The Redskins finished last season fairly balanced, with a 7-9 record. They start this season third in the NFC East, but share the conference with the heavily packed Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Absent a significant change in reality, the Redskins won’t see the top of the conference this year.
Head coach Jay Gruden starts his fifth season leading the Redskins. His second year on the job, 2015, is the only time the team has seen the playoffs under his tutelage. This year doesn’t look too promising to change those stats, especially since QB Kirk Cousins went to the Minnesota Vikings and the defense is reorganizing.
A team without time to grow
With Cousins out of the picture, the Redskins picked up QB Alex Smith earlier this year. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, and had a winning record in his five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. 2017 was a career topper for Smith, exceeding 4,000 yards for the first time. Back up QB Colt McCoy continues with the Redskins for a fifth season, but has not thrown a pass in a game since 2015.
With the quarterback change, the team also needs to sort out its wide receivers. They lost Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Ryan Grant to free agency. The Redskins picked up veteran Paul Richardson Jr. from the Seattle Seahawks, as well college free agents Simmie Cobbs Jr., Shay Fields, Darlin Kidsy, and Cam Sims. Rounding it out is the Redskins’ draft pick Trey Quinn. That’s a lot of youth to work with, and not enough experience.
The defense is in the same development boat. In order to acquire Smith, the Redskins had to give up cornerback Kendall Fuller, who had a stellar season in 2017. In his absence, this position is young and the remaining roster needs to be on the field more before we can say the hole has been filled.
The young ones make moves
This year’s decline is less about roster needs than development, experience and cohesion.
Without more than one veteran receiver to connect with, Smith can’t break 4,000 yards this season. Nonetheless, the youthful receiver battle is quite exciting. Undrafted rookie Sims has been a playmaker in preseason games. If the Redskins aren’t smart enough to keep him on the 53-man roster, another team will.
On the defense, the open cornerback position may bring some light to second-year player Fabian Moreau. The Redskins originally signed veteran Orlando Scandrick from the Cowboys to fill Fuller’s vacancy, but released him late preseason. Instead, Moreau is loading up more NFL experience, practicing with the first team in Scandrick’s place. Expect Moreau to make significant contributions starting Week 1.
And, continue to follow nickel and dime linebacker Josh Harvey Clemons. The Redskins drafted him in 2017 and placed him on the field. He recorded 11 combined tackles, a half sack and one defended pass. And, that’s without playing every game. He will be on the field even more in 2018.
This year’s decline is less about roster needs than development, experience and cohesion. The Redskins use 2018 to grow together, and will overtake the Cowboys in 2019.
Below is the Redskins’ schedule for 2018:
Week 1: Sept. 9 at Arizona Cardinals
These fairly evenly matched teams will make as all wish for better football. Home team opener gives the Cardinals an edge.
Week 2: Sept. 16 vs. Indianapolis Colts*
These teams faced off last in 2014, and the Colts blasted the Redskins. Not the same Colts this year.
Week 3: Sept. 23 vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay took a small win in these teams’ preseason 2017 match-up. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, this Week 3 game makes Cheeseheads happy.
Pick: Green Bay
Week 4: Bye Week
Week 5: Oct. 8 at New Orleans Saints
The Redskins fell to the Saints in a tight game last fall. The Saints power through for another win.
Week 6: Oct. 14 vs. Carolina Panthers*
Even though the Panthers carried wins in the last three (distant) matches, this year we will see a different result. This game, folks, is a hint of what to expect in 2019.
Week 7: Oct. 21 vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys rush past the Redskins’ defense, and the Redskins go nowhere against the Cowboys’ defense.
Week 8: Oct. 28 at New York Giants
Even in their paltry 2017 performance, the Giants handled the Redskins. It happens again.
Week 9: Nov. 4 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Once again, the Redskins falter before birds.
Week 10: Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
The Bucs’ weak defense won’t stop the Redskins.
Week 11: Nov. 18 vs. Houston Texans*
We have to return to 2014 to see what these teams look like against each other, and, well, it is fruitless. The Redskins’ passing game wins the day.
Week 12: Nov. 22 at Dallas Cowboys
There is no way the Redskins pull off a win in Dallas.
Week 13: Dec. 3 at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles powerhouse, looking to dominate 2018 and continue their Super Bowl torch, win this easily.
Week 14: Dec. 9 vs. New York Giants
Even home field advantage doesn’t help the Redskins.
Week 15: Dec. 16 at Jacksonville Jaguars
I wouldn’t want to face these cats at the tail end of a losing season.
Week 16: Dec. 23 at Tennessee Titans*
With a long gap in the wins, the Redskins handle the Titans with conviction.
Week 17: Dec. 30 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles fly high and embarrass the home team.