2018 NFL Season Preview- Washington Redskins
The excuses were there if Washington wanted them.
A series of injuries to key players and one of the league's toughest schedules made the Redskins limp to a 7-9 record.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn't as sharp as he was the previous two seasons being sacked 41 times, but still managed to throw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. Five running backs finished the season on injured reserve. Robert Kelley was disappointing before a knee injury ended his year midway through the season. Tight end Jordan Reed is the focal point of the offense and when he wasn't in the lineup, the team suffered. After dealing with a toe injury in training camp, Reed injured his hamstring and dealt with chest contusions while playing just six games. Vernon Davis had his best season in four years but his production tailed off late in the year. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor was a complete free agency bust after getting injured in Week 2. Josh Doctson showed some progress after an injured rookie year but also had some key drops. Jamison Crowder remains one of the best slot receivers in football. The offensive line was a mess due to injuries and the starting five never played together after Week 8.
The defensive line's issues with injuries is ultimately what doomed Washington to the worst run defense in the league. Inside linebacker Zach Brown was a key addition and led the league in tackles for much of the year. Mason Foster and Will Compton were both lost late in the season due to injuries and Trent Murphy tore his ACL in the preseason. Cornerback Josh Norman is still a Pro Bowl level talent but Bauhaud Breeland was up and down all year. Kendall Fuller was a solid nickel corner and intercepted four passes. Safety D.J. Swearinger was the leader Washington needed in the secondary but Su'a Cravens surprisingly decided to ponder retirement just before the regular season and was placed on the reserved/ retired list.
The Redskins produced three Pro Bowlers in tackle Trent Williams, guard Brandon Scherff, and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Williams made his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl despite missing four games with a knee injury. Scherff was named to his second straight Pro Bowl after starting 14 games. Kerrigan was his usual productive self and finished the year with 13 sacks in his third Pro Bowl season.
The injury bug affected the rookie class as well. Defensive end Jonathan Allen flashed Pro Bowl potential before going on IR after Week 5 and the run defense crumbled without him. Outside linebacker Ryan Anderson spent the year as a backup but should have a much bigger role in the future. Cornerback Fabian Moreau was a special teams standout who might get a look on defense next season. Running back Samaje Perine was pushed into the starting role earlier than expected and wasn't quite ready.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After the 7-9 season, Head coach Jay Gruden signed a two year extension through 2020. He will be the first head coach to start a fifth consecutive season under owner Dan Snyder since he bought the team in 1999.
Notable Additions- QB Alex Smith, QB Kevin Hogan, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Paul Richardson
Notable Departures- QB Kirk Cousins, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Ryan Grant, TE Niles Paul, C Spencer Long, DE Terrell McClain, LB Will Compton, LB Trent Murphy, CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Kendall Fuller, S Su'a Cravens
Redskins 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Holding the 13th overall pick going into the draft, Washington had to make some upgrades if they expect to compete with the rest of the NFC East. Especially at quarterback, wide receiver, and inside linebacker.
Alex Smith is a short term answer for now, but the team needs a young quarterback to develop as Colt McCoy is nothing more than a backup.
With Terrelle Pryor leaving via free agency, the Redskins need an impact receiver and I'm not sure if Paul Richardson is the answer.
With Will Compton leaving and Mason Foster not getting any younger, the middle of the defense could bet an upgrade with young talent.
On draft day, Washington ended up selecting Alabama defensive tackle Daron Payne with the 13th overall pick. Payne was seen as the strongest defensive lineman in the draft but lacks the acceleration to make an impact as a pass rusher.
The Redskins also notably drafted LSU running back Derrius Guice in the second round. Guice has great toughness and is a hungry runner, but lacks great size or speed to separate himself from other running backs. Unfortunately, Guice tore his ACL in the team's first preseason game and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Daron Payne Highlights
What To Expect
Given the level of talent growing around the NFC East, I can't picture the Redskins making a dent against those teams.
It's no secret that I've never been on the Alex Smith bandwagon. To me the Redskins traded for an older, less productive version of Kirk Cousins. Smith will be fine during September and October, but once the weather starts to turn cold, his numbers will plummet due to lack of arm strength. Adrian Peterson is an interesting signing, but he's 33 and is coming off a mediocre season between New Orleans and Arizona. Robert Kelley will likely be given an opportunity to get his starting job back, but if he can't recapture his 2016 form it will be a tough year for the running game now that Derrius Guice is out for the season. On paper, the receiving corps of Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, and Jamison Crowder is solid but Doctson has to watch his focus and Richardson has to stay healthy which he has had issues with in the past. When healthy, Jordan Reed is one of the best tight ends in football, but he's never played a full season since coming into the league and limiting his snaps early on might be the best option. Vernon Davis has a played with Alex Smith in San Francisco, but entering his 13th season, he'll be limited than what he was seven years ago. Assuming that the offensive line returns healthy, they can get back to being one of the most stable lines in the NFL.
With Daron Payne joining college teammate Jonathan Allen on the defensive line, the two should form a solid run stopping duo assuming Allen can return healthy. The team will miss Will Compton, but Zach Brown and Mason Foster are a solid tandem in the middle and Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith will rack up sacks on the outside. The secondary is where the questions lie. Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger should still be solid, but Orlando Scandrick has shown he can't stay healthy and there's no real answer at strong safety.
Seeing as how Philadelphia and Dallas will be headed for the postseason and New York is back on the rise, its nearly impossible to see Washington getting past any of them.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 7-9