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2015 Team Report: Washington Redskins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Kirk Cousins
Backup(s): Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy

Starting QB: Washington was the least likely NFC East team to stand pat at quarterback this offseason, yet they did just that. As camps wind down, Kirk Cousins has been named the starter and described by Head Coach Jay Gruden as "the team's best quarterback." In part-time work last year, Cousins was the most aggressive of the trio, throwing for 285 yards/game and 10 touchdowns; but he also threw nine interceptions while struggling with accuracy when under duress. We haven't seen enough of Cousins to know how 2015 will unfold, but one has to presume he'll be given a relatively long leash.

Backup QB: Colt McCoy averaged just 211 yards/game with 4 TDs in 4 starts last year. He finished with the highest passer rating of the quarterback trio (96.4) but doesn't have the arm strength or aggressiveness to optimize Gruden's offensive system. Robert Griffin's career arc continues its alarming spiral downward; he's been benched in favor of Kirk Cousins. Last season was supposed to be a renaissance for Griffin as he knee injury was behind him and a new coaching staff was ready to build an offense around him. Sadly Griffin played tentatively, missed time with an ankle injury, and was eventually benched. He and Coach Gruden publicly aired grievances for months, and in spite of rhetoric to the contrary, Gruden never got comfortable with Griffin as his franchise cornerstone.

Running Backs

Starter: Alfred Morris
Backup(s): Matt Jones [R], Chris Thompson
Fullback(s): Darrel Young

Starting RB: Washington struggled on the ground in Jay Gruden's first season, in part because the team's personnel wasn't suited for the power blocking scheme he prefers. As a result, Washington used more zone blocking techniques than power blocking techniques and the inconsistency led to a bottom half finish (19th in yards). This year, Gruden promises a commitment to power blocking. Whether that's good news for Alfred Morris remains to be seen, but he struggled (along with the majority of his teammates) in the preseason. Last year Morris remained the team's workhorse, but set career lows in carries (265), yards (1,074), yards per rush (4.1), and total yards (1,229).

Backup RBs: Roy Helu is gone, and rookie Matt Jones has stepped into the #2 role immediately. Although his college game tape was imperfect, he's fit into Gruden's system quickly and should become part of a committee with Alfred Morris. At a minimum he'll be the handcuff. It's not clear who will handle 3rd downs and obvious passing situations, although Morris has been working on his receiving this offseason. Chris Thompson emerged from a crowded preseason competition to secure the #3 job.

Fullback: Darrel Young continues providing Washington with an effective lead blocker, and is a capable receiver to boot.

Wide Receivers

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

Starting WRs: Pierre Garcon was Washington's most targeted receiver in both 2014 and 2015, but that's where the similarity ends. Garcon's targets (181 to 105), receptions (113 to 68) and yards (1,346 to 752) all plummeted as Garcon struggled to fit into Gruden's system while dealing with three different starting quarterbacks. Entering his 8th season, Garcon must prove that 2013 wasn't a career outlier or he could be looking for a new team in 2016. As disappointing as Garcon was in 2014, DeSean Jackson was the antithesis. In his first year in Washington, Jackson was the team's only game-breaker. Jackson averaged more than 20 yards per reception on route to a 56-reception, 1,169-yard, 6 TD campaign. Jackson can blow the top off any defense, and would have been even more impressive if the team' quarterback carousel hadn't limited his downfield opportunities.

Backup WRs: Depth is an ongoing issue for Jay Gruden's offense, as Andre Roberts (453 yards, 2 TDs) and Ryan Grant (68 yards 0 TDs) are the top returning backups. Rookies Jamison Crowder and Rashad Ross will get a chance to earn roles, but neither project as impact players.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jordan Reed
Backups: Derek Carrier

The breakout most expected from Jordan Reed fell short, as nagging injuries kept him out of the starting lineup for most of the season. It wasn't an entirely lost season, as Reed finished 3rd on the team with 50 receptions. If Reed can stay healthy, there's reason to believe he can't ascend to new heights, but he's already dealt with hamstring issues in the preseason. After losing both Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen in the preseason, Washington is dangerously thin at the position. Veteran Derek Carrier is the only other tight end on the active 53-man roster.

