Tha Sports Junkies 101

TSJ-101 Training Camp Edition: Outlook Of The 2016 Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed Washington Redskins NFL Jack Kurzenknabe via Flickr


The Washington Redskins appear to have finally turned a corner. Although the 2015 season ended on a sour note, it was the perfect season for a franchise like Washington. Within 12 months, the Redskins transcended from a laughing stock, to a viable playoff contender in the NFC. Washington learned how to win last season, even though they did not beat a team with a winning record.

ESPN had the Redskins ranked 32nd in last year’s week-one power rankings. Bleacher Report has the Skins ranked 12th in their recent rankings. Power rankings mean absolutely nothing on Sunday’s, but they are widely viewed as a gauge on how teams within the NFL stack up against one another.

Washington has the opportunity to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration. In order to do so, they’ll rely heavily quarterback Kirk Cousins, and their vaunted receiving core.

STRENGTHS-(Pass Offense & Pass Defense)

Passing Offense

With Kirk Cousins entrenched in his second full season as a starter, the Redskins are banking on him making the leap as a franchise quarterback. Cousins and the Redskins‘ front office were unable to agree to a long-term deal, but it’s best for both sides.

Head coach Jay Gruden has stressed consistency regarding Kirk Cousins. Cousins realizes he needs to string together another successful season. As a result he is willing to bet on himself, in hopes of a bigger payday.

If Cousins duplicates or improves on his statistics, Dan Snyder and the Redskins will have no issues with opening up the checkbook. This team will only go as far as Kirk Cousins takes it. Pundits and analysts abroad have anointed the receiving group of the Washington Redskins, as one of the NFL‘S best.

Pro Football Focus, had the group ranked no.3 in their rankings. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.COM, had the Redskins ranked second (link). Former Redskins GM Charley Casserly expressed his approval in an appearance on NFL Network in May. Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko, wrote an article early June, titled “Washington’s Wide Appeal” detailing the group.

“The pass-catching group in D.C. has it all- shifty slot man, (Crowder) an uncover-able tight end (Reed) speedy burners, (Garcon & Jackson) and a rising rookie (Doctson). Is the Kirk Cousins led offense ready to break out? As a new expert notes: “It could be special”.

Desean Jackson has looked great in camp, but more importantly Jackson has remained healthy. He and Cousins built a strong rapport as the season progressed in 2015, and the offense expects that to carry over into this season. “D-Jax” is the best deep threat in the NFL.  Pierre Garcon is an established possession receiver, and he’s produced at a high level (led NFL in catches in 13′). You’ll be hard pressed to find a receiver in the NFL tougher than Garcon.

Rookie Josh Doctson has been limited with an Achilles injury, but adds instant value in the red zone because of his skill set. He’s the big-bodied receiver that the Redskins have been lacking for years.. The first round pick out of TCU, is expected to be ready for week one. Jamison Crowder is quickly becoming one of the better slot options in the league. His 59 receptions, broke a Redskins’ rookie record that was previously held by Art Monk.

Last, but certainly not least Jordan Reed. The “crowned jewel” of the group, Reed is the most intricate tight-end in all of football. He’s essentially a wide receiver, in a tight-end’s body. A true match-up nightmare for defenses league-wide. Jordan Reed lead the Redskins in catches (87), receiving yards (952) and touchdowns (11), last year despite playing 14 games. 62 percent of his catches resulted in first downs. On 41 percent of his snaps, Reed lined up out wide or as a slot receiver.

Other than Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed very well may be the most important player on the Redskins offense. From a “X’s and O’s” standpoint, Reed is capable of dictating to a lot of coverage’s. As a result, Crowder, Garcon and Jackson can run rampant through secondaries.

Pass Defense

The Washington secondary has been lackluster to say the least for the past couple of seasons. The Redskins have ranked no higher than 12th in passing yards allowed per game, since 2011. The acquisition of All-Pro Josh Norman, will go a long way in solidifying the Skins’ secondary. Sure he has made headlines this past off season, but the Redskins brought Norman aboard because of his attitude and play making ability.

Bashaud Breeland is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. He has gradually progressed the past two seasons, and was the Redskins’ best defensive player last year. The Redskins expects Deangelo Hall to have a Charles Woodson like impact at free safety. Greg Toler was signed from Indianapolis in April, and has instantly made an impact.

Toler was originally thought of as a player on the bubble to make the roster, but now appears to be a lock. Quinton Dunbar, Dashaun Phillips, and third round pick Kendall Fuller, are all young talented players. Dunbar, was a pleasant surprise on defense last year.

As an undrafted wide receiver, he made the transition to defensive back and played well. Phillips has looked sharp this off-season at nickle [back], and had it not been for injuries at Virginia Tech, Fuller would have been a first round pick.  Will Blackmon was an excellent in-season addition for the Redskins last year. Now in his 10th season, Blackmon is transitioning to safety. Second round pick Su’a Cravens out of USC, is a Swiss army knife on defense.

