The 2016 Redskins had every opportunity to win 10 games, and secure their second straight playoff appearance. Some ill-timed mistakes, and frankly, some bad luck, kept the team from achieving that goal. Despite a tough schedule, the Redskins were in almost every game that they played, with a chance to win it in the end.
This years team has a much different look; especially on defense where there will be three new starters along the defensive line, at least one at outside linebacker, one at inside linebacker, and two at safety. Sometimes roster turnover can be viewed as a negative thing, but for the case of the Redskins defense, who was atrocious at stopping the run in 2016, and not much better against defending the pass from the safety position, change couldn't come soon enough.
The addition of first round pick Jonathan Allen up front should provide the team with a presence along the defensive line that we have not had here in D.C. in what seems like decades. Allen is a scheme diverse defender who can stay on the field all three downs, and excels at both stopping the run, and rushing the passer. Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee should compliment Allen nicely on the interior.
At OLB, the Skins will have to have a player step up into a bigger role for at least the first four games, as 2016 starter Trent Murphy will be serving a four game suspension to start the season. They are hoping that player is Preston Smith, but Junior Galette and rookie Ryan Anderson are waiting in the wings.
The secondary looks to improve on some inconsistent play in 2016, especially at safety, and newcomer D.J. Swearinger will look to set the tone on the back end with his attitude, athleticism and big-play ability. Converted linebacker Su'a Cravens will line up next to him, and his ability to play in the box, or in coverage will be a welcome addition to the unit. Both Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller look to build off seasons that saw them struggle a bit in coverage last year.
The Redskins offense returns all five starters along the offensive line, and that unit is widely regarded as top 5 in the NFL. The maturation of center Spencer Long, and the health and effectiveness of left guard Sean Lauvao, will go a long way in determining success for the offense.
At receiver, the 2017 Redskins take on a whole new look. Gone are two 1000 yard producers in veterans Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson, and enter Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick, who give the team much needed size and youth. Second year receiver Josh Doctson finally looks healthy, and is expected to contribute right out of the gate with his size, speed and exceptional athletic ability. Third year stud Jamison Crowder is developing into one of the most dangerous slot receivers in the game, and will be looking to improve on solid numbers from 2016, where he lead the team in receiving touchdowns. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Niles Paul and rookie Jeremy Sprinkle give the Redskins plenty of weapons at tight end.
At running back, we may see another changing of the guard, as rookie fourth round pick Samaje Perine enters the competition with second year back Robert Kelley. Perine is the perfect power back for Jay Gruden's offense, and the Sooners all-time leading rusher will have every opportunity to showcase his talents and ability this preseason.
The team knows what they have in quarterback Kirk Cousins, and locking him up with a long-term deal before the July deadline could go a long way to securing this team's success for the future.
I see tremendous improvement in many key areas of this team, and despite a difficult schedule, and an even more competitive division, I believe the Redskins have the talent to be a 10+ win team in 2017.