When Scot McCloughan became the general manager of the Washington Redskins, he came in with a plan - and it was one he wasn't afraid to share with the league.
Scot said the following shortly after he was introduced as our new GM:
"We want smart guys and we want tough guys...we want big, tough, nasty, strong guys." When discussing pass rushers he said, "I like big guys, long guys, length." "in Washington, we're going to draft these guys and we are going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We're not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32 and 33 year olds who have different plans. I think the best case scenario is you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own."
You can read my article about Scot's draft philosophies and the type of players he covets Here.
Well, move forward two years, and you are seeing a completely different team than we had two years ago in DC.
Let's start with the offense:
Scot stuck to his philosophy on the offensive side of the football, bringing in big, tough, smart and nasty players on the offensive line. His first draft pick as GM was Brandon Scherff, a 6'5" 320 pound tackle/guard from Iowa. Scherff was seen as one of the top offensive linemen in the 2015 NFL draft, and he optimized the philosophy Scot was preaching. In the 4th round, Scot went back to his philosophy once again, selecting Arie Kouandjio, a phone-booth type mauler at guard. All of a sudden our offense line went from a bunch of over-paid, under-sized veterans, to one of the younger, larger, more physical units in the league. Williams, Long(new starter), LeRibeus/Lichtensteiger, Scherff(new starter) and Moses(new starter) collectively, rank the Redskins offensive line as one of the biggest and youngest in the entire NFL.
Aside from adding size up front, McCloughan also chose to add some playmakers on offense in third round running back Matt Jones, and fourth round receiver Jamison Crowder. Both players were big contributors as rookies, and are expected to take on even larger rolls this season.
This year on offense, Scot used the team's first round draft pick on a 6'2 3/8" 205 pound receiver(Josh Doctson), who has the size, speed and mentality he covets. The team also gave Jordan Reed a huge contract that keeps him a Redskin for the next 5 years, while making him one of the top paid players at his position in the league. In addition to locking up Reed at tight end, McCloughan also re-signed blocking specialist Logan Paulsen and brought in the once dynamic Vernon Davis as a free agent. He also applied the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins, and is currently working towards a long-term deal with the team's signal caller.
Going into 2016, our team will have at least four returning starters along the offensive line, and a dynamic pass-catching pentad of Reed, Doctson, Jackson, Garçon and Crowder. Jones and Chris Thompson will also be counted on as weapons for Cousins both on the ground, and as receiving options out of the backfield - something that could not be said about last year's starter Alfred Morris.
This offense is going to be very fun to watch in 2016 and beyond!
Now, let's take a look at the changes on defense:
The 2016 offseason saw some drastic changes to the Redskins defensive unit. The changes may signify a slight shift in philosophy and scheme, as the Redskins appear to be going for more athleticism and versatility amongst the unit.
First, let's start with the biggest addition - Josh Norman. Norman, who was signed to a huge free agent deal after abruptly being released by the Panthers, is the first player selected as a first time All-Pro, to be released by his team before the start of the following season. The cornerback is in his prime, and fits perfectly into the scheme Joe Barry likes to employ in the secondary.
Some of the biggest moves, or should I say "changes" to this defense, are from players who were not re-signed by the Redskins. This, to me, tells just as much about our change in philosophy, as the new players that were brought in. The Redskins chose not to re-sign nose tackle Terrence Knighton, possibly signifying a move away from our traditional 3-4 look. They also let linebacker Keenan Robinson become a free agent, and re-signed two smaller, quicker linebackers in Mason Foster and Will Compton. Junior Gallette, who missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, was re-signed to add a dynamic pass-rush presence on the outside, and former outside linebacker and second round draft pick Trent Murphy has officially moved inside to begin his new career as a defensive lineman. Both Murphy and newly signed defensive linemen Kendall Reyes will be assigned the task of replacing Jason Hatcher, who the Redskins released a few weeks into the new NFL calendar year. 2015 second round pick Preston Smith will be counted on to extend the spectacular second half of his rookie season into 2016, to form a lethal trio of edge rushers.
In the secondary, the Redskins brought back veterans Will Blackmon and Duke Ihenacho, and signed David Bruton. Blackmon and Bruton all have the versatility to line up at a few different positions in the back end, and show the positional diversity the Redskins are looking for on defense.
2016 second round LB/S Su'a Cravens is the most interesting new addition to the Redskins. This new "hybrid" defender will give the Redskins a player unlike any they've ever had on defense. At 6'1" 228 pounds, and running a 4.68 40 yard dash, Cravens has the ability to be a sideline-to-sideline WILL linebacker in our 3-4, but he also has the versatility to drop into coverage as a box safety, where he can cover tight ends in the slot, and play underneath as a robber. He can even float to deep middle and play some over-the-top zone coverage, although this is not his strength. Combine his versatility with last year's fifth round pick Kyshoen Jarrett, who can play strong safety, free safety and slot corner, and you have some really unique options in this new-look defense.
My favorite pick in the 2016 draft may have been Kendall Fuller. I had him rated as a first round prospect, and I believe if he had been able to do a full workout for scouts at the NFL combine, or Virginia Tech's Pro Day, we'd have seen his name called in the later half of round one or beginning of round two. Getting him in the third was an absolute steal in my opinion. He can come in an be an immediate nickel corner(if fully healthy), and be groomed as a future outside starter if called upon.
The 4-2-5 hybrid look - 4 down linemen who can get after the passer, with 2 athletic linebackers, and 5 versatile defensive backs - could be a defense we see over 60% of the time in 2016. The versatility and skill of players like Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Kendall Reyes, Trent Murphy, and rookie Matt Ioannidis up front, combined with the pass rush presence of Kerrigan, Gallette and Smith, should give Joe Barry a lot of options to get after the passer. It should be no problem sending 4, even 5 defenders after the quarterback when you have guys like Norman, Breeland, Hall, Jarrett, Bruton, Fuller, Dunbar, Blackmon, Ihenacho and Cravens to mix and match on the back end.
If we need to be more physical up front in the red zone or in short yardage situations, we can convert back to our more traditional 3-4 look, with some thumpers like Riley, Spaight and rookie seventh round pick Steven Daniels coming in as linebackers, and dropping a guy like Cravens, Ihenacho, or Bruton down into the box as well to provide more physicality within the front 7.
On special teams, the Redskins can be considered much more athletic too. Free agent linebacker Terence Garvin, rookie Steven Daniels and Bruton should be immediate difference makers on a unit that has struggled over the past 5 years. We should also have back Niles Paul who was a special teams standout before injury last season. Ihenacho, Jarrett, Compton, and Blackmon could be key members as well.
Overall, Redskins fans have a lot to look forward to for the future of this football team. It's a team that may take you a bit to adjust to this season, but it's also one that should be a fun squad to watch for years to come!