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2016 Team Report: Washington Redskins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Kirk Cousins
Backup(s): Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld [R]

Starting QB: A few years ago Washington's personnel department took some flack for drafting Kirk Cousins a few rounds after selecting Robert Griffin III. After all, what was the point of selecting another rookie quarterback when it had secured its franchise player earlier in the draft process? But we've learned that NFL history is littered with regrettable conclusions. Griffin played his way out of Washington through a combination of injury and coaching disagreements. Meanwhile Kirk Cousins rose to the occasion and solidified himself as a full-time starter after a 2015 campaign that saw the team win an improbable NFC East crown. Cousins enters 2016 with the opportunity to further dispel the critics and earn a long-term contract after agreeing to play this season under a one-year franchise tender. Although Cousins isn't among the league's elite, he has proven to be an accurate, start and tough passer that makes the appropriate reads and can improvise under pressure.

Backup QB: Colt McCoy has settled into a role as an above average NFL backup. He lacks the arm strength and athleticism to be a full-time starter for a contending team -- but Washington could do much worse than McCoy as Cousins' backup. McCoy is an accurate passer that makes his reads and can throw a full route tree. He understands Jay Gruden's system well and has the confidence of his coaches and his teammates should he need to step into the huddle. Rookie Nate Sudfeld has a long road ahead of him as an NFL contributor, but is in an advantageous spot as he can learn from a quality quarterback-focused head coach without any pressure to suit up weekly as an active player.

Running Backs

Starter: Matt Jones
Backup(s): Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley [R]
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: Matt Jones split time with Alfred Morris in 2015, and many believed Jones the better fit for head coach Jay Gruden's power blocking system. Throughout the season, Jones displayed moments of tantalizing promise but generally fell short of establishing himself as the team's clear-cut feature back. Outside of a 123-yard, two touchdown performance in Week Two versus the Rams, Jones struggled. He never ran for more than 62 yards in another game, only scored one touchdown, and averaged a horrendous 2.9 yards per carry. With that said, Jones is going to be given every opportunity to thrive as a feature back.

Backup RBs: Chris Thompson is not a credible answer as the team's number two back. The 5'7", 192-pounder is dynamic in the open field, but has neither the size nor the patience to run effectively between the tackles. Last season Thompson carved out a minor role (70 touches for 456 yards and 2 TDs) but did little to suggest he's capable of a significant role. Depth remains a concern as Washington appeared ready to count on rookie 7th rounder Keith Marshall as Jones' main backup, but he was shut down after an elbow injury. Rob Kelley has been a workmanlike runner with good size, power, and enough burst. After Jones suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, Kelley has a chance to play a significant role to open the regular season.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon
Backups: Josh Doctson [R], Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross

Starting WRs: DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both coming off disappointing years, and face make-or-break seasons. Garcon is just two seasons removed from a league-leading 113 receptions but has failed to eclipse 800 yards in back-to-back seasons. At this juncture, Garcon is best suited for a role as a possession receiver and chain mover. Jackson, on the other hand, must prove he can be more than just a deep threat after setting career lows in receptions (30) and yards (528) while dealing with another concussion. Jackson averaged 17.6 yards per catch last year -- in line with his career mark (17.7) -- but was relegated to more of a situational role and frequent decoy. Jackson is the only receiver on the roster that can stretch the field, which is critical if Washington is to get more from its running game this season.

Backup WRs: Jamison Crowder returns as the team's primary slot receiver after setting a rookie team record with 59 receptions in 2015. Crowder is physical, gets off the line easily, and looks more like a running back than a receiver with the ball in his hands. He runs crisp routes and has an unquestionable rapport with Kirk Cousins. Rookie Josh Doctson may start the season as the fourth option, but he has the talent to play a prominent role. Doctson dominated the competition at Baylor and was considered the best rookie receiver by many scouts.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jordan Reed
Backups: Niles Paul, Vernon Davis

Jorden Reed always had the ability, but injuries seemingly capped his ceiling. Until 2015. Yes, Reed missed two games last year but in the other 14 he established himself as a dominant force in Washington's passing attack (87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns). Reed was rewarded with a new 5-year, $47 million contract in recognition of his importance to the offense. Reed is a fluid route runner, and has the strength to come down with contested balls even when double teamed. He's among the NFC's biggest red zone mismatches, and is poised for another dominant season provided he can remain healthy -- an admittedly bigger risk than some are comfortable betting on. Washington has fantastic depth at the position thanks to the addition of veteran Pro Bowler Vernon Davis. Davis signed a one-year deal and will compete with the able Niles Paul for backup duties.

