history have success without consistent play from their quarterback.
The Running Back position was one that suffered multiple injuries in the 2017 season for the Redskins. This core was headlined by the dynamic 3rd down back, Chris Thompson. Before his season-ending injury in week 11, Thompson was leading the team in rushing and receiving with 294 and 510 respectively, along with 6 total touchdowns. The featured back coming into the season, Rob Kelly, was virtually ineffective due to multiple injuries. The leading rusher for the season ended up being rookie 4th round pick Samaje Perine with 603 yards.
While Perine showed sure hands with 22 receptions, his lack of burst and acceleration limited to him only averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Bringing in another young back like Isaiah Crowell (Browns) or Carlos Hyde (49ers) will be beneficial for the Redskins struggling run game. While there are also possible prospects in the upcoming draft like Sony Michel (Georgia), Ronald Jones (USC), and Mark Walton (Miami); Crowell and Hyde have proven that they have the ability to be featured backs in the league.
Throughout their 4 year careers, both running backs have averaged a productive 4.2 yards per carry and have shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Adding a premier running back to compliment Perine and Thompson will give the Redskins a much-needed boost in their rush offense that finished 28th in the NFL last season. Having an effective rushing attack is essential for a team to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Wide receiver is a big position of need for the Redskins going into next season. The offense needs a true number one receiver that the quarterback can rely on in clutch situations. Washington signed Terrelle Pryor to a one-year deal last offseason in hopes that he would be the solution to this problem. Unfortunately, he did not pan out as a number one receiver. Be that as it may, it would be smart of the Skins to try to work out another one year deal with Pryor.
He will be hungry to prove himself following a disappointing year and his combination of size and speed could potentially make him an elite receiver in his second year in Jay Gruden’s system. Josh Doctson is a 1st round pick from 2015 who barely saw the field in his rookie season due to injury. In his second year (basically his rookie year), Doctson recorded 502 yards and led the team in receiving touchdowns with 6.
This gives Skins fans reason to believe that they can see a breakout season from him in 2018 as a true red zone threat. Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant led the offense in receptions with 66 and 45 catches respectively. Both have emerged as sure-handed possession receivers that are able to move the chains on third downs on short to intermediate routes.
Washington clearly has some solid pieces in this group, but they are lacking a big play receiver that they had in Desean Jackson from 2014-2016. They could address this by going after free agent Allen Robinson (Jaguars), who was a big play threat for Blake Bortles and Jacksonville before missing this past season due to injury. He put up sensational numbers in 2015 when he recorded 80 catches for 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns. This will make him a highly sought-after free agent going into 2018. If he is not available, the Redskins could look to sign a speedy receiver like John Brown (Cardinals).
Averaging 14.5 yards per catch, Brown has shown the ability to take the top off of the defense and allow receivers like Doctson and Crowder to benefit from 1-on-1 coverage underneath. The addition of a big play receiver will allow the Redskins to attack all levels of the opposing defense.
The tight end position is definitely a position of strength for Washington. When healthy, the combination of Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, and rookie Jeremy Sprinkle is one of the best units in the league. Jordan Reed has had an injury-riddled start to his career, but he is a top-5 tight end when he is on the field. In his best season in 2015, Reed recorded 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He still has room for improvement in run blocking, but he has been a nightmare for defenses in the passing game.
The ageless Vernon Davis has been able to pick up the slack when Reed has been out, as he excels in run blocking and in the passing game. Davis’ vertical speed is often times unmatched when guarded by linebackers and safeties. Sprinkle is unpolished in the passing game, but he has shown improvement. Run blocking is his strength at 6’5 250 pounds.
Niles Paul has been a nice piece in the offense because of his versatility. This past season he lined up at fullback, tight end, and even kick returner. Paul has been a Swiss army knife of sorts, and a longtime fan favorite, but he was unable to provide the physicality at fullback that the Skins needed to improve their run game. The Redskins should therefore, allow Paul to test free agency and bring in a true fullback like Zach Line (Saints) or Anthony Sherman (Chiefs). Both players have shown the physicality to effectively open holes for running backs, while also showing the ability to catch passes in the flats on play action passes. Adding a tough lead blocker will undoubtedly improve the struggling run game of the Redskins.
Washington has one of the top offensive lines in the NFL when they are healthy. Coached by Bill Callahan, the Redskins starting offensive line is one reminiscent of the old Hogs that dominated defenses in the 80’s and early 90’s. Anchored by Trent Williams at left tackle, this group was decimated by injury this past season. Right tackle Morgan Moses was the only lineman to start all 16 games, while Brandon Scherff, Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao, and Williams all missed several games due to injury. When this group played together, the offense saw success in the running game as well as the passing game.
Rookie 6th round pick center Chase Roullier filled in very nicely when he got his opportunity to start. His performance last year gives fans reason to believe he will be the starting center for the Redskins going forward. This means the Redskins will have to make a decision on who to bring back because Long and Lauvao are both free agents this offseason. The Redskins should look to sign Spencer Long as their left guard and let Lauvao test free agency, as Long was a much more consistent player. If this group can remain healthy in 2018, we can definitely expect to see better offensive outings than we did this past year.
There are many talented offensive players available in free agency this offseason. With $50 mil in salary cap space, the Redskins should make it a priority to sign some of these players. The offense had some forgettable moments in 2017, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism about the 2018 season. Bringing in a big-play receiver and a dynamic running back to compliment the talent that Washington already has will instantly make this team better than the year before. Behind a skilled offensive line, whoever is playing quarterback will have the talent around him to be successful. If the Redskins can avoid injuries and improve their run game we can potentially see this team make a run for NFC supremacy in 2018.