Place Kicker

Kai Forbath: Forbath fended off a challenge from 2014 draft pick Zach Hocker last year in training camp, and responded by making 24 of his 27 attempts for a very good 88.9 percent conversion rate. The 27 attempts is still low by NFL standards, and the rest of the Washington offense didn't do Forbath any favors by creating extra point opportunities. Washington brought in a young kicker again this year - Ty Long from the defunct UAB program - but the winner won't interest us for fantasy in any event.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Rashad Ross, Chris Thompson, Andre Roberts, Jamison Crowder [R]

Washington has struggled in the return game for several years, and hoped to address that issue with last season's addition of receiver Andre Roberts. Roberts managed 23.7 yards per kickoff return, an improvement over the year before, but nothing spectacular by NFL standards. The selection of Jamison Crowder in the 2015 NFL Draft added competition, though Crowder is more highly regarded as a punt returner. Chris Thompson has held and lost the kick returner job in the past, but came out of camp as the starting returner only to lose the job to speedy receiver Rashad Ross. Thompson and Roberts have still seen returns in games when Ross was left inactive.

Punt Returners: Jamison Crowder [R], Andre Roberts

Andre Roberts was an elite punt returner in college, coming in fifth in the nation in yards per return as a senior and having led the nation as a junior. His first season as Washington's returner resulted in a middling 7.4 yard average. Coach Jay Gruden said that rookie Jamison Crowder would immediately be competing for the punt returner job. At Duke, Crowder had a 13.4 yard average and scored 4 touchdowns in 65 punt returns as a 4 year returner. Injuries slowed Crowder during camp, and Roberts has hung onto the job for the time being.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Chris Chester, RT Brandon Scherff [R]
Key Backups: G Josh LeRibeus, T Morgan Moses, G Spencer Long, G Arie Kouandjio [R], T Tom Compton, C Tyler Larsen, C Austin Reiter [R]

Washington has an improving offensive line and one of the key reasons is left tackle Trent Williams. Williams is coming off of his third Pro Bowl honor and the team is reportedly working on a long term extension for him this spring. The team also made two significant additions in the offseason: first the hiring of Bill Callahan as offensive line coach, and second, taking Brandon Scherff at 5 overall in the NFL Draft. While Callahan has had his ups and downs as a coordinator and head coach, as an offensive line coach he is considered one of the league's best. Callahan is fresh off of revitalizing the Cowboys' offensive line, and the expectations are that he will do something similar in Washington. In Scherff, many onlookers believed that the team reached for this player. However he is a talented and rugged player who should be able to start quickly on the right side, despite having to switch from left tackle. Iowa lineman have a tendency to be very well coached and Scherff should be able to play either side of the line (not unlike fellow Hawkeye Bryan Bulaga, currently with the Packers). Scherff represents a huge upgrade at the right tackle spot, previously occupied by Tom Compton. The interior of the Washington offensive line is solid but not aamzing. Kory Lichtensteiger graded out above average at the center position, while Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester continue to do a respectable job with their starting spots. The team hopes that Spencer Long progresses and steals Chester's spot but it's yet to be proven that he's ready for prime time. Morgan Moses will likely be the swing tackle and he's another player that the team hopes gets better, to help with depth issues. Overall, this line should be improved with the addition of Scherff, and can be considered among the league's better units if the he claims that right tackle position long term.

Team Defense

Washington was in the bottom half - if not bottom five - of the NFL in almost all meaningful defensive statistics in 2014, and they failed to score a defensive touchdown. They had one predictably good game against the Jaguars in Week 2, but otherwise were a non-entity for fantasy leagues, a total bottom of the barrel option in any format. 2015 doesn't look much more promising, with Robert Griffin III still the quarterback. Washington is strictly a last resort D/ST for 2015.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Stephen Paea, DE Jason Hatcher, NT Terrance Knighton
Backups: DE Ricky Jean-Francois, DE Kedric Golston, DE Frank Kearse, NT Chris Baker

Starting DL: Bolstering the defensive line was a top priority for the Redskins' front office this off-season, and for good reason - the entire defensive line managed just 10.5 sacks and 69 quarterback hurries last year. Terrence Knighton struggled to garner as much interest on the open market as originally expected due to weight concerns and ended up signing a one year, "prove it" deal with the 'Skins. He will serve as the team's primary nose tackle replacing the departed Barry Cofield. The team is hoping former Bear Stephen Paea can replicate his 2014 season in which he amassed six sacks. After signing a big contract last season, Jason Hatcher failed to make the type of impact Washington was expecting. He played just over 500 snaps and ended up on season-ending IR towards the end of the year. He did manage 5.5 sacks in limited playing time, but his arrow is pointing downward at age 32.

