I went away to San Diego for a couple weeks. Whenever I plan a vacation SD is always at the top of the list. There is nice weather all the time over there, the people are friendly, the food is plentiful for my dietary preferences, and it’s just a good place to relax and unwind. I left to go there in a really good mood after the draft had concluded. Everyone probably knows I was a bit of a negative nancy with all of the events that transpired this offseason. I was all but convinced that Bruce Allen would sabotage all the offseason work done by McCloughan to complete his power play. I still hate how that situation unfolded and ended but I can’t blame Bruce Allen for sabotaging anything in relation to the players selected. My thoughts on each pick are below, the players selected, I believe, elevate the team to be able to take the next step, the question is can the players realize their potential and take advantage of every situation?
I’ve lurked a couple times and have seen some describe the fall of Johnathan Allen to the Skins at #17 as pure dumb luck. Well, that's definitely true as Allen was considered a top ten player if not top 5 in some circles. But then again, so what? Selecting Allen, future injury concerns and all was the right pick and kudos to Allen and/or Gruden or whoever made those decisions. The draft is a really fun time, it's full of speculation and pure guessing. Before the Allen pick was made I couldn’t believe the selection would come with both Allen and Foster on the board. In the comments, I think I even said something crazy like “Foster is 1a, Allen 1b”. After Allen’s selection, Foster continued to fall all the way to the end of the first round due to injury concerns and/or his diluted sample at the combine. In hindsight, Allen was the right pick all day between the two as he comes arguably with a better character and better head on his shoulders.
I lost my damn mind in the second round when Ryan Anderson was selected. I thought he had a good shot of getting picked at the end of the first round or before the Redskins second selection. I spent the night somewhat obnoxiously defending the pick to those who had not heard of him or who tried to compare him to Ryan Kerrigan (still, WTF?). Anderson is a football player through and through. He’s a lunch pail type guy that brings the toughness and attitude the team desperately needs. Not to mention he is the first true 3-4 OLB the team has drafted since the team switch base schemes under Shanahan. Anderson has been talked about a lot. I love him, you’re gonna love him if you don't already, and he is going to make a living wrecking QB’s in the division and beyond.
With the first two picks, the team without a doubt upgraded the defense, particularly the front seven. Those selections injected youth, passion, attitude, instincts for their respective positions, and most importantly leadership. We all remember the revealing interview Will Blackmon gave at the end of last season which basically called out the vets in the locker room for not providing enough leadership as well as calling out players who weren't willing to step into those roles.
In reality, I have no idea what big free agent acquisitions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain will contribute. I hated their signing and still do, but I can only hope that they outperform their past production and buck the trend that has plagued the team when it comes to FA defensive linemen. With Allen in the mix though, a young player whose hungry and has a lot to prove, I think an important tone will be set for all the defensive lineman and I hope other players like Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier can step up and carve out a significant amount of playing time for themselves in the rotation.
I was also ecstatic with the selection of Fabian Moreau in the third round. Some thought or think he was or is another Kendall Fuller with his recent injury. I’d call that assertion misguided for a couple of key reasons:
1. A torn pec is not a microfracture.
2. Kendall Fuller was considered a 1st round talent before his injury in a good CB class. Fabian Moreau was considered a 1st round talent before his injury in an exceptional CB class regarding talent and depth.
Moreau almost immediately becomes the best athlete in the secondary and definitely at the corner position. He provides great depth and can really push Fuller and Breeland for reps. I have the opinion that you can never have too many corners and I think that idea has been proven more times than not with this team whenever an injury happens. The Redskins have one heck of a young and talented CB corps now that includes an all pro and has two or even three young corners that could follow that path.
After all the hours I spent watching tape of players I did minimal work on Samaje Perine. I was too enamored with the shiny and troublesome player that was Joe Mixon to pay attention to Oklahoma’s other back. Perine’s selection over players like Marlon Mack, Joe Williams, and Jamaal Williams leave no question about the type of running game Jay Gruden wants to employ. Speed is not the primary concern, taking it to the house is not a priority. The Redskins run game aims to wear defenses down by playing with physicality and grinding out the tough yards. The emphasis is put on pass protection and occasionally catching out of the backfield. I love the selection after watching more and I think Perine is going to be a nice compliment to Fat Rob and Chris Thompson.
