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2018 Team Report: Washington Redskins


Starter: Alex Smith
Backup(s): Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan

Starting QB: The fate of Kirk Cousins loomed large over Washington for the last few years and came to a head this year as the franchise tag was no longer financially viable. Cousins, who would have re-signed with the team in each of the prior two offseasons, opted to test the market this year and was handsomely rewarded with a massive contract from Minnesota. Washington anticipated the loss and traded for veteran Alex Smith in January. Smith enters his 14th season armed with a new 5-year, $111 million contract with $71 million in guarantees. He will be the starter in Washington for at least the next two or three years. Washington believes it acquired an above average starter whose numbers are much closer to Kirk Cousins' than many realize. Looking only at Smith's time in Kansas City (2013-2017), he compares favorably to Cousins. Both have 65% completion rates. They have similar passer ratings (93.7 for Cousins, 94.8 for Smith). Their adjusted yards per pass attempt are nearly identical (7.50 for Cousins, 7.46 for Smith). The major difference - and it's a fly in the ointment - is touchdown production. Cousins averaged 1.6 touchdown passes per game, whereas Smith averaged just 1.3 touchdowns per season.

Backup QB: Colt McCoy enters his 9th season and 4th as Washington's backup quarterback. A career 60% passer, McCoy is limited physically but offsets his below-average athleticism with a coach-like understanding of the offense. The offense wouldn't run at peak proficiency with McCoy in the huddle, but it wouldn't be completely derailed, either. Kevin Hogan, part of the Cerberus-like monster in Cleveland last year, was traded to Washington this offseason and he'll compete for the third spot as the emergency game-day quarterback. Hogan, like McCoy, is limited physically and it showed in his five interceptions on 75 pass attempts last season with the Browns.

Running Backs

Starter: Derrius Guice [R]
Backup(s): Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs, Elijah Wellman [R], Martez Carter [R], Keith Marshall

Starting RB: Derrius Guice dominated for LSU in the best conference in college football and was considered by most scouts the second best running back prospect in this year's class. The film shows a powerful, decisive runner comfortable between the tackles but with the vision and patience to bounce outside on occasion. For inexplicable reasons, Guice fell out of the first round, but Washington selected him in the second round. Given Washington's struggles running the ball in recent years, Guice will either start immediately, or the collective scouting community grossly overrated him. At 5'11", 212 pounds, Guice has the prototypical build of a 3-down workhorse. It's unclear whether he'll be asked to play three downs, given veteran Chris Thompson's abilities as a receiver on third down. Regardless of his role in the passing game, Guice gives Washington its best chance at a balanced offensive game plan in the Jay Gruden era.

Backup RBs: Samaje Perine left Oklahoma as the all-time leading rusher, and he was anointed the savior of Washington's struggling rushing attack shortly thereafter. Things didn't pan out for Perine, as his ability to pick up the playbook as well as pass protection, limited his snap count. The rookie led the team with 359 snaps, but it was only 35% of the team's offensive plays. Perine's opportunity to start evaporated when Derrius Guice was drafted, but he can still play a valuable role as the #2. Perine needs to show a better understanding of Gruden's system to earn that role, and if he can't, it's a blow to the offense because no one on the depth chart has as much natural ability. Chris Thompson is no threat for regular carries but is one of the league's better receiving backs. Provided he can return healthy from a broken fibula, he'll remain a vital piece of the offensive puzzle.


Wide Receivers

Starters: Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson
Backups: Brian Quick, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn [R], Simmie Cobbs [R], Byron Marshall, Mikah Holder [R], Shay Fields [R], Cam Sims [R], De'Mornay Pierson-El [R]

Starting WRs: When Washington let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon leave, the belief was a youth movement would more than compensate for the veteran's production. Josh Doctson was the centerpiece of that philosophical decision, and two years into his career it's been a poor bet. In spite of playing 3/4ths of the snaps last year, Doctson struggled to gain separation; he caught just 45% of his targets. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder is a valuable contributor, but hopes he could elevate his game to a 100-catch volume receiver were dashed last season. His 66-catch, 789-yard, three touchdown tally was eerily similar to his 2015 and 2016 seasons. Free agent Paul Richardson is the X-factor. Washington prioritized the former Seattle Seahawk and signed him to a 5-year, $40 million contract with $20 million guaranteed. The team is betting on Richardson elevating his game beyond what he showed in Seattle. Richardson was a minor role player for three seasons, before catching 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017. The 6'0", 175-pound former Colorado Buffalo brings vertical speed to the offense but wasn't asked to run a full route tree in Seattle.

