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2019 Team Report: Washington Redskins

Offensive Philosophy

Head coach Jay Gruden primarily runs a West Coast Offense, but while the rest of the league has moved toward simplifying progressions, Gruden is at his best designing plays with multiple potential reads and relying on the quarterback to find the proper one. The scheme can be demanding on the quarterback, usually requires a lengthy transition period, and some have struggled to pick it up entirely, but when executed at a high level (such as under Kirk Cousins from 2015 to 2017 or Andy Dalton in 2013) it has proven effective.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Case Keenum
Backup(s): Dwayne Haskins [R], Colt McCoy, Alex Smith [INJ]

Starting QB: The team's quarterback situation deteriorated faster than a snowman in a heat wave. A year ago, the team parted ways with incumbent Kirk Cousins after a multi-year contract impasse and traded for veteran Alex Smith. Although Smith is four years older than Cousins, he'd built an impressive resume as the long-time starter in both San Francisco and Kansas City. Washington gave Smith a huge, multi-year extension in the process and cemented him as Jay Gruden's new field general for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the foreseeable future lasted just ten games as Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury the not only ended his season, but casts doubt about his NFL future. Veteran backup Colt McCoy suffered his own season-ending injury, which forced the team to sign and start, Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Washington acquired Case Keenum from the Denver Broncos. Keenum was an abject failure in his one season in the Mile High City, but Washington hopes Keenum can return to his 2017 form when he led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs. Keenum will be asked to keep the huddle warm until rookie Dwayne Haskins is deemed ready to take over.

Backup QB: Washington fans have reason for hope as Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the draft, becomes the heir apparent and should see the field sometime in 2019. Haskins (6-foot-3, 231 pounds) threw 50 touchdowns last season at Ohio State and returns to the D.C. area after growing up in Maryland. The pocket passer doesn't have a lot of starting experience, but he broke records at one of college's storied franchise and was considered the best quarterback prospect by many scouts - even though he was the third drafted in April. Haskins lacks speed and mobility and will need a clean pocket to excel, unlike many younger quarterbacks who are redefining the position with their legs. As a passer, Haskins shows a quick release, handles pressure well and surveys the field making the necessary progressions.

Running Backs

Starter: Derrius Guice
Backup(s): Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love [R], Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: Derrius Guice was the talk of the 2018 preseason, for his effusive personality off the field and his hard work and impressive work ethic on the field. Unfortunately, Guice tore his ACL in the preseason and missed the season. Rather than go with incumbent backups Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley, Washington threw a hail mary and signed 33-year old Adrian Peterson. Peterson, a future Hall of Famer, was coming off a lost 2017 where he ran for just 529 yards in ten games split between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals. Most expected Peterson to be part of an uninspiring committee, but he proved the doubters wrong and delivered his eighth 1,000-yard season. Peterson started all 16 games, amassed 1,250 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns. It wasn't All-Pro production, but it was much better than anyone expected. Peterson re-signed this offseason but is slated to back up Guice as long as the young power back is 100% for training camp.

Backup RBs: Guice and Peterson should handle the bulk of snaps, but rookie Bryce Love also figures into the mix, particularly in 2020 and beyond. Love ran for 2,118 yards as a junior at Stanford in 2017, but his play tailed off in 2018 (166 rushes for 739 yards) before tearing his ACL late in the season. When healthy, Love's game complements Guice and could form a compelling one-two punch. For now, expect Love to get healthy and watch Guice and Peterson lead the way. Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are capable of contributing, too. Perine graduated from the University of Oklahoma as the team's all-time leading rusher, but a slow start and inability to master the playbook landed him in Coach Gruden's doghouse - perhaps permanently. Thompson is a difference-making third-down back when healthy, but injuries have damned him throughout his career.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson
Backups: Trey Quinn, Kelvin Harmon [R], Terry McLaurin [R], Brian Quick, Darvin Kidsy, Jehu Chesson, Robert Davis

Starting WRs: Washington has one of the weakest receiving corps in the league, and desperately needs young players like Trey Quinn and rookies Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon to develop. Long-time slot receiver Jamison Crowder left in free agency, and returning starters Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson are limited players who can't run full route trees much less stay healthy. The tandem combined for 64 receptions and four touchdowns last season, and neither is suited to handle opposing team's top cornerbacks.