A hybrid safety/linebacker, Cravens had a solid showing this preseason,  he notched three tackles (2 TFL’s) and a pass breakup against Atlanta. He has the makings of a Troy Polomalu 2.0 Once a liability, the secondary of the Washington Redskins is now its biggest strength on defense. With tighter coverage in the secondary, the pass rush could receive a big boost. Ryan Kerrigan , Preston Smith, and the Redskins pass rush could be the biggest beneficiaries.

Weakness’ (Rush offense & Rush Defense)

Rush Offense

Starting running back Matt Jones has been ruled out for the remainder of preseason by Jay Gruden. Jones suffered a grade II separation of his AC joint against the Jets in week two of the preseason. The second-year back is expected to be the workhouse for the team.

There aren’t many proven players behind him on the depth chart. Chris Thompson is the most experienced and oldest back on the roster. However, he’s better suited as a change-of-pace back. At 5’8 195 lbs, he lacks size to be an every down back. To his credit, Thompson is the best receiving back on the team. Undrafted rookie Robert Kelley has put together a solid performance this preseason. He’s made the most of his opportunities, and has shown that he in a NFL running back.

The Redskins had one of the more anemic rushing attacks in the NFL last year. The team averaged 3.7 yards a carry (30th in NFL) , only mustered nine rushing touchdowns (20th in NFL) , and averaged 97.9 rushing yards per game. (20th in the NFL) During free agency the team made no attempts to re-sign Alfred Morris, and did very little to improve the position through the draft.

The Redskins and the coaching staff clearly has the utmost faith in Matt Jones‘ ability and potential, he just needs to exhibit some consistency and shed durability concerns. If he can, Matt Jones will be able to elevate the Redskin offense. Bill Callahan has done a good job coaching up the Redskins’ offensive line. With more playing experience, a healthy offensive line can go a long way in improving the ground game.

At left guard, Shawn Lauvao is battling for the starting job with Spencer Long. Long did a decent job in place of the injured Lauvao in 2015. In 2015, the rushing attack was exceptional in the first two games Lauvao started. Both Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, rushed for at least 120 yards in consecutive weeks. Then, Lauvao was placed on IR after week three. Center Kory Lichtensteiger battled neck injuries last season and missed substantial time, but like Lauvao, trainers and coaches expect the two to return to full health and help boost the rushing attack.

The Redskins are hopeful that right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses, can solidify the right side of the line. Scherff missed all but one snap on the season as a rookie, and Moses saw marked improvement in his play from 2014. At left tackle, the Redskins have one of the more established one’s in the “Silverback” Trent Williams. A true professional, Williams has blossomed into one of the leaders on offense. Tight end Vernon Davis‘ greatest asset and value to the team may come as a run blocker. Niles Paul has transitioned from a tight-end to a fullback/H-Back role for 2016.

Rush Defense

The Washington Redskins run defense, was one of the more porous in the NFL last year. Washington allowed 122.6 rushing yards (26th in NFL) and 4.8 yards per carry (T-31). In the playoff loss against the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins yielded 141 rushing yards. The Packers were able to control the clock, and keep Kirk Cousins and the offense off the field late in the game.

Stopping the run in the NFL is more so about will power and the ability to tackle. The Redskins ranked 21st in missed tackles among defenses in the NFL. A lot of times, the defense would limit backs to minimal games, however missed tackles contributed to numerous double digit runs.

Teams with dominant rushing attacks will be able to find success against the Redskins. The Panthers, Cardinals, Vikings, Packers, and Cowboys all present stiff tests for the Redskins’ run defense. Other than Green Bay, the rest of those teams finished in the top-10 in rushing yards last year.

The organization did very little to improve its run defense. In a draft that was rich in defensive lineman, the Redskins only selected one d-lineman, Matt Ioannidis out of Temple. He excels at stopping the run, but he’s a fifth-round pick. The Redskins also added lower-tier free agents such as Ziggy Hood and Kendall Reyes. Cullen Jenkins was recently signed, but he’s 35, and is a better pass rusher than run stopper.


The 2016 season for the Washington Redskins, is the most important one in 25 years for three reasons. First, the franchise can see if Kirk Cousins is the long-term answer at the quarterback position. Second, the Redskins have the opportunity for consecutive playoff appearances for the first time, since the 91-92 seasons.

With Tony Romo being out 6-10 weeks, the Redskins are in prime condition to repeat as division champs. Three of the first six games are against divisional opponents. A 3-0 start within the division can go a long way in ensuring another NFC East title in 2016. The Philadelphia Eagles were the last team to win the division in consecutive seasons (2001-04).

The Washington Redskins open their season September 12th, when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.