Backup WRs: Washington is desperate to improve the receiving corps, which explains why the team brought six rookies - including five undrafted free agents - to compete. It won't take much to displace veteran Brian Quick, Robert Davis, and Maurice Harris. Quick is the most likely veteran to stick on the roster because he contributes on special teams.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Manasseh Garner, Matt Flanagan [R]

Jordan Reed is talented. He may be one of the most talented, athletic tight ends in the league. At 6'3", 236 pounds, Reed is a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers. In 2015, his talent was on full display; he caught 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, 2015 is probably the pinnacle of Reed's career because of an inability to stay healthy. Reed has only started 28 games in five seasons and missed ten games last year. He's dealt with hamstring and toe injuries, and multiple concussions. Head coach Jay Gruden noted Reed had a medical procedure done on his toes in early April, and it's unclear when he'll be ready to practice. Assuming he's healthy for the preseason, Reed can be a difference maker anytime he's in the lineup. Counting on his presence, sadly, is nearly impossible. The ageless Vernon Davis will continue playing major snaps, regardless of Reed's health.

Place Kicker

Dustin Hopkins: Dustin Hopkins missed eight games last year with a hip injury, but returned before the end of the season and is in line to be Washington's kicker again in 2018. He led the league in field goal attempts in 2016 and finished third in scoring. If he had played the whole season with his per game scoring rate last year, Hopkins would have been #13 on the kicker scoring list. The offense shouldn't lose much if anything going from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith, and it could result in a higher bottom line for Hopkins because the Smith-led offense in Kansas City led the league in field goal attempts last year. Hopkins is worth a pick as one of the last kickers drafted.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Samaje Perine

Thanks to injuries ahead of him on the depth chart, rookie Samaje Perine led Washington in carries by more than 100 attempts in 2017. As the "last man standing" in the backfield, he didn't get much opportunity to play special teams. With newly-drafted back Derrius Guice in the house and Chris Thompson healthy again, Perine should be freed enough from offensive duties to take over more on special teams.

Punt Returners: Jamison Crowder

Jamison Crowder wasn't as sensational in 2017 as he was in 2016; on the same number of returns, his yardage fell by nearly half. But for the third year he handled nearly all of Washington's returns, and 2018 should make it four in a row.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses
Key Backups: Ty Nsekhe, Arie Kouandijo, Tony Bergstrom, T.J. Clemmings, Tyler Catalina, Orlando Franklin, Geron Christian

Left tackle Trent Williams played through an injury last season which required surgery. Williams is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab and should be ready for opening day. Right guard Brandon Scherff can be a dynamic blocker and right tackle Morgan Moses has developed into at least a decent option. Left guard Shawn Lauvao was brought back to the team late in the offseason after neither he nor the squad could find better options. Lauvao is a talented player who cannot seem to stay healthy. Center Chase Roullier will get a chance to start full time in place of the departed Spencer Long. There are a ton of depth names, including the league's best swing tackle in Ty Nsekhe and third round rookie Geron Christian. Overall, the Washington offensive line opens the season as a mid-tier option, but with the talent to be in the top-tier, depending on how the left guard and center positions perform.

