2015 Season Preview: Washington Redskins

  Following the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Redskins replaced head coach Mike Shanahan with young Jay Gruden with the hopes of turning the franchise around. In Gruden’s first year that didn’t happen and there was talk that Gruden may be one and done. While there was a big change made in Washington, it wasn’t with the head coach. Instead, the Redskins hired veteran front office man Scot McCloughan. McCloughan has experience with multiple franchises and is well respected in the league as a personnel man. His experience should help the Redskins get on the right path. Quarterback Unless Robert Griffin III turns things around this year, he could go down as one of the biggest busts of all time. RGIII showed flashes as a rookie but has not done much since. Injuries have had an effect, but from what I’m told, it’s more of a football character thing in that he doesn’t do what is necessary to make himself a great player. Things came easy for RGIII in high school and college. That’s not the case in the NFL. Behind Griffin III are Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. Going into last season, Cousins was a hot name because of some fairly good play in the little play time he got in 2013. With his play last year, he is no longer “hot”. McCoy flashed at the end of the 2013 season, but was it enough to earn him the backup job? Running Back Alfred Morris is a perfect example of an excellent running back drafted in the later rounds. The former sixth-round pick has run for 3,962 yards, a 4.5 yard average and 28 touchdowns in his three seasons with the league. With the Redskins improving the offensive line during the off-season, Morris could be even more productive in 2015. McCloughan is said to really like third-round pick Matt Jones from Florida. Jones is similar to Morris in that he is an excellent inside power runner, yet he is bigger and faster. The third back is second-year man Silas Redd who is yet another power guy. At fullback is Darrell Young who is productive in the red zone. Wide Receivers and Tight End While much of the league is going towards tall, athletic receivers, Washington’s starters are a bit smaller, but very fast. DeSean Jackson is one of the better deep threats in the league while Pierre Garcon is an athletic, possession type with deceptive speed. The Redskins added a similar style receiver in the draft with Duke’s Jamison Crowder, who can be an ideal slot type. Last year the Redskins signed Andre Roberts away from Arizona, but he disappointed in his first season. Hopefully  he will show improvement this year. Jordan Reed is the starting tight end and Washington wants more production from him. He has the speed and athleticism to play at a high level, but injuries have hurt him from playing at an optimum level. Offensive Line Washington wanted more production from the offensive line than they got in 2014. With that in mind, they drafted an offensive linemen with their first pick in the draft. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is a nasty and technically strong blocker who should be an automatic starter at right tackle. At left tackle, is Trent Williams who has had a hot and cold career to date. When he is good, he is really good, but he also looks very average at times. Going into camp the starters at guard will be Sean Lauvao, who was a high priced free agent a year ago. Lauvao did not play up to his price tag in 2014. The other guard should be second-year man Spencer Long who had a good off-season. The center is former guard Kory Lichtensteiger. In his second year at this position, improvement is expected. Defensive Line The defensive line will have an entirely different look than in 2014. The only returning starter is defensive end Jason Hatcher who started 13 games in his first season in Washington. The new nose tackle will be Terrance Knighton who is an excellent run stuffer. The other end will most likely be Stephen Paea who was with the Bears a year ago. He could be challenged by Ricky Jean-Francois who is a little more athletic. Backups will include Frank Kearse, Chris Baker, Kedric Golston and rookie Corey Crawford a free agent who very well could have been drafted if not for some character flaws. Linebacker The outside linebacker group is solid with Ryan Kerrigan and and second-year man Trent Murphy.  The second-round draft choice Preston Smith will also get play time. Smith who is a very good pass rusher should play down in nickel situations. Inside, the starters look to be Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson. Robinson played very well in his first year as a starter. Will Compton looks to be the primary backup. Rookie Martrell Spaight will also be in the mix for playtime, but will most likely play on special teams only. Secondary The starting safeties will be two new starters. Dashon Goldson comes over for Tampa Bay where he wasn’t a great fit in Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2. He will be much more productive in this scheme. The other new face is Jeron Johnson who was a backup in Seattle but McCloughan knows him well from his time in Seattle. The primary backup is Phillip Thomas who has started a few games in the past. At corner will be new addition Chris Culliver, who was a starter in San Francisco, and second-year man Bashaud Breeland who played better than expected as a rookie last year. The third corner will be veteran DeAngelo Hall who is coming off a serious injury. If Hall can’t go, look for former starter David Amerson to be the nickel corner. Outlook Washington needs a big year form RGIII in order to jump out of the NFC East basement. If he falters I doubt the Redskins show much improvement. The roster is better, but as we all know, if the quarterback can’t play most teams are in trouble. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe      

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