Call me crazy but I think Washington is the second best team in the NFC East this year. Behind the Super Bowl champion Eagles at number one, of course.
Jay Gruden is the second best coach in the division. Alex Smith is the second best starting quarterback. Washington’s roster isn’t loaded with star power by any means but they have a number of quality players. Go check out their depth chart if you don’t believe me.
Washington finished at 7-9 last season but they were closer to being average than they were a flat out bad team. They ranked 17th in point differential and 16th overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
A portion of Washington’s struggles can be attributed to very bad injury luck last year. No team was impacted harder in terms of Adjusted Games Lost. It’d be hard for them to repeat this in 2018; they’re likely due for a healthier season.
Before you think I’m gassing Washington up too much, do realize that I don’t think they’re an elite team or anything. Smith is capable of raising a team’s floor but we also know that his limitations can lower a team’s ceiling.
I think Washington will finish second in the division this year. It wouldn’t totally shock me if they find a way to grab a wild card spot, although the NFC may prove too tough for that. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Eagles split games with them this season.
Especially since the Birds will be resting their starters in Week 17 again, obviously.
Here’s a more in-depth look at Washington from our SB Nation colleagues over at Hogs Haven.
Notable free agent additions: WR Paul Richardson, EDGE Pernell McPhee, CB Orlando Scandrick, (traded for QB Alex Smith)
Over / under: 7 wins. The Vegas line has been holding at 6.5 for quite some time now, so this would represent an Over already, but I will bet on this team winning eight games for two reasons. First, the Redskins offense has been productive, and pairing Alex Smith with Jay Gruden should allow this unit to potentially be more precise in situations where they failed to capitalize in 2017 (not just the red zone, but on key third downs and in the fourth quarter when games are on the line).
Rookie I’m most excited about: Derrius Guice is the obvious answer and should be given a chance to be productive right away. If he plays to his ability, the touches he will be in line to get should translate to excitement for Redskins fans. I think the less obvious answer that I have been trying to push people to consider this offseason is the first rounder Da’Ron Payne. Jonathan Allen and Payne lined up together for Alabama and now they form the meat of the Washington defensive line. When Allen was healthy through the first five weeks of the 2017 campaign, the Redskins were a top five team against the run. Putting Payne next to a healthy Allen is going to give Redskins fans something to watch that they haven’t seen since the days of Dave Butz, Darryl Grant, Dexter Manley and Charles Mann.
Best position battle heading into camp: Call me crazy, but the backup quarterback position is where my head is at these days. Colt McCoy versus Kevin Hogan doesn’t exactly scream “Ali/Frazier” but the Redskins haven’t exactly had the luxury of legitimate competition at the key depth spots in years...perhaps decades. Jay Gruden respects the hell out of Colt McCoy and has zero qualms putting him on the field, but the team did trade for Hogan this offseason. The youngster comes from a major program (Stanford) and has played on Sunday. Hogan and Alex Smith have a brief history together, though that will likely not tilt the scales given McCoy and Gruden’s history together. I am led to believe the Redskins will keep the best player (likely only room for two quarterbacks on this team), which means Washington fans will be treated to one of our favorite past times: cheering for backup quarterbacks.
Biggest storyline heading into camp: It would be hard to overstate how important it is that Alex Smith starts strong and without any growing pains or adjustment period. He is a pro and Jay Gruden’s offense suits him perfectly. The two of them have been working together regularly and from all accounts, Smith has taken over this team. The proof will be in the pudding, and for once, the pudding might not be dumped into Redskins’ fans laps in September. Stay tuned.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp: Josh Doctson is a first-round receiver entering his third season. That is supposed to be (or used to supposed to be…you pick) the magical year for receivers. The guy has the size, speed and strength to be a number one in the league, but has yet to go out and do it. With the addition of Paul Richardson and the return of a healthy Jordan Reed--plus the arrival of a veteran signal caller--Doctson has been spared a ton of ink about whether or not he is “going to do it.” He needs a strong camp, and he needs to catch more than half his targets on Sundays. Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves having the “bust” debate, and that is no fun for anyone. The fact that we are as close to that conversation as we are without it worming into our brains makes it my under-the-radar nominee.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Jordan Reed (toe), Stacy McGee (groin). I would love to say both will be ready for training camp, but who knows? I hope Jordan Reed plays ZERO snaps in the preseason so he can play as many games as possible in the regular season (he has never made it through a full season). McGee is likely going to be needed as a major contributor on the defensive line, so I would expect him to be handled with care this August.
How many times do you think the Eagles will beat Washington this season?
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