Backup WRs: Head coach Jay Gruden believes Trey Quinn can approximate Jamison Crowder's production as the new slot receiver. Time will tell. Quinn was a 7th-round pick last year and appeared in three games, catching nine receptions for 75 yards. At 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Quinn has good size for the slot, but his college tape didn't hint at NFL greatness. Terry McLaurin (6-foot-0, 208 pounds) caught passes from Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State and that chemistry will serve him well competing against uninspiring incumbents. McLaurin isn't fast or overpowering, but runs crisp routes and led the Buckeyes with 11 touchdowns last year. Kelvin Harmon (6-foot-2, 221 pounds) has the prototypical size and delivered back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at NC State. Harmon needs to improve getting off the line and handling press coverage, or he'll rarely see the field. Veteran Brian Quick has never been more than a 4th receiver, in his best years, and Darvin Kidsy is practice squad fodder.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Matt Flanagan

Jordan Reed's talent is never in question. His health, on the other hand, is a constant worry. In six seasons, Reed has only started 36 games and has missed 31 games, including three last year. It's impossible to think Reed will ever return to his 2015 form (87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns), but he remains in the team's plans whenever he can suit up. Vernon Davis returns for a 14th season and will fill in for Reed whenever his number is called. Davis' jaw-dropping athleticism has allowed him to age gracefully, as exhibited by his 14.7 yards per catch average a season ago.

Place Kicker

Dustin Hopkins: Dustin Hopkins had his most accurate season of his career as field goal kicker in 2018, but since his offense has taken a turn for the worse, he is falling out of fantasy relevance. Hopkins converted 26-of-29 field goal attempts, including 4-of-5 from 50+ yards, but he only had 26 extra point attempts (making 25) and finished in the bottom ten in scoring. The 2019 outlook for the offense is dim, so he's one to avoid in fantasy drafts.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Danny Johnson, Greg Stroman

Washington retains its top two kickoff returners from 2018, but neither played well enough to discourage any challengers heading into 2019. Of the two, Johnson was better on kickoff returns, but Stroman also handles punts and if he can improve this area of his game, it might be tempting for Washington to lock down two return positions in one roster spot.

Punt Returners: Greg Stroman, Trey Quinn

Washington wanted to move on from Jamison Crowder at punt returner last year, so they turned to Greg Stroman. Calling Stroman's production when called upon pedestrian would be kind; his 3.4 yards per return would better be described as underwhelming. Trey Quinn produced twice as many yards on half as many returns, but really, the team's punt returner won't be known until after a wide-open competition during training camps and preseason.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Trent Williams, Tyler Catalina, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses
Key Backups: Geron Christian, Wes Martin [R], Kyle Fuller, Casey Dunn, Ereck Flowers

This line is led by left tackle Trent Williams, named a Pro Bowl starter after last season. Williams has been injured but played through almost all of it, one of the gutsiest players in the league on a week to week basis. Right guard Brandon Scherff is also a high level performer, and he makes a solid power blocking duo with right tackle Morgan Moses. The interior positions are less heralded names (left guard Tyler Catalina and center Chase Roullier) but they each have experience at multiple positions. The team drafted fourth round rookie Wes Martin from Indiana to compete with Catalina and Roullier. Geron Christian will likely be the swing tackle, but he could be pushed for the job by Ereck Flowers, who was signed in free agency. Overall, this is a top-tier line and their grade can rise further with more production out of the left guard and center spots.

Team Defense

Washington's final 2018 rankings point to a middling unit. The team finished 15th in points allowed, 17th in yards allowed, 16th in passing touchdowns, 23rd in interceptions, 12th in rushing touchdowns, and 15th in sacks. However, the middling totals fail to paint an accurate picture as the team went from above average in the first half of the season to below average after Alex Smith broke his leg, and the offense ground to a halt. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was on the hot seat but was retained. He'll have his hands full trying to elevate a unit that lost four of its top 10 defenders: safety D.J. Swearinger (962 snaps), linebacker Preston Smith (834 snaps), linebacker Zach Brown (703 snaps), and safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (566 snaps). The cupboard isn't 'are though as Washington broke the bank for powerhouse safety Landon Collins, will have the services of troubled-but-talented linebacker Reuben Foster, and added speed rusher Montez Sweat in the first round of the April draft. Washington has the potential to be a rotational fantasy option this year if the new pieces can gel, but a demanding early-season schedule makes it easy to ignore them on draft day.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jonathan Allen, NT DaRon Payne, DE Matthew Ioannidis
Backups: DE JoJo Wicker, NT Tim Settle, DE Caleb Brantley, DE Andrew Ankrah, DE Marcus Smith

