- With the Wizards and Capitals having had their seasons painfully terminated over the last couple weeks, the Washington Nationals are the only D.C. team in action these days. I understand that not all of you root for just D.C. teams, but I trust you all can relate to the feeling that comes with the ebb and flow of the sports calendar. I’m not sure if losing in two Game 7’s in less than seven days is more ebb or flow, but it hurts pretty bad. After giving a team your full attention for 82 regular season games (NHL and NBA), postseason drama cuts deep. It’s times like these that make me so appreciative of the NFL. As much as I love the Wizards and the Capitals, their offseasons aren’t nearly as meaty as the Redskins offseason. When nursing wounds from the finality of these other seasons, there is something rather therapeutic about hanging on every move made in the Redskins offseason. Despite writing year-round about the Redskins, I still sometimes find myself forgetting how large football looms over us all in terms of sports consumption (draft parties, free agency binge-watching, OTA frenzies, etc.).
- Even though we find ourselves a few months away from the true precipice of the 2017 NFL season, the buildup to it really does start at the end of the NBA/NHL Finals. At least for me it does. I feel like that kind of explains why the NFL season is such an amazing time of year for sports fans in this country. There is really only baseball competing for our attention spans, and in this age of over-stimulation in terms of screens and news, that is hardly enough to keep us from foaming at the mouth heading into September. As excited as any of us might get for the start of any other professional sports season, can you really compare that to the opening of the NFL season? Let’s make that the first question of the day: Do you look forward to the beginning of any other sports season more than the kickoff to the NFL season?
- Sticking to the theme of different sports meshing together this time of year, the conversations surrounding the exits of our favorite hockey and basketball teams mirror those of ones we have been having about the Redskins since they closed out their 2016 campaign. One of the biggest questions asked by fans at this time is: Which player will be the most surprising subtraction from this roster before next season? As this pertains the to the Redskins, we are a bit further down the road, but let’s keep this idea in focus. Let’s take out a few names that we have all batted around for the last few months: DeAngelo Hall, Shawn Lauvao and Matt Jones—some of these guys might make the team....some may not. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon were prominently discussed in the days and weeks following that week 17 loss to the Giants as well. Of the men left standing—and excluding Kirk Cousins!—which player on our roster might be the most surprising subtraction from our team before we open the 2017 season?
- A perfect example of the gift that is the NFL this time of year: proposed rule changes. Two rule changes that are getting a lot of ink are the overtime and injured reserve rules. Having sat through one of the longest sporting events in the 21st century (Redskins vs. Bengals in London), I feel like we can lend a voice to the overtime rule tweak. Basically, the league wants to move to a 10-minute OT frame, instead of the current 15-minute fifth quarter. Everything in the name of “player safety” gets extra love from the rules committee these days, and while five less minutes of football would certainly qualify as something that promotes a safer work environment for players, where does everyone stand on this possible change? On one hand, I actually like the way ties impact the playoff picture as the league marches toward the postseason. A regular season tie decreases the probability that a tie-breaker rule would have to be employed to determine playoff qualification. I thought it really spiced things up for the Redskins down the stretch last season, leading to the win-and-you’re-in scenario we faced against New York. As I repeated often down the stretch last year: a tie helps a good team and hurts a bad team. Aside from this, what are your thoughts on the possible change to a 10-minute overtime?
- The other rule change that I find pretty exciting is the change to a rule that currently allows teams to activate one player from the injured reserve. The new rule would allow two players to be activated from the injured reserve. For teams that find themselves the victims of overactive injury bugs, this provides the ability to recover in-season from the temporary loss of top talent. We all remember last season when Josh Doctson was finally relegated to the IR in mid-October, making him technically eligible for a return in week 15—the team activated Kory Lichtensteiger instead. I’m not suggesting that Doctson would have been the difference in making the playoffs versus missing the playoffs, but we can all agree that the possibility of getting your first-round pick back with a meaningful game or two to play is the kind of thing that adds excitement in the stands and the locker room. This rule change is likely to be ratified, and the added roster flexibility is on the way! I can’t imagine anyone is against this measure, though I will give you this: the Redskins will almost CERTAINLY be the team that gets to play an opponent this season that is getting back a fresh Pro Bowl-talent off the IR.
- I would like to close out today’s Sixpack on the defensive side of the football. After finishing 28th overall in total defense last season, the Washington Redskins will be putting a unit on the field consisting of a handful of players under the age of 25, coached by a brand new defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and secondary coach. History suggests things take a little bit of time for a group like this to click, but the good news for Redskins fans is that even a small amount of clicking would likely represent a positive change. I am not here saying that we are about to witness the reincarnation of the ‘85 Bears, but the kind of improvement we can reasonably expect should be enough to matter in the W-L column. It would be hard to overstate the potential impact that Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson could have on this unit, and both Zach Brown and D.J. Swearinger represent upgrades for us in areas of need. I suppose the best way to kick this discussion to the comments section would be to ask: What are your most reasonable expectations for this Redskins defense in 2017? We all know VERY WELL how our season could have been different had our defense made even just two or three more plays late in games. I think we have the makings for a unit that can make those extra plays. Even more, I feel like we have the makings of a defense that is going to be able to get off the field a few more times throughout games. I think that while we wait for a group of young players to make their way to their full potential (which could take a year), we will still see the kind of improvement that matters in games.
The sports calendar can be cruel to the DC fan, but there is always the hope that accompanies a Washington Redskins offseason!