Place Kicker

Dustin Hopkins: New Orleans loss was Washington's gain. Hopkins was beaten out by Zach Hocker in Saints camp last year and on the street for Week 1. Washington's kicker, Kai Forbath, missed a 46-yard kick in Week 1 after a shaky camp and preseason, and he was released. Hopkins was signed and took over in Week 2. Forbath, ironically, ended up kicking for New Orleans after Hocker couldn't cut it by their estimation. Hopkins was 11th in kicker scoring on a points per game basis and did not miss a field goal attempt under 40 yards. He is not going to face competition, and the Washington should continue to trend up, making Hopkins a nice target if you are one of the last in your league to take a kicker.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Rashad Ross, Chris Thompson

Not only did Rashad Ross account for 70% of Washington's kickoff returns last year, but Andre Roberts-- the man responsible for the bulk of the rest-- is no longer with the team. Should Ross need a break, Chris Thompson is the only other player on the roster who returned more than one kickoff in 2015.

Punt Returners: Jamison Crowder, Will Blackmon

In 2015, Jamison Crowder was responsible for 94% of Washington's punt returns, (and 103% of Washington's punt return yards-- the other two returns combined to lose five yards). He returns to the team in good standing in 2016 and is the favorite to reprise his role.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Key Backups: Ty Nsekhe, Spencer Long, Austin Reiter, Josh LeRibeus

Washington's offensive line is led by left tackle Trent Williams, who continues to earn All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. Williams isn't perfect but he is among the league's most effect pass protectors, at any position. Left guard should be a competition between veteran Shawn Lauvao and Spencer Long. Lauvao was the starter before he was hurt last season, and he will have a shot to regain his job in the preseason. Center Kory Lichtensteiger is well regarded by the coaches but he could have trouble fending off a bulked up Austin Reiter, who is single minded in his pursuit of a starting gig. Josh LeRibeus is also in the mix at the position. Right guard Brandon Scherff had a trial by fire last season but held up well against top competition and he can be considered a key building block for the franchise. Right tackle Morgan Moses took a step forward last season and solidified himself as a starter in the league. Overall this line has a good mix of veteran and young talent, and they have the potential to be among the league's better units. Tier Ranking: Top Tier.

Team Defense

Washington started slow in 2015, but they surged in the second half of the season to a division title. 25 of their 38 sacks, seven of their 11 interceptions, and both defensive touchdowns on the season were scored in the second half of the season. That trend could easily continue with the addition of all-pro corner Josh Norman after the Panthers rescinded his franchise tag. The Washington offense is poised to have a strong season with the addition of WR Josh Doctson to an already dangerous passing game. Washington D/ST's ADP hasn't risen very much since Norman was signed, so they will be available as a streamer that we might keep using if they get hot against weak early-season opponents like Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Chris Baker, DE Trent Murphy, NT Kedric Golston
Backups: DE Kendall Reyes, DE Ziggy Hood, DE Stephen Paea, DE Ricky Jean-Francois, DE Corey Crawford, NT Matt Ioannidis [R], NT Jerrell Powe, NT Chris Bilukidi, NT Anthony Johnson

Starting DL: Washington has one of the weaker defensive fronts in the NFL and they didn't do much in the off-season to correct that issue. With 54 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 6 sacks, Chris Baker was far and away their best linemen in 2015. However, Baker was undrafted coming out of college and hadn't been expected to make that type of impact heading into the year, so there's a chance he could see some regression in his numbers. Former second round selection, Trent Murphy has been bulking up in preparation for a move from a 3-4 OLB to a five-technique defensive end. The team is hoping he adjusts well to the transition and takes a step forward from his previous two seasons in which he managed just six sacks total. He's currently in an open competition with Kendell Reyes, Ziggy Hood, and others for the end spot on the weak side. Murphy may have the edge going in as he's an incumbent player who the team spent a high draft pick on. The loss of Terrence Knighton to free agency leaves a vacancy at the nose tackle position. 11 year veteran Kedric Golston may be the top in-house possibility to replace Knighton as he's the longest tenured member of the team and knows the defense well. The team could also look to kick Chris Baker inside on some snaps and have him play in the interior. At the end of the day, the 'Skins will likely triage together a rotation of several different players to fulfill the snaps required at that position unless someone emerges as a viable option during the regular season.

