By: Ja’Quan Minor
The people of the nation’s capital have been anxious to receive some consistent winning from the Washington Redskins. One can argue that the Redskins have had talented teams that were never able to completely pull it all together. Although the Redskins have experienced a total of four playoff appearances within the last 14 years, there was one playoff experience that seemed special.
In 2012, the Redskins were 3-6 and managed to win 7 straight games to advance to the NFL Playoffs behind a quarterback who seemed to be the future of the NFL, Robert Griffin III. After a phenomenal 2012 season, the team was never able to recapture the true magic of that season. Even with one playoff appearance in the 2015 playoffs. On paper, this football team is substantially better than the 2012 roster, but this team has the same feeling of uniqueness that resembles the 2012 team. Here are 3 reasons why they could elevate from last year’s mediocre 7-9 record.
1.Improvement at the Quarterback Position
After multiple off-seasons of wondering if Kirk Cousins was going to get a long-term deal, the saga and drama around the QB position have been resolved. The Redskins sent a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to the Kansas City Chiefs for Alex Smith, who then signed a four-year, $94 million-dollar deal. Coach Jay Gruden stated in an off-season presser that “without a doubt” Washington improved at the QB position. The stamp of approval from a head coach is huge in the NFL. Smith’s track record is superior to Cousins.
For example, Smith was No. 1 overall pick while Kirk was drafted in the 4th round. Smith has recorded more starting seasons than Kirk along with more Pro Bowls. Smith ranked No. 9 last season in Pro Football Focus’ overall quarterback grading, while Cousins was No. 19. Also, Smith was an early MVP candidate during the Chief’s 5-0 start to the season.
Many forget that Alex Smith can not only throw the ball exceptionally well, finishing the season with the 8th best passer rating as Kirk finished 15th, but he has the ability to escape the pocket and use his legs finishing with 355 yards while Cousins finished with 179 yards. Kirk had ample opportunities to keep the defense honest with his legs, but instead, he stood in the pocket and it often costed the Redskins. Overall, Smith recorded 26 TD’s with 5 INT’s alongside a playoff appearance, while Kirk had 27 TDs with 13 INT’s.
To reference the 2012 team, Smith reminds me of RGIII with a much higher football IQ, but clearly less athletic. The Redskins got a better athlete at QB with more winning experience, and with a better passer rating at a cheaper and team-friendly price.
2.Talented Supporting Cast
Last season, Smith had Kareem Hunt, who could take much pressure off of him. Hunt was the NFL’s rushing champion finishing with 1,327 yards, which allowed the Chiefs offense playbook to open up as a whole. In Washington, Smith has two young running backs who have tremendous talent.
Chris Thompson was a vital piece to the Redskins offense due to the fact that he was able to line up as a WR and an RB. Thompson was often the number one weapon with Jordan Reed sidelined and Terrell Pryor being underwhelming. He was on pace to finish with 867 yards receiving, which would have to lead the team in receiving yards. Also, many people around the organization believe the Redskins have found their franchise back with the draft selection of Derrius Guice. He is the opposite of Chris Thompson with a bruiser style of running. He recorded 1,251 yards at LSU last year and was widely viewed as the second best back in the draft behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
The Redskins organization and fanbase know that if Jordan Reed is healthy and on the field, the Redskins have a chance to be an incredibly special team. In 2015, Reed recorded 952 yards receiving and 6 TDs in 14 games. Reed was easily viewed as a top three TE in the league at that time.
With a handful of lingering hamstring injuries and concussions, Reed has been on and off the field with no true reliability. Reed only played a total of six games last year and has had time to fully recover this off-season. If he can stay on the field and avoid any injuries in 2018, he’d be another lethal weapon for this offense. Vernon Davis is also a huge piece of this offense and played exceptionally well with Reed out of the lineup. He finished with 648 yards and 3 TDs but along with that, he was one of the best blocking TE’s in the NFL last year.
The Redskins also signed Paul Richardson, whose game is quite similar to Tyrek Hill’s. Both are extremely fast and can easily take the top off a defense and open up the passing game underneath and possibly even open the running game. This offense doesn’t have the household names the Chief’s did, but neither did the 2012 Roster. The Redskins certainly have untapped potential and if injuries don’t plague this offense, look for them to finish top 10 in total NFL offense.
The Redskins had an abundance of positions to address and revamp before the start of the 2018 NFL season. The defensive unit from this past season had its splashes and flashes of dominance but the unit finished the year being last in rushing yards allowed and No. 27 in points allowed. The game of football undoubtedly starts up front within the trenches of the defensive line and the offensive line. With 2nd year player, Johnathan Allen was on the field, the total defense was much better because they were able to get much interior pressure with the help of Matt Loannidis.
Both players are returning this year and if healthy for 17 weeks, the Redskins will finish higher than the 28th ranked defense. Drafting Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne fills the void at DT that this team has been lacking for years and will have an important impact as soon as the season kicks off on September 9th. Washington has had a pressing need for a DT and Payne was one of the most talented prospects in the draft. Payne’s presence will allow Ryan Smith and the other up-front players to be more effective and LB’s can cover athletic TE’s easier.
Pro-bowler Ryan Kerrigan will return for another year after recording his 2nd highest sack total for his career with 13 sacks. He’s one player that is a leader and a staple of the Redskins organization and has proved he is going to compete and produce every time his number is called. Preston Smith had his breakout season recording 11 sacks. He’s only going to grow and develop under Ryan’s wing. He’ll also have a chip on his shoulder seeing as though he’ll be looking to sign a new contract. Zach Brown was able to be top 10 in tackles last year and Mason Foster who is a very good run stopper was injured last year but will be returning to the starting lineup this year.
The two anchors of the secondary, Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger had solid seasons last year, but two players cannot carry one defense. This year they will have much more help than last year and with more pressure on the quarterback. It will help them out immensely and make their jobs much easier. A name to watch out for on that defense will be Montae Nicholson. He showed flashes of great play before being sidelined with a shoulder injury and concussion symptoms. This team has a young core that can do damage in the National Football League right now. The veterans have to stay healthy and be teachers for the young guys. With that being said, this team could be that team that surprises the league and finally places its stamp on the football world.