washington redskins 2019 season preview
By Josh Edwards
2018 was a strange year in Washington. The Redskins found themselves 6-3 off the back of a strong defensive start and conservative, turnover limiting offense under Alex Smith. However, even prior to Smith’s injury they were never taken seriously as a playoff contender. What followed was a QB carousel which saw Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson in charge of the offense. Ultimately the Redskins season ended in disappointment as they missed the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Prior to the draft, the Redskins made two moves at completely the opposite ends of the free agency spectrum. On offense they signed Case Keenum, on a financially friendly deal, before splashing the cash on defense. Landon Collins came in on a six-year $84 million deal, and the Redskins will hope he can play at a higher level than DJ Swearinger did before he departed the team.
The Redskins draft has been universally praised, though it is important to point out that future grades will rest squarely on whether Maryland native Dwayne Haskins becomes a successful franchise quarterback. An aggressive trade back into the first round landed the team Montez Sweat, the exciting edge-rusher out of Mississippi State. The Redskins addressed some other needs in the draft, including wide receivers Terry McLaurin (reunited with Haskins) and Kelvin Harmon.
Who starts at Quarterback in Week 1 is up in the air. However, with a tough opening stretch of the schedule, the likelihood is we see the veteran experience of Keenum or McCoy. How the season progresses will then determine at what point we see Haskins. Whichever one of the quarterbacks starts the season they will need to lean heavily on the run game. Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson will be the main contributors, with Bryce Love a potential pair of fresh legs later in the season. The biggest concern is that seven-time pro-bowl Left Tackle Trent Williams has yet to turn up for the offseason. It seems unlikely the issue will drag all the way to the season but it is a concern.
Jay Gruden has an uncanny ability to scheme players open. Whether it’s Keenum, McCoy or Haskins, the offense will also rely on a quick-strike passing game to move the chains. Whether the Redskins receivers are up to the task of consistently getting separation remains to be seen; Josh Doctson is in a ‘prove it’ type situation after the team refused his 5th-year option. Tight End Jordan Reed, who might be the team’s best route runner, is far too often missing through injury or playing with an injury.
Reasons for optimism for Washington are well and truly fixed on the defense, specifically in the trenches. The team’s best unit is undoubtedly their defensive line, featuring third-year Alabama DT and locker room leader Jon Allen (8 sacks last year) and second-year Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne (5 sacks last year). The addition of Sweat makes it all the more intriguing.
Collins gives the Redskins an in the box type safety with range, speed and tackling ability, but their secondary and Linebacker corps are both average. A first play of OTA knee injury to the controversial Reuben Foster further weakens the centre of the field. Josh Norman is an expensive part of this secondary, costing $14.5 million, though the lack of talent at the position means the Redskins will likely have to ride it out with him this season.
The Redskins have fallen victim to debilitating injuries at key positions in the past few seasons. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether, at full strength, they can compete in a division with the talented Philadelphia and Dallas. The clock is ticking on when the organisation decides to hand the reins to Haskins. Dan Snyder’s patience (or lack thereof) will play a big part in the Redskins decisions at quarterback. It will be an intriguing year for the Redskins and one worthy of league-wide attention.
Record Prediction: 6-10
Image Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports