The Washington Redskins enter the 2017-18 season with numerous questions to answer, in the extremely rigorous NFC East. Last season came to a close with unfinished business. The Redskins were one game away from a playoff berth, but in a home game against the New York Giants, who had nothing to play for as they had already clinched a playoff berth, the Redskins lost 19-10, with a Kirk Cousins interception with 1:21 left in the 4th quarter with the Redskins down 13-10. The Washington Redskins enter the new season trying to destroy the perception of their inability to finish drives, games, and seasons.
Although the Redskins decreased in wins this past season; winning the division with a 9-7 record in 2015 and then finishing third in a rejuvenated NFC East this past season with an 8-7-1 record, there were many positive developments. Kirk Cousins continued his success under the Franchise Tag, becoming a pro bowler last season and throwing for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns, breaking his own franchise record for most passing yards in a season. The Redskins also saw consistency at the running back position with undrafted-rookie Robert “Fat Rob” Kelley rushing for 704 yards despite only being named the starter in Week 8. Big free agent addition Josh Norman settled in nicely, adding much-needed leadership to a defense that struggled once again. Ryan Kerrigan also added 11 sacks in another pro bowl season. The offensive line was dominant once again, led by arguably the best left tackle in the sport, Trent Williams.
Despite a display of consistency and commitment to improvement, the Redskins front office once again made the news for the wrong reasons during the offseason. Whether it was Bruce Allen’s failure to mispronounce his star quarterback, Kirk Cousins’ first name while discussing his decision to franchise tag the leader of the team, or the fallout with GM Scot McCloughan, Allen and owner Dan Snyder could not get their names out of the media. GM Scot McCloughan was both a player and fan favorite, but despite this, he and the hierarchy of team president Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder were at odds with McCloughan. In McCloughan’s few years, he brought consistent winning to the team, winning the NFC East in 2015. Allen decided to do away with him in an ugly fashion, releasing propaganda to try to cover up the true reason for his firing. Nevertheless, Allen went on to decide that the Redskins would forge their own path, being the only team in the league to not have a GM, despite using former GM Scot McCloughan’s draft board on draft night. The Redskins front office looks like it will continue to be the embarrassment of a historic franchise wanting to win and improve.
For the third consecutive season, Kirk Cousins was franchise tagged. Although he has shown consistency, the Redskins front office is still demanding more from their Pro Bowl quarterback. The franchise tag is a metaphor for the Redskins in their current state; wanting to improve and continue onto winning ways for years to come, but yet there is no commitment from the front office that they are looking to do that.
In the beginning of free agency, the Redskins really looked like they were poised for a disastrous drop-off. The whole Bruce Allen and Scot McCloughan controversy happened to occur right during the start of free agency. On day 1 the Redskins lost both of their 1,000-yard receiving threats, Desean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Pierre Garcon (San Francisco 49ers). And as if that was not a big enough loss, the Redskins also lost Chris Baker, who was one of their best performers on defense last season. As time went on, their inactivity was frightening. Luckily, the Redskins snatched up WR Terrelle Pryor Jr. from the Cleveland Browns on a one year deal. He looks poised for a massive season in Washington after being one of the few bright spots for the Browns last season, even with their problems at the quarterback position. The Redskins also added Pro Bowl LB Zach Brown from the Buffalo Bills on a one year deal to sure up the middle of the defense. Another addition on defense that projects to a huge success is FS D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger, who was signed on a 3-year deal, has already won over the locker room, being named one of 4 captains for the 2017-18 season, alongside Kirk Cousins, Trent Williams, and Niles Paul. The Redskins also re-upped their 28th ranked defense in the draft, taking the Alabama defensive duo DE Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson in the first two rounds, and adding CB Fabian Moreau in the 3rd round from UCLA. The Redskins also notably added to their running core with their fourth round pick, Semaje Perine, out of Oklahoma. Perine will join a decent group of backs in Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley.
Despite losing key receivers Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson, the Redskins receiving core remains talented. Terrelle Pryor Jr. will be joined by stud WR Jamison Crowder and WR Josh Doctson, the Redskins 2016 first round who quickly went on to the injured reserve last season. Doctson will almost be a new addition this year if he can stay healthy and live up to his draft hype. Those three will join star TE Jordan Reed, who looks for another Pro Bowl selection if he can stay healthy.
The defense should improve a lot on what they achieved last year, after it held back the Redskins great offense last year from winning many games. The significant additions of Jonathan Allen, D.J. Swearinger, and Zach Brown will hope to change the defense this year for the better. Linebacker-turned-safety Su’a Cravens was looking to be a key part of the defense after a promising 2016 rookie campaign was riddled by injury. Cravens was shockingly placed on the Exempt List just weeks from the season, after the news broke that the 22-year-old USC product was contemplating retirement after a knee surgery during the preseason. Cravens missed many games due to injury last season, including a concussion, which forced Cravens to have to wear glasses. SS Deshazor Everett will start in place of Cravens for at least the next month, as Cravens contemplates retirement. If Cravens chooses to continue to play, he will have to win over the locker room, as many players have been anonymously quoted about how Cravens has lost his respect in the locker room, and star CB Josh Norman seemed to have moved on from Cravens as he said, “this is no child’s-play game. This is a grown man’s sport. Grown men are colliding amongst each other. It can be deadly,” in an interview with the Washington Post.
This season will be a test for the Redskins. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants greatly improved this summer, and the Cowboys may have a weaker secondary this year, but they won the division last year and star RB Ezekiel Elliott looks like he will play the whole season despite a possible 6 game suspension looming over his head. The Redskins also have the 6th hardest schedule in the league this season based on opponents winning percentage from last year including big matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs on MNF and the Oakland Raiders, outside of their tough division rivals whom they play twice a year.
The Redskins begin their regular season Sunday, September 10th against division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
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