Off-season preparations for the Washington Redskins were somewhat overshadowed by the current stand-off between the Skins Front Office and veteran star Left Tackle Trent Williams. Christian Burt goes Skin Deep with a 2019 season preview.
What to expect?
With an exciting but extremely inexperienced receiving core in D.C., my main expectation for the Redskins will be to run the ball effectively.
The high energy and toughness of second year running back Derrius Guice will be pivotal to any success. If Guice, the ever-youthful Adrian Peterson and third down speedster Chris Thompson can all stay healthy, the burgundy & gold have a trio of dangerous backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the interior DL ceiling in Washington could be very high, arguably even elite, level. Daron Payne, Jon Allen and Matt Ioannidis are a nightmare match up and you’d expect these guys will both stuff the run and get to the QB.
On the outside, Ryan Kerrigan might unfortunately find 2019 is the year age catches up and on the right side at OLB, the Redskins drafted the hugely athletic Montez Sweat with an eye both on the future and present.
Head Coach Jay Gruden will be wanting an offense revisit of the start of 2018, the Redskins to run the football effectively, manage the clock and to be low on the turnover stats.
Did the Redskins address all their needs this offseason?
The Dan Snyder era adage of the Redskins has historically been Washington “winning the off-season”. Whether this was through expensive free agents or throwing away picks for the draft, the inevitable conclusion was a 3rd or 4th standing in the NFC East.
Washington has moved away from this approach, and the draft picks of rookie QB Dwayne Haskins and Sweat were well received.
Early signs from pre-season demonstrate Haskins to be a big bodied passer, willing to hang in the pocket. Haskins has the arm, physical tools and motivation (the Giants passed on him for Daniel Jones) to be a true great in Washington.
Encouragingly, patience is being shown by both the front office and Dwayne. After only 4 visits to the play-offs in the decades of the 00s and 10s, it’ll be more realistic to cautiously expect success 2020 onwards with Haskins at QB.
The starter in D.C., whilst Dwayne learns the mysteries of NFL QB play, will be veteran Case Keenum. The Redskins will hope Case can replicate his 2017 Vikings form rather than the lamentable 2018 Denver version.
Now, this is where my expectation becomes firmly in the muted camp. The great start in 2018 by Washington was a blend of great DEF and the game managing smartness of Alex Smith. Case will take more shots downfield, alas history suggests many will be in the brain-fart category.
Who should Redskins fans feel most excited about?
As previously stated, the fortunes of the Redskins and fifth-year coach Gruden, will rest on substantial shoulders of the Tasmanian Devil whirl of energy running back Derrius Guice.
Derrius has the size and speed to carry the football and this franchise far.
Missing the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL is going to make #29 one of the hungriest football players in the NFL – watch him go eat straight from Week 1 in Philadelphia!
Although not huge players in the free agency market, Washington did make a significant splash with the signature of Landon Collins. Viewed primarily as a box safety, I’d expect the 25-year-old Landon to bring an instant veteran leadership and an intriguing partnership with Montae Nicholson to the backfield.
Were there any surprise departures?
Although not a guaranteed departure, the hold-out of Trent Williams is a major blow to the chances of Washington hitting their stride early. A fit and suited up Williams at LT is worth at least an additional tick in the win column each season.
The talk was that Williams was not impressed with the medical staff in D.C misdiagnosing a growth which later had to be removed. Not unreasonable suggestions that additional guaranteed dollar might smooth matters over followed and Ex-Redskins DeAngelo Hall recently hinted that Trent may be back in practice sooner rather than later.
The huge gap at Left Tackle, at least for Week 1, will be filled by veteran Donald Penn.
A reasonably notable departure was wideout Josh Doctson. The 2016 first round pick never seemed like a good fit in Washington and a parting of ways was needed from both camps. Doctson, in a strange turn of events, will now be catching (or perhaps more accurately dropping) passes from former Redskins QB Kirk Cousins in Minnesota.
Strengths and weakness on the Redskins roster?
There are position groups on the roster that I’d suggest, if healthy, are lockdowns as strengths. Without doubt the interior DL in Washington has elite level ability and the potential to dominate. As mentioned, the starting safety pairing is another that I’d veer towards as a positional strength.
On the outside of Collins and Nicholson, are the well-paid cornerbacks Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar. Well-paid doesn’t always equate to well-prepared, but overall that backfield is legitimately a potential Redskins strength.
There is a lack of depth at ILB, although Jon Bostic was a smart FA pick-up and fifth-round rookie Cole Holcomb has been impressing the coaching staff at Redskins Park. With Reuben Foster out for 2019 on PUP, the ILB positional group must be declared a weak link on the defensive side of the ball.
A lack of experience and historical health issues make the Wide Receiver core another weaker positional group. There is, however, a confidence in Washington that Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and the highly regarded third-round pick Terry McLaurin might just surprise and produce as a collective unit.
The O-Line of the Redskins is a difficult positional group to predict. Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff are now fully healthy and with the dependable Chase Roullier, the right and centre of the offensive line is pretty good.
Left of Chase, however, is where the problems will arise and get Case Keenum scrambling around and throwing picks.
Ereck Flowers was a bust for the Giants at tackle, but in Washington is being converted as a big body guard. It’s an experiment that has all the hallmarks of a disaster waiting to happen. Penn will be serviceable at best (he is 36!), so the blind side for Case is a huge issue.
Breakout star to watch?
There are several extremely talented young guys on the Redskins roster.
Fan favourite and potential season carrier Derrius Guice is my somewhat obvious choice to become a national breakout star by the end of 2019.
I believe this season will be a tougher one for Montez Sweat than some expect, so as a below the radar one to watch, I feel OLB Ryan Anderson might prove the doubters wrong.
Post season Anderson has been reflecting on his less than dazzling start to the NFL after college success at Alabama and I get the impression that Ryan now understands the sacrifices required at this elite level.
In the absence of the concussion protocol TE Jordan Reed, Jeremy Sprinkle is a capable and potential breakout TE.
Final predictions for Washington?
The season opener in Philadelphia has the unfortunate potential to be a stone-cold awakening that the Redskins are some way off being even NFC contenders.
If, however, you drink from the half-full cup like me, there’s also the possibility that the unknown Guice picks up some serious yards. Wentz might still be finding his feet again after those injuries and an upset isn’t beyond the realms of the imagination.
My “when you look at the facts at QB” season prediction is around a 6-10 record.
But a far more enjoyable swagger when currently 0-0 and its Week 1 – Washington start better than predicted and get to ten wins through a dominant interior DL and dynamic group of running backs.