Backup DL: Kendell Reyes was brought in on a one-year deal from San Diego where he was a 50 game starter over four seasons. Pro Football Focus graded him as the worst 3-4 defensive end in the league last year, however. The team signed him to play in a reserve role, but given the lack of talent at the position, he may have to play more snaps than they would like. Former first round pick Ziggy Hood was brought in on a similar one-year, prove it deal. He's bounced around to a couple teams since originally being drafted by the Steelers back in 2009. After a career year with the Bears in 2014, Stephen Paea garnered himself a long-term contract with Washington. He missed over a third of the season last year due to injury but was an above average run defender when on the field. Look for him to be a utility man that bounces back and forth between three-technique and five-technique. Ricky Jean-Francois had the most snaps last year of any Washington reserves still on the roster. He's consistently been evaluated as a below average player though and may find his playing time cut with all the new arrivals in town. 2015 Temple graduate Matt Ioannidis projects as a space-eating, two-gap player. He has average athleticism at best but has a strong work ethic and may carve out some snaps at some point during the season.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Will Compton, ILB Mason Foster, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Preston Smith
Backups: ILB Perry Riley, ILB Carlos Fields Jr., ILB Adam Hayward, ILB Steven Daniels [R], ILB Martrell Spaight, ILB Derrick Mathews, OLB Terence Garvin, OLB Houston Bates

Starting LBs: Despite suffering a fairly significant foot injury in Week 12 last year, veteran Perry Riley entered the off-season as the expected starter at the RILB position with Mason Foster and Will Compton battling it out for the other inside linebacker spot. However, Riley was held out of all Spring practices as his foot injury continued to give him issues. This opened the door for Compton and Foster to solidify their roles as starters, making Riley a potential cap causality heading into the regular season (he's currently owed $5 million this year). Ryan Kerrigan should continue to be the team's main source of pass rush and top contributor in the sack column. He's averaged over nine sacks a year since entering the league in 2011 and will be a threat for double digit QB take downs in 2016. Junior Galette signed another one-year deal with Washington this past March after missing all of last year due to a torn Achilles suffered in training camp and promptly tore his Achilles again this Summer. 2015 rookie Preston Smith got off to a sluggish start to his career but finished the year with five sacks in his final three games to post a total of eight for the season. The team will depend on him greatly with Galette out for the season.

Backup LBs: If he doesn't get released, Perry Riley will likely begin the year as a reserve player despite starting 64 games over the last five seasons. Rookie Steven Daniels played on the nation's best defense but wasn't viewed as a complete enough NFL linebacker to warrant high draft consideration. He does play very physical between the tackles and could develop into a Jasper Brinkley-type two down thumper down the road. Martrell Spaight suffered a concussion early in his rookie campaign that caused him to be shut down for the year. The fifth round draft choice will return in 2016 to compete for a roster spot and eventual playing time. But a concussion of that magnitude can sometimes be difficult to get past.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Josh Norman, CB Bashaud Breeland, FS DeAngelo Hall, SS David Bruton,
Backups: CB/S Will Blackmon, CB Kendall Fuller [R], CB Quinton Dunbar, CB Greg Toler, CB Deshazor Everett, CB Lloyd Carrington, CB Jeremy Harris, CB Cary Williams, CB Deshaun Phillips, CB Al Louis-Jean, SS/LB Su′a Cravens [R], SS Duke Ihenacho, S Kyshoen Jarrett, SS/LB Tevin Carter

Starting DBs: The Redskins dramatically improved their secondary by landing one of the off-seasons biggest free agents in Josh Norman. After not garnering much attention early in his career, he quickly developed into one of the league's premier shutdown careers and will be an integral part of the secondary as the team looks to defend against the likes of Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. Opposite of Norman will be Bashaud Breeland who has been a productive player since entering the league in 2014. Last year he posted 81 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recovers, and 16 pass deflections. He will likely see even more balls thrown his way this year so there's a good chance that production will increase. With the Redskins fairly set at cornerback, DeAngelo Hall will be making the move to free safety to help shore up that position. With 43 career interceptions, Hall has long been an upper echelon playmaker. The team believes he can serve as an above average safety and has already locked him into a starting role. The strong safety position, on the other hand, is completely up for grabs. Coach Jay Gruden has stated that former Bronco David Bruton will be the favorite to start at the position. However, he's been a rotational safety his entire career so he doesn't have a firm grip on that role. With the team spending a second round pick on Su'a Cravens, there's a good possibility there could be a time share at the position at some point during the year.

Backup DBs: Although Washington is relatively thin depth-wise within the front seven that is not the case in the secondary. They have a solid mix of rookie talent and stable veterans. Rookie Kendell Fuller has a very strong NFL pedigree with three brothers in the league, but isn't expected to factor in much during the 2016 season as he works his way back from micro fracture surgery on his knee. Will Blackmon played over 800 snaps for the team last year, a number they would like to see decrease in 2016. He saw a majority of his snaps at safety during OTAs as the team looks to increase his versatility. He will slot in as the third/fourth corner and be one of the several reserve safeties. Veteran Greg Toler was brought in on a one-year deal, but likely won't see much playing time unless there are injuries. He graded out as one of the worst corners in the NFL last season. Rookie Su'a Cravens played a hybrid safety/linebacker role at USC and is slated to have a similar role at the NFL level. He could see a fair amount of snaps between strong safety and dime linebacker and may be one of the more productive rookie secondary players.

Last modified: 2016-09-04 23:21:07