Since last offseason, I have been screaming for difference makers on the defensive side of the ball for the Washington Redskins; mainly along the defensive line and at free safety. 2016 free agency came and went without much fanfare, and this was much to the delight of many Redskins fans who had to endure the days of "trying to buy a championship" with overpriced, aging free agents. I was very skeptical when McCloughan signed Kendal Reyes, Ziggy Hood and David Bruton, but hell, what do I know. All anyone really seemed to care about at that point was the NFL draft; one that was HEAVY(all puns intended) with defensive linemen - the one position most fans agreed was our most dire need.
Then came the Josh Norman surprise! Wow, no one saw that coming. Our magical GM had just gotten our team one of the best corners in the league, and he was still in his prime! A chorus of cheers could be heard coming out of DC for weeks after his arrival.
The Redskins were set to return Breeland, who was coming off a solid sophomore campaign, and the thought of paring him with an All-Pro made fans giddy. The secondary was beginning to look solid. But still, we had no true free safety. Converted corner DeAngelo Hall was entering camp as the favorite, but he was coming off his first full-time season playing the safety position, so that was worrisome for many. Promising youngster Kyshoen Jarrett had suffered a bad injury against the Cowboys, and his future was up in the air. Bruton and Ihenacho were both strong safeties, and Will Blackmon was another veteran converted corner. Still, the future was looking bright as all eyes focused on the draft.
Now, what happened next will remain a team controversy for years to come...
The 2016 draft was loaded at a position of dire need for the Redskins - defensive line. The Redskins held the 21st pick in the draft, and one this deep with defensive line talent could surly yield us some fruit, right?
The 21st pick came, and we saw a trade. Ok,...interesting. This could yield us more picks to fix the sieve that was our defense. Then, just one pick later...BOOM, a wide receiver! Well, ok, we can justify this, as both Garçon and Jackson were set to become free agents in 2017, and both were making a lot of money with production that didn't match their salaries. Good thing here is the draft was deep, and we still had the 2nd and 3rd rounds to grab some impact defenders.
Our 2nd round pick turned out to be a mild shock, as McCloughan chose a hybrid safety/linebacker. Su'a Cravens was intriguing, that's for sure, but he came in with an undefined position, and looking back, it's even more confusing considering the kid didn't even play the position he's now supposedly destined for at all during his rookie season - strong safety. As for strong safety, we have those already, why not add another...all while guys like TJ Green and Vonn Bell remained available.
Well, the 3rd round HAS to yield us some defensive line help, right? I mean, guys like Maliek Collins, Andrew Billings, Jonathan Bullard, Adolphus Washington, Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway and Sheldon Day were still on the board. Wrong! We got an injured, and slightly undersized corner. But you know what, I liked the pick, because I thought Fuller was a late first round talent when healthy, so of course, I put my burgundy color glasses on, and considered it a value pick, even though we had just signed Norman, were returning Breeland and Dunbar(who ended the season on a high note) and signed Greg Toler. You can never have enough corners!
Anyways, long story short, we waited until the 5th round of the draft to take a defensive linemen - Matt Ioannidis from Temple. Great!
Now, hindsight is always 20/20, so it's easy to look back and point fingers after the season has ended...which I will gladly do!
Josh Doctson played in two games, with two receptions for 66 yards. He also gave Scot McCloughan a broken hand. Meanwhile, guys like Kenny Clark, Chris Jones, A'Shawn Robinson, and Jarran Reed went on to have solid rookie campaigns, each playing in at least 15 games, while guys like Vernon Butler and Austin Johnson really turned it on during the second half of the season. And guess what, these guys will only get better next year!
For the Redskins, we have a wide receiver who will essentially be starting all over as a rookie next season, as he all but missed his entire rookie season with injuries to his Achilles. We also have a "hybrid" player, who will essentially be learning a new position this spring, so he too will have to "start from scratch". Our slot corner, who was benched mid-way through the season for poor play, will undoubtedly get better, but one could say there were many other needs ahead of that slot corner in the third.
Biggest problem - we have no high-quality, young defensive tackles, linebackers or free safeties to nurture and mold this offseason. We SHOULD have had at least two drafted youngsters at those mentioned positions who are now entering their second year, poised for a breakout campaign. We have a 5th round project instead!
Considering two of Scots free agent picks are no longer on the team(Bruton and Reyes), and a key member of the defensive line is set to become a free agent(Baker), I'd say Scot certainly screwed the pooch with his 2016 off-season plan. Even if his draft picks would have went to fill other pressing needs like defensive line and safety, but made small overall impacts on the team, they at least would have had a year of seasoning under their belts, and would have likely been ready to contribute at a higher level in 2017. Instead, we essentially have two players who will be learning their positions almost like their are rookies again, and GLARING holes at defensive tackle, linebacker and free safety staring us in the face this offseason!
Being that Scot is a "draft first" type of guy, who likes to use free agency to fill in some missing pieces, he really has his work cut out for him in the 2017 draft, as he needs to find at minimum, two impact defensive starters who can contribute out of the gate at a high level if the Redskins want to improve upon a horrible defense from 2016. Seeing that usually takes a player at least a season to make a significant impact, we are already behind the 8-ball for next season.
But...it didn't need to be this way!
Is it fair to say, when looking in hindsight, that Scot McCloughan's 2016 offseason was a disaster? I think his broken hand will tell you a resounding YES!