Team Defense

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is an aggressive play-caller, but that isn't always positive. Washington created big plays last season, ranking 7th in sacks (42) and 9th in interceptions (16), but couldn't parlay those plays into an effective defense. The team ranked 28th in points allowed and was incapable of stopping most offenses, regardless of their tendencies. Whether it's a scheme issue or a talent issue, the team needs to make significant changes to compete for a playoff spot in 2018. The big headscratcher was the decision to trade cornerback Kendall Fuller, whose playing under an inexpensive rookie contract yet played at an All-Pro level, to the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith transaction. The team signed veteran Orlando Scandrick in his place, but that's not a like-for-like replacement. The defensive line should benefit from the addition of nose tackle DaRon Payne, who will be reunited with Alabama teammate Jonathan Allen.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jonathan Allen, NT Da'Ron Payne [R], DE Stacy McGee
Backups: DE Tavaris Barnes, NT Ziggy Hood, DE Matt Ioannidis, DT Tim Settle [R], DE Anthony Lanier, DT Phil Taylor, DE Alex McCalister, DE Ondre Pipkins

Starting DL: Jonathan Allen was the top ranked defensive lineman on most draft boards a season ago, in spite of surgery on both shoulders just months before the draft. Allen started immediately, but suffered a Lisfranc injury and missed the final 11 games of the season. He's healthy, which means Washington essentially gains not one, but two young impact defenders on the line as his former college teammate Da'Ron Payne, will start at nose tackle. Payne is a classic run stuffer that should command double teams, freeing Allen and veteran Stacy McGee to capitalize on one-on-one opportunities.

Backup DL: Washington brings a bevy of backup 3-4 ends into the preseason, but only Matt Ioannidis grades out as an above average contributor. On the interior the is work to be done because rookie Tim Settle isn't ready to play major minutes yet and veteran Phil Taylor is well past his peak.


Starters: SLB Preston Smith, ILB Mason Foster, ILB Zach Brown, WLB Ryan Kerrigan
Backups: OLB Ryan Anderson, OLB Jerod Fernandez [R], ILB Martrell Spaight, ILB Josh Harvey-Clemons, ILB Zach Vigil, ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton [R], OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Pete Robertson

Starting LBs: The linebacking corps is a collection of flawed assets, outside of Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is an impact edge rusher and above average run defender; the team cannot afford to lose him for a prolonged period. Preston Smith and Zach Brown both grade out as average (at best) positional players. Brown is a major liability in coverage, which limits the coaching staff's creativity. Mason Foster is a replacement caliber interior defender. He's a sure tackler who makes the plays right in front of him, but he won't disrupt the flow of opposing offenses very often.

Backup LBs: Pernell McPhee is a veteran on the decline but showed last year he can be effective as a situational contributor. McPhee is solid in coverage, which gives the team flexibility to mask schemes or use creative blitz packages. Rookies Jerod Fernandez and Shaun Dion Hamilton will have the chance to earn snaps with a strong preseason.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Orlando Scandrick, SS Deshazor Everett, FS D.J. Swearinger, CB Josh Norman
Backups: CB Fabian Moreau, CB Greg Stroman [R], CB Ranthony Texada [R], S Montae Nicholson, S Quin Blanding [R], S Troy Apke [R], S Fish Smithson, S Kenny Ladler, CB Quinton Dunbar, CB Joshua Holsey, CB Danny Johnson [R]

Starting DBs: Josh Norman remains one of the league's top cover corners by reputation, but his play in 2017 didn't match the hype. There's no reason to think Norman can't bounce back, but the team needs him to regain his All Pro form after trading Kendall Fuller to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith transaction. Veteran free agent Orlando Scandrick replaces Fuller in the lineup, but he's not a ball hawk. Scandrick is an above average run defender, but his coverage skills have tailed off of late. D.J. Swearinger was Washington's iron man last year playing more than 1,000 snaps. He's an effective safety but is asked to do too much compensating for fellow starter Deshazor Everett. Everett struggles in most facets and is among the worst projected safeties in the NFC East.

Backup DBs: There's a reason the team has five rookie defensive backs in camp. This unit needs help. It needs energy. It needs playmakers. It needs aggressiveness. It needs speed. The veterans on the roster like Joshua Holsey and Fabian Moreau pose little threat to the rookies if the quintet shows well in the preseason.

Last modified: 2018-06-16 12:56:38