When the Redskins picked Montae Nicholson with their second 4th rounder. I was scratching my head a bit and still am. I enjoyed Aaron Lesher’s profile on him but I wasn’t blown away with Nicholson’s skills particularly in coverage. His athletic numbers are no doubt impressive and I have to think Torrian Gray thinks he can teach him how to cover with more consistency. I also think the team really wanted to get a safety that had a chance to contribute this year and considering the board (Tedric Thomson, Eddie Jackson, and Rayshawn Jenkins went back to back to back 9 picks earlier) I can see why they made the move. I hope Nicholson can make an immediate impact on special teams as a gunner but I also don't think he is a terrible option as a backup under Su’a Cravens.
When I wrote my draft profile recap I had a small blurb on the importance of the Redskins selecting a player from three historically deep positions groups this draft: CB, RB, and TE. The skins completed that trifecta by selecting Jeremy Sprinkle. Not unlike my thoughts on Montae Nicholson, I wasn't blown away with the selection but I recognize Sprinkle has all the tools you want out of your TE if he can be developed. Like Nicholson, I think the team wanted to get the last young player at the position that could contribute this year (Jordan Leggett went 4 picks before, and Jake Butt and George Kittle went 8/9 selections before Sprinkle). This is arguably bad news for Derek Carrier or Niles Paul but I love the competition added to the position in the selection of a player that can catch and block.
The late round selections of Chase Roullier, Robert Davis, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and Joshua Hosely are as good as it gets in the later rounds. I am strongly encouraged by the direction of the team with these late round selections because historically I feel they have been toss aways. This doesn't mean that every draft pick will make the final 53 but all of them fit a clear mold set out by the staff that they stuck to all the way to the last pick. This is what smart teams do. This is how playoff contenders are built.
I believe, the Redskins have all the key pieces in place this year to make a deep playoff run. I’m talking NFC championship deep. This year the excuse is not depth, or size, youth, or passion the key will be players young and older stepping up and claiming leadership responsibilities. The vets have to mentor the young players. The young players have to aspire to play just as well as the vets in year one. The coaches have to put the players in positions to succeed. If you want to run a smashmouth type run game that centers on wearing down an opponent don't give up after 15 carries. If you want to force big plays on third down trust in your talented secondary and don't play 15 yards off on 3rd and 4. For the love of God, in the red zone, try a fade, once. But attempt to punch it in with your big backs.
Of course, there are still some questions on the roster namely LG, ILB (outside of Zack Brown), and in my opinion McGee and McClain. But all teams even those that win super bowls have holes at certain positions. What separates them from teams exiting the playoffs after the wildcard (or making it to that point) is the chemistry on the team and the will to execute and work as one. That includes lifting each other up and pushing themselves to get the job done. The focus on improving the defense was very clear this past draft. The focus should now include getting those top 5 or 6 draft picks ready to play and contribute in tandem with the talent already on the team.
Most of us could deduce that the Redskins will once again depend heavily on the offense. I have the utmost faith in Kirk Cousins to deliver another Pro Bowl caliber season and I think the combination of Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder could pose one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the league. Pair that with hardnosed running from Perine, Kelly, and Thompson and hopefully a renewed commitment to use them in the red zone and the Redskins could realistically average around 27/28 points per game which could put them in the top 5 of the category. It then falls to the defense to protect those points and the team has certainly upgraded across the board to improve the run defense, the pass rush, coverage, and pressure on third downs. This is what it will take to defeat teams like Dallas/New York or Green Bay/Seattle.
If everyone does their job consistently and they play with poise and confidence, including the coaches, the Redskins can make it to the NFC Championship this year.
What will be the biggest factor in the Redskins getting over the Wildcard hump and making a playoff run?
This poll is closed
The offense (QB play, and commitment to the run game)
The defense (run defense, rushing the passer, and creating turnovers)
Leadership, execution, and passion from the players.
The coaches and the strategy implemented from week to week.