Coming of an NFC East divisional title, the Washington Redskins enter the 2016 campaign with raised expectations. Being as though the stakes have now been raised for the franchise, the question every fan wants to know, will the team crumble under expectations or will the team continue to improve from the unexpected 9-7 record last season. Fans such as myself are very much apathetic going into the season and that’s only because we have been through this before. We are waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop on what should have been an offseason of gloating the fans of the other franchises in the NFC East.
Head Coach Jay Gruden basically saved his job last season pulling this team together to make a run for the playoffs, making this season one where growth is expected instead of coaching for his job. We all know what happened last training camp so there is no need to rehash the circumstances. We are all here now, and we have to learn to love it. He has done a solid job getting this offense in order. Yes, we still need to run the ball better but for years this offense just couldn’t move the ball and we do now, so he must be commended for that.
The squad will only go as far as QB Kirk Cousins can take them, or not put them in precarious positions to fail. Look, I’m going to make this point right now, Kirk Cousins is NOT a franchise QB, at least not yet – and that’s OK. The passing offense is loaded with what, to me, is the best corps of receivers and TE’s in the sport today. When, as an offense, you can trot out Pierre Garcon, Desean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Rashad Ross and eventually, first round pick Josh Doctson at any given moment, it’s not gonna take any sort of all-world quarterbacking from Cousins, just don’t f*ck it up.
Another year of continuity should help any team, so I am hopeful that the offensive line-along with run game concurrently, can step it up after a lackluster job last year. Gone is fan favorite Alfred Morris (to the hated Cowboys no less) and 2nd year back Matt Jones takes over as the every down back. Jones, while looking the part of a young stud, has a propensity to fumble the ball. If he doesn’t want to find a nice warm seat on the bench, he needs to quit that mess and fast. With no proven backs on the roster, there will be plenty of opportunities for someone to take the gig and “run with it”.
One the other side of the ball there are many questions.
Will Josh Norman live up to the lofty contract?
Will Bashaud Breeland continue to improve his game?
How the hell does Kedrick Golston still have a job on the defensive line? And as a starter at that??
Why does the team keep jerking Trent Murphy from position to position?
Can the defense stop the run?
Can the defense get a consistent pass rush besides Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith?
Honestly, a team that has aspirations for playoff success just cannot go into a season with the likes of Golston and newly acquired Ziggy Hood as starters, I’m sorry. The fact that the team did not do anything worthwhile to upgrade an already porous position grinds my gears. This defense was terrible last year, especially at stopping the run so instead of finding someone(s) to help out at the position, you give the starting nod to an 11 year backup? How much sense does that make? While sacks isn’t the “end all be all” statistic for down lineman, he has accumulated as many sacks as I have in the last four full seasons. I can’t find any logical reason for this glaring oversight, not one.
Beyond that obvious roster oversight, we finally cut that bum Perry Riley Jr and have given the gig to the two kids, Will Compton and Mason Foster who thoroughly outplayed Riley in the 2nd half of last season. Expect for rookie S’ua Cravens to see a lot of time on the field at MLB and possibly at safety as well this season.
The team pulled of its biggest free agency coup since Desean Jackson when the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman. The team brass was able to get him to sign on the dotted line for a robust $75 million dollars which $50 million will be guaranteed. It’s a definite overpay but that’s what free agency is all about, and it was definitely a position of need, but the signing inevitably made it difficult to shore up much more pertinent roster issues. We don’t have a great track record with these type of brash defensive signings here in DC. The defense gave up the 5th most yards in the sport (7th most in rushing and 8th most in receiving yards) so I can understand making the move. But this game is won in the trenches and with the talent on our front line, we just can’t compete.
At the end of the day, the offense should be in a nice rhythm since this is the 3rd full season of the same system but the defense is still a huge question mark. The division title is within reach for a second consecutive season but the schedule will be much tougher. Another 9-7 record is about what I expect for the season but I can see the team regressing if the defense doesn’t improve leaps and bounds from their play in 2015.