Backup DL: The Redskins brought in Ricky Jean-Francois from the Colts, but he doesn't figure to help drive up their sack counts much as he had just three last year and he graded out negatively in both seasons with Indianapolis. Outside of Francois, you will find one of the least exciting group of players in the division with Chris Baker, Kedric Golston, and Frank Kearse rounding out the reserves.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Perry Riley, ILB Keenan Robinson, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Trent Murphy
Backups: OLB Preston Smith, OLB Jackson Jeffcoat, ILB Will Compton, ILB Martrell Spaight, ILB Adam Hayward [IR], OLB Junior Galette [IR]

Starting LBs: For as bad as Washington was in nearly every defensive category, they were an above average team in defending the run (perhaps because teams were too busy beating them via the pass). After suffering torn pectorals in back-to-back seasons, Keenan Robinson was finally healthy enough to play through an entire schedule. He led the team with 104 total tackles and is one of the rising stars within the organization at age 25. Perry Riley saw a downturn in performance last year after averaging 120+ total tackles over his two previous seasons. Despite his decline, the 'Skins have no immediate replacement waiting in the wings so he should continue to play in an every down role and approach 90-100 tackles this year. On the outside, Ryan Kerrigan is coming off a career year in which he generated 13.5 sacks. With Brian Orakpo gone in free agency, Washington will look for Kerrigan to be their cornerstone defensive player and to be a mentor to second round pick Preston Smith, a high effort player who will likely see some snaps outside in the base package and slide into the interior of the line in pass-rushing situations. Although Smith will likely see some snaps at OLB, expect second year player Trent Murphy to see a majority of the playing time there (at least early in the season).

Backup LBs: The season-ending injury to Junior Galette opens the door for rookie Preston Smith to get valuable playing experience in 2015. Trent Murphy is a solid player but lacks the upside of Smith. So it's not out of the realm of possibility to see the rookie as the starter opposite Ryan Kerrigan come mid-season. Will Compton isn't a flashy player by any means, but he's a smart defender who can play both inside linebacker positions. Last year, he wound up starting five games while Robinson and Riley were out with injuries. Adam Hayward is one of the team's best special teams players but will miss the entire year with a torn ACL. Martrell Spaight was selected in the fifth round out of Arkansas this year. He doesn't possess great speed but plays with a mean streak and was known as a big hitter in college. If Perry Riley continues to decline and the Redskins don't bring any starting-level talent, Spaight could find his way into the starting lineup in 2016. But for now he'll be relegated to special teams.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Chris Culliver, CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Bashaud Breeland [suspended), SS Duke Ihenacho, FS Dashon Goldson
Backups: CB David Amerson, CB Justin Rogers, SS Jeron Johnson, FS Trenton Robinson, S Kyshoen Jarrett,

Starting DBs: The Redskins had one of the worst secondaries in the league last season with a crew that fielded just seven interceptions and gave up nearly 250 passing yards a game. The front office made several free agent signings and a trade in an attempt to rectify this issue; however, they failed to procure much new, young talent via the draft. Dashon Goldson was acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for sixth-round pick in 2016. He's been a middling performer throughout his career, but should be an upgrade over what Washington has had in recent seasons. They brought in career backup Jeron Johnson and former Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho to compete for the starting strong safety position. Although the team has more invested in Johnson, Ihenacho will be the starter come Week 1. Chris Culliver was another free agent signing, albeit a more promising one. Culliver graded out as a top 15 cornerback among over 100 qualifiers according to Pro Football Focus and will likely be the team's best cornerback heading into 2015. Up-and-coming youngster Bashaud Breeland is suspended for one game but will likely return to a starting role opposite Culliver in Week 2 after he serves out his one week suspension. Expect veteran DeAngelo Hall to fill in for him in the interim.

Backup DBs: Jeron Johnson was the favorite to win the strong safety position heading into the year, but has took a back seat to Duke Ihenacho in training camp and will enter Week 1 as the team's primary backup at safety. Johnson will more than likely find his way into a starting role at some point in the season, however. Veteran DeAngelo Hall is working his way back from an Achilles injury he re-tore last October. The 31 year old has participated in training camp practices and figures to be the opening week starter at corner while Bashaud Breeland serves his suspension. Post Week 1, Hall should see a good chunk of playing time between slot corner and potentially some safety work. David Amerson was absolutely atrocious last year grading out dead last among 108 corners last year. That said, he'll likely fall behind Justin Rogers on the depth chart and function as the team's fifth corner. Rookie Kyshoen Jarrett is a strong run defender but is too deficient in coverage to play free safety. If Jeron Johnson or Duke Ihenacho don't pan out, he could see some snaps later in the season along with teammate Phillip Thomas.

Last modified: 2015-11-10 18:49:27