For the first time in three years, the Redskins made the playoffs. Quarterback Kirk Cousins led the team to a 9-7 record as well as a division title in the NFC East. Even with the playoff appearence, Washington has many holes to fix in the offseason.
It is challenging to remember the last time the Redskins had a consistent pair of safeties, and 2015 was no different. Washington brought in veteran Dashon Goldson, along with former Seahawk Jeron Johnson to compete with Duke Ihenacho. After winning the starting job, Ihenacho suffered a season ending injury. But instead of Johnson, rookie Trenton Robinson took the starting job, implying the former free agent’s third string role in the depth charts. As a whole, the Redskins’ secondary finished in the bottom half of the league in virtually every defensive passing statistic. Out of 87 qualified safeties, Kyshoen Jarrett finished highest for Washington at 54, according to Pro Football Focus. With both of their starting safeties over 30 years old, Scot Mccloughan will be forced to address those issues in the offseason.
Lacking depth at safety, the 2016 draft might not provide an immediate solution to Washington’s woes. When I look at the current safeties available in the draft, two jump out to me. Out of Maryland, Sean Davis has shown encouraging qualities in the past few years. Talented in run support, and also good in coverage versus tight ends, the Maryland alum is projected to be a third round pick. Though he played in the FCS division of college, Deandre Houston-Carson is still a projected fourth round pick. Houston-Carson is a former cornerback, and excels in pass coverage and special teams. Scot Mccloughan tends to draft bigger defensive backs, and both Davis and Carson are over 6’0.
Two years since London Fletcher retired, the middle linebacker corps had the worst season in recent memory. At the start of the season, Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley Jr. had the starting jobs, but they both became backups by the end of it. While filling in, Will Compton stepped up, displaying a strong future due to his hard-nosed playing style. With his poor play, and five million dollar hit against the Redskins’ salary cap, it is likely that Riley will be cut. Keenan Robinson is a free agent, and a return would be surprising. In April’s draft, look for Washington to select a MLB on day two.
A candidate with potential is Antonio Morrison, out of Florida. The 6’1 linebacker has great lateral quickness, and pass coverage is a strength for him, unlike Compton. A pairing of Compton and Morrison might take a little while to get going, but would be a very strong duo in the upcoming years.
Out of Kirk Cousins’ 27 touchdowns, only seven were thrown to wide receivers within the 10 yard line. Though talented, the trio of Pierre Garçon, Desean Jackson, and Jamison Crowder are all 6’0 or under, and rank 29th in the NFL based off of height. In today’s NFL, tall, explosive wide receivers such as Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, and AJ Green, are a necessity. Eleven wideouts have been drafted in the first round in the past two years, and eight of them are over 6’0.
This year, Laquon Treadwell should be extremely appealing to Scot Mccloughan. Out of Ole Miss, Treadwell is measured at 6’3, and has highly touted ball skills. His ability to create plays after the catch has also been praised by scouts. If Mccloughan were to wait till day three, 6’1 receiver Demarcus Robinson could be selected. Though his talent level is high, he has a multitude of off field issues. Projected to be a 5th or 6th round pick, Washington’s front office should still heavily vet the former Florida receiver. With Garçon and Jackson entering the final year of their contracts, getting ahead of the curve by drafting a tall wide receiver is advisable for Washington.
With defensive end Jason Hatcher contemplating retirement, Scot Mccloughan will be forced to address his defensive line during the off season. As of late, the defensive trenches suffered a lot of turnover, with four new faces in the top five for snaps. Brought in to be a presence in the run defense, Terrance Knighton was not nearly as effective as he was in Denver. At the start of the season next year, two out of three starters will be over 30, foreshadowing future issues with the d-line. By leading the “Capital Punishment” in sacks with 6.5 in 2015, Chris Baker is one of the lone bright spots for the Redskins defensive front moving forward into the 2016-17 season.
Washington could address this issue in many ways. Most likely, Mccloughan will draft
an end, or interior lineman in the first two rounds. Out of Alabama, Jarran Reed shows promise. Though he struggled with pass rush, the 6’3 tackle excelled in stopping the run game, which proved to be problematic for the Redskins this past year.