A season of missed opportunities. That is the best way, to sum up the Redskins 2016-17 season. Whether it is losing to the Giants with a chance to stamp your tickets to the playoffs, or Dustin Hopkins missing a game-winning field goal in London to settle for a tie, the Redskins could not step up when they needed to. Every week it felt as though us, as Redskins fans, had to root for the Cowboys or other NFC teams so we could stay in the playoff chase.
The season was not all bad, though. We had many positives characteristics about the team to build on for next year. Kirk Cousins had a great passing season leading the Redskins to the third best passing offense in the league. Cousins threw for 4,917 yards with a 67% completion rating, and 25 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. Redskins receivers stood out this year. With so many options in the attack, the second year wide receiver Jamison Crowder had a breakout season. Crowder was the second-best punt returner in the NFL, along with 847 receiving yards. Crowder was always consistent and trustworthy on the offense, really winning Kirk Cousin’s trust, as he was targeted 97 times, 18 more times than last year. Pierre Garçon had another great season, pouring in 1,041 yards, the most on the team. He, alongside Desean Jackson, were the only players who caught for 1000 plus yards, with Jackson receiving for 1,005 yards on only 56 receptions. Pro-bowler Jordan Reed showed why he is one of the top tight ends in the league again this year, catching for 686 yards in an injury-ridden season. And while Reed was out, Vernon Davis, a Dunbar graduate, unexpectedly stepped up with 583 yards receiving in his return to DC. Although Washington was the 21st ranked rushing team in the league, Rob Kelley showed that he has great potential. Kelley, nicknamed “Fat Rob,” was the 3rd ranked rookie running back in the NFL, rushing for 704 yards on 168 carries.
The problem this year was the Redskins defense. A 28th ranked defense, another year of a defense that did not improve led to the firing of defensive coordinator Joe Barry. After a big money free agent signing in the summer, cornerback Josh Norman, the Redskins secondary struggled game after game. It is unfair to blame Norman for a season in which he regressed for our defense’s problems. He still played well alongside improving corner Bashaud Breeland. Breeland struggled early in the year, starting with Antonio Brown in week 1, who most corner’s struggle with. Breeland showed positive signs week 15 and continued until the last game of the season against the New York Giants. Donte Whitner Sr., Duke Ihenacho, and Quinton Dunbar were arguably the worst Redskins players all season, all in our secondary. After veteran Deangelo Hall had gone down with an injury early in the year, the secondary did not help the Redskins win games. DE Chris Baker had a great season, one of the best Redskins players this year. Pro-bowler Ryan Kerrigan had another great season, with 11 sacks and 33 tackles. Mason Foster led the team in tackles with 124 tackles.
The real question for the Redskins future is, how do they get over the hump? The hump is not making the playoffs; the Redskins have proven that they are a playoff caliber team as they have made the playoffs two out of the last five years. However, they have been eliminated in the first round in both of those appearances. It is not good enough to just settle on making the playoffs. If this historic franchise wants to add more Super Bowl rings, one playoff win in 12 years is not good enough. It is time for GM Scot McCloughan not just to draft or sign the best player available, get someone who fits the system. The Redskins have had a below par defense for too long. To improve McCloughan needs to spend money on defense. This year the Redskins were the second highest spenders on offense and the fifth lowest spenders on defense. You get what you pay for.
To be good in future years, the Redskins need a good offseason. With Desean Jackson and Pierre Garçon being free agents, McCloughan needs at least 1 of them to return. Josh Doctson, 2016 first round pick, returning after only playing in two games due to injury, the Redskins do not need both Jackson and Garçon to return. However, they should explore a possibility of bringing back both Jackson and Garçon. Doctson should have a bright future after a short rookie season, as he is a wide receiver who can play in the slot and on the outside. The Redskins must bring back Kirk Cousins. He is an above-average quarterback who has performed consistently over the past two seasons. He has struggled here and there, but Cousins has done more than enough to deserve a big contract. It is time for the Redskins to settle for what is looking like a franchise quarterback, in Kirk Cousins. Lastly, Chris Baker must return. He has had a great season, and there is no reason for him to leave. Vernon Davis would also be nice to bring back, as an above average blocker and backup tight end; there is no reason for him to leave his hometown.
In the offseason, the Redskins need to bring in new talent, on the defensive side, while parting ways with many players. The main focus this year in the draft should be defense. A guy like Jabrill Peppers, a safety out of Michigan would be perfect to fit the Redskins needs. At pick 17 it will be hard to get the Heisman, trophy finalist. Another interesting option who should be available at 17 is University of Alabama linebacker, Reuben Foster. He fits a Redskins need perfectly again after the team struggled not just against the pass, but against the rush. A few other names that could likely come to Washington, DC draft day, are Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, Alabama linebacker Tim Williams, and Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson. With linebacker-turned-safety Su’a Cravens, a talented rookie, coming back next season, the Redskins secondary should improve. With Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe looking for a bigger contract, the Redskins should be striving to sign him. A very talented defensive tackle, Poe would rejuvenate our pass rush (and he could throw touchdowns too). With an improved defense in the 2017-18 season, the Redskins would be primed for a deep run into the playoffs.
If Dan Snyder can open up his checkbook, and Scot McCloughan can improve the team so they can win games, the Washington Redskins will be able to compete next season.