With just over a month until the Falcons and Eagles kick-off the NFL regular season, many people are switching back into the NFL mindset that causes millions of unproductive Sunday’s around the nation.
As the season comes closer it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.
The Washington Redskins finished with another disappointing season going 7-9 (*cough cough* Jeff Fisher), good enough for 3rd in the NFC East. This year there is renewed optimism around the Redskins camp due to some major changes made to the team this offseason.
To get us hyped about another ‘Skins season, let’s take an inside look at the four aspects of this Redskins team (coaching, defense, offense, and special teams) according to how well equipped they are for this season and how they have improved over the offseason.
As excited as I am to see how Alex Smith plays with this Redskins offense I am not completely sold on this unit yet. Alex Smith threw for over 4,000 yards and had 26 touchdowns and only 5 picks last year. But, that was with a high flying Chiefs team that averaged 26 points on 375 yards per game, and not 21 points on 325 yards per game like the Redskins did. He also had weapons like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to throw to (Paul Richardson is no Tyreek Hill and while Jordan Reed has elite TE talent, the man has barely played over the past few years).
The success of the offense relies on the run game. Derrius Guice was arguably the steal of the draft for this team. He has been getting a lot of well-deserved hype recently. He rushed for 104.6 yards a game, 11 touchdowns, and never lost a fumble. Guice is coming into a Redskins team that is looking to get its ground game going and he knows that he is going to have his shot right from Week 1. In addition, he is going to be running behind two of the best O linemen in football in Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams. The Skins line is solid all the way down besides a left guard, which can still be filled in free agency. If the run game gets going to its full potential, then I think this offense will thrive. We all saw how well Alex Smith played when he had rookie running back Kareem Hunt running for 1,327 yards on 4.9 yards a carry.
The reason I have the defense at #1 is because I believe they will be far and away the most improved unit on this team. They have made it a focal point of their past two drafts to address the defensive line. They drafted Jonathan Allen with the first pick last year and took Daron Payne this year.
This defense was plagued by injuries last year and because of that had the worst run defense in the league, giving up 134 yards a game. There is talent on this Redskins front line and if they can play to their full potential the run stop could go from a detrimental weakness to a strength in just one offseason. Matt Ioannidis had a big year last year at defensive end and according to Fantasy Football Focus, he was rated as one of the most consistent and disruptive interior pass rushers in the league last year.
The combination of Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith at outside linebacker has to be one of, if not the most lethal combo in football. Kerrigan has more combined sacks in the past two years than Von Miller and is arguably one of the most underrated talents in football. Preston Smith had 42 tackle, eight sacks, and two picks last year. He also has the motivation of an impending new contract. If Smith has another season like last he will be looking at a huge sum of money coming his way.
Resigning Zac Brown could have been the Redskins best move of the offseason. He would have led the NFL in tackles last year if not for an injury late in the year. Brown is a London Fletcher-esque player who can be the backbone of this defensive unit.
The secondary of this team is the scariest part for me. With guys Like Montae Nicholson and Quinton Dunbar getting large chunks of playing time there could be some issues there. However, what gives me hope for this unit is the fact that they have guys like D.J Swearinger and Josh Norman. Those two guys demand nothing but the best from the secondary partners and will make sure that these young guys play to their full potential. If the Skins can get some of the small name guys to ball out this secondary unit could produce.
The Redskins special teams last year was not great by any standards. They never seemed to make big plays and they always seemed to make a critical mistake. In Week 13 the Redskins were playing the Cowboys in a must-win game to keep their playoff hope alive. The Skins were down 10-0 and were about to punt the ball back in desperate need of a stop. Instead of pinning the Cowboys back deep in their own territory, the punting unit gets burned for an 88 yard punt return touchdown that virtually ended their season.
In addition, the longest punt return of the season was 29 yards from Jamison Crowder who averaged an abysmal 6.3 yards a return. As for our field goal kicking, Dustin Hopkins and Nick Rose did not have the worst seasons in terms of kicking percentage as Hopkins made 14-17 and Nick Rose made 10-11. They did however combine to miss three extra points on the season.
I believe our special teams will have more success this year because the bar was set so low last year. It is up to Special Teams coach Ben Kotwica to revamp and motivate this unit. If we can limit the big plays given up defensively and create a few momentum-changing plays of our own special teams could be the spark this team has been needing in this coming year.
This Redskins coaching unit, led by Jay Gruden, can be defined by one word: experience. Jay Gruden is heading into his fifth season as head coach and is settling into his job. Since coaching the Skins to a 4-12 record in his first season, Gruden has a record of 24-23-1 in his last 3 seasons and seems to have had a good grip on the locker room during this time.
The real experience in this unit comes from its assistants. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky have 19 years of NFL coaching between the two of them. It takes more than just a head coach to have a successful coaching unit and Jay will be able to call on their experience and expertise to help guide him and this team. Defensive Line coach Jim Tomsula even head coached the 49ers for a season in 2015.
This Redskins team has lots of young talent in guys like Jonathan Allen, Derrius Guice, Ryan Anderson, Josh Doctson, and Daron Payne and with this experienced coaching staff I believe they will be able to get the most out of these young guys and help make this team as good as it can be.
I am as excited for this upcoming Redskins season as I have been for a while. With an improved Defense and the Offense looking healthy and cohesive this team could be a dark horse in the stacked NFC. If this team can stay healthy and get some quality play out of their young guys the playoffs are very possible. Jay Gruden and this experienced coaching staff are going to have this team ready to play come week one. Outside of the Redskins’ camp there has been very little hype about this team. But with the skill players they have on both sides of the ball they can play with anyone in the NFC.