Starting DL: Few 3-4 defensive fronts can claim a more impressive starting trio of linemen. Nose tackle Da'Ron Payne had a stellar rookie season, particularly as a run stopper. He regularly commands double teams and could be in line for multiple All-Pro campaigns based on his current trajectory. Jonathan Allen was equally impressive in his first full season (he missed most of his 2017 rookie campaign) and was an impact pass rusher in spite of holding the edge on run downs. The two former Alabama Crimson Tide are joined on the line by Matt Ioannidis. While Ioannidis doesn't have the game-changing ability of his fellow starters, he's been a model of consistency and earned a sizable contract extension this offseason.

Backup DL: The backup linemen are an unproven bunch led by second-year tackle Tim Settle. Free agent Andrew Ankrah will push JoJo Wicker and Caleb Brantley, but none are well suited to more than a few hundred rotational snaps.

Linebackers

Starters: SLB Ryan Anderson, ILB Mason Foster, ILB Josh Harvey-Clemons, WLB Ryan Kerrigan
Backups: OLB Montez Sweat [R], ILB Shaun Dion Hamilton, OLB Marquis Flowers, OLB Jordan Brailford [R], ILB Cole Holcomb [R], OLB Cassanova McKinzy

Starting LBs: Ryan Kerrigan is an underrated pass-rushing dynamo. He's coming off consecutive 13-sack seasons and has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks in eight seasons. While Kerrigan has always been good at getting to the quarterback, his run defense has improved by leaps and bounds. He was a liability against the run in his early years but is now arguably the team's best tackler. Ryan Anderson enters the preseason as the starter opposite Kerrigan, but most expect rookie first-rounder Montez Sweat to win the job by Week One. Sweat is a physical marvel who ran as fast as the wide receivers at the combine but has the size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) of a defensive end. Mason Foster returns on the inside. He's not a playmaker, but he's a steadying force and good tackler. Troubled Reuben Foster was the favorite for the other inside role, but tore his ACL in OTAs. There will be a wide open competition in the preseason for the spot, as a result.

Backup LBs: Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons left more questions than answers based on last year's tape. Both looked out of sync when pressed into duty, and need to re-earn the coaches' trust if they want long-term futures in Washington. A pair of rookies - Cole Holcomb (Fifth Round) and Jordan Brailford (Seventh Round) will push Hamilton and Harvey-Clemons for the backup spots.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Fabian Moreau, SS Landon Collins, FS Deshazor Everett, CB Josh Norman, CB Greg Stroman
Backups: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, S Jeremy Reeves, S Troy Apke, CB Jimmy Moreland [R], S JoJo McIntosh [R], S Montae Nicholson

Starting DBs: Josh Norman remains an above average starting cornerback, but he hasn't approached his Carolina All-Pro form since joining Washington three years ago. He allowed eight touchdowns and committed seven penalties last year, and showed almost no effort against the run - something that had been a hallmark of his play in prior seasons. He needs to regain his edge and focus for Washington's defense to have a hope of finishing as a top-10 unit. Fabian Moreau returns as the other starter, and will undoubtedly be targeted often as team's scheme away from Norman. Washington made Landon Collins the highest paid safety in NFL history this offseason, and he'll take over at strong safety for years to come. Deshazor Everett projects as the starter at free safety, but he's replaceable if anyone else has a strong preseason.

Backup DBs: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came out of retirement to compete for a roster spot. He's the wild card and could push Greg Stroman for nickel duties, or end up being released before rosters are finalized. Troy Apke barely saw the field as a rookie but has a low bar to climb over in Deshazor Everett. Expect Washington to bring in another veteran or two to push for snaps. Seventh-round rookie Jimmy Moreland is rangy and has as good a chance to win the dime spot as veterans Jeremy Reaves and Danny Johnson. Safety Montae Nicholson remains in the mix but had some of the worst tape at the position last year.

Last modified: 2019-05-24 15:37:59