- Sports has a way of reminding you sometimes that you don’t...know...jack. That is, of course, unless you have South Carolina in your Final Four bracket (uhhh...I don’t). Redskins fans are certainly no strangers when it comes to bearing witness to unthinkable outcomes. From the Scot “McLovin” McCloughan fiasco to the Kirk Cousins contract saga—to name but two storylines that have wandered across the border into foolish territory—the burgundy and gold faithful are well-versed in the absurd. I enjoy the reminder provided to us by the Gamecocks that sometimes absurd can end up being incredibly satisfying and glorious. I remain open to the possibility that this kind of ending is what may be in store for the 2017 Redskins. After all, we are talking about a team that is bringing back its franchise quarterback, that brought in a few new pieces on defense and that is on the verge of adding a handful of players in the top four rounds of the NFL draft. As much as I would have liked the idea of Pierre Garcon sticking around, I am not one who believes the loss of both him and DeSean Jackson will result in giant steps backward. Here are some potentially fun reasons/thoughts as to why this could be true.
- There are some huge unknowns from a personnel standpoint going into the 2017 season, but three players in particular could make or break the Redskins and their chances at keeping the train on the tracks. Josh Doctson, Su’a Cravens and Kendall Fuller—the team’s top three draft picks from a year ago—are going to get their chance to make an impact on our season right out of the chute. As Steve Shoup pointed out on The Audible, Doctson remains a top wide receiver prospect, noting that if he is healthy, he is capable of dominating at the pro level. Cravens should also start the season healthy and with a different role in the defensive backfield, it remains to be seen what kind of mark he on the verge of making. As Kevin pointed out on our podcast, Fuller’s microfracture surgery was always going to cost him the better part of a full year in terms of recovery. He gets a bit of a pass on his rookie performance because of that, but his sophomore season needs to be on point. I feel like Chris (aka ih8dallas) would be upset if I also didn’t mention Steven Daniels here. What would be more absurd than a seventh-round guy coming off of injured reserve in his second season and seeing the field at a position where we have to get better? I understand that it is asking a lot for these second-year guys to fuel the upside on our season, but on an individual basis, there is reason to believe each of these players can make the guy who drafted them look very smart. (That would feed into the absurd rather nicely, wouldn’t you say?)
- As much as I love free agency, I kind of gave up on the “savior” free agent signing a long time ago (Dr. Cerrato cured me of that condition). As I just mentioned, I don’t think losing DJax and Pierre is a death blow to our chances of winning, but someone is going to have to step up. Doctson is one candidate we will be watching closely, but Terrelle Pryor has to be viewed as one of the most interesting free agents the Redskins have signed in some time. At 6’4” and about 225 pounds, he is one of the biggest receivers many of us have seen wearing burgundy and gold for some time. He is still a bit raw in terms of his body of work at the wide receiver position, a situation muddied further by virtue of the quarterback situation he endured in Cleveland. Prior to the Redskins securing his services for 2017, I heard more than one talking head speculate that Terrelle has the ability and opportunity to stand at or near the top of the heap—league-wide. One thing we probably know: Kirk Cousins is going to like throwing to this guy and will probably look to do so often. Pryor had 140 targets last season with rotating quarterbacks, so it isn’t hard to envision him seeing at least that many in 2017 if he can develop some chemistry with Kirk.
- Just to put a fine point on the difference between our receiving corps in 2016 and the one we have in 2017: this year’s starting group figures to be a lot bigger. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Doctson and Pryor all stand well over six feet tall. Jamison Crowder does not, but his game draws from his size as well, which kind of fits into this line of thought. Clearly, we are all thinking the same thing: the red zone has to be friendlier to us this season as a result of so many big receivers, right? We shall see, and it does say here that we will have better results inside the 20-yd line, though Brian McCarthy might take issue with my suggestion that size alone will dictate that improvement.
- Remember when we all got so excited about Bill Callahan joining the Redskins staff? I know in recent weeks, commenters have mulled whether or not our increased effectiveness along the offensive line has been due to increased talent and less about Callahan. I would argue the coach has had a huge impact on our offense, coinciding with an injection of talent. On the other side of the ball, we have a similar phenomenon taking place. Jim Tomsula is our new defensive line coach, and like Callahan, he is respected in league circles for his ability to whip a group of players into a cohesive and effective defensive line. His record as a head coach is, ummmm, worse than Bill Callahan’s (maybe that means he will be an even BETTER position coach!?!). I don’t think anyone would quibble with the fact that the Redskins entered this offseason needing to substantially improve the talent level along the d-line. Losing Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois hurts a bit (they were core contributors and fan favorites), but we all expect the team to add a starting caliber defensive lineman (maybe two?) in the draft. Newcomers Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee might not blow our skirts up, but that is where the new coach comes in. Theoretically, these guys were approved by Tomsula to bring in and work with, making me feel like the ceiling for our defensive line HAS to be higher than it was in 2016 (where it felt more like a crawl space). If we are lucky, in a year from now, we will be debating whether or not our defensive line’s success is more the result of talent or coaching.
- This week on The Audible, we will continue the healing process while focusing on the draft and the extended free agency possibilities. Remember, it was almost exactly a year ago when the Redskins signed Vernon Davis. Who do you think would fit the bill in terms of replicating that kind of signing? The player has to have some seasoning but still a bit of upside, and he has to fill a need. He almost certainly won’t be the “best” player still available, but he would come to Washington with a realistic chance to log meaningful snaps. I think this is the period of free agency where you find a player that really cements the approach to one of your top draft picks. For example, if the team were to somehow ink a late free agent at the linebacker spot, it might elevate another position ahead of LB in the first or even second round of the draft. It is worth repeating how this dynamic is all of a sudden different for us with Bruce Allen in charge. McLovin was more likely to take the best player available when it was his turn to pick almost no matter where that player lined up. I think Bruce Allen is less BPA-oriented, and could look to shore up the talent at specific positions not adequately addressed in free agency. I suppose you can include how you would imagine our draft would be impacted by your free agent choice, if you think that way at all. Thanks as always for being part of the conversation, and I’ll be looking to include your comments in the show. Here is last week’s show, complete with one of our better musical intros, and proving that whiskey really does enhance the experience of rooting for this team!
The dead zone between the first thrusts of free agency and the draft feels a bit like the eye of a wonderful storm.