- Today, instead of ticking off a grab bag of offseason thoughts, I thought I would get us going with the things we all agree on—or at least the things that I think we should all agree on! I’ll gladly follow this up next Monday (a mere two days prior to the the official start of free agency) with where I was just dead wrong, and see if we can’t advance toward agreement in some fashion on those things. I wouldn’t call any of these predictions necessarily, as much as general ideas that enjoy at least some consensus. How much consensus remains to be seen.
- It’s “The Year of Jay Gruden.” I have damn near screamed this into my microphone the last month or so. After the departure of Scot “McLovin” McCloughan and now of Kirk Cousins, the best and only hope for success in the near term for the Washington Redskins seems to rest in the hands of the head coach. I understand that not every team has a head coach that should be the unquestioned leader. Further, plenty of owners fancy themselves to be the only people capable of saving their franchise from prolonged mediocrity. I think Dan Snyder has been one of those guys in the past, but if Jay Gruden can be the most important person with the greatest impact inside the building, I think that could very well be a recipe for success for all of us. If Jay Gruden is the leader of the franchise, that means that Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen are NOT sitting in that captain’s chair. Given he is the first coach the team has extended, and he has helmed one of the more productive offenses in the league during an era of unprecedented offensive production, Gruden at least has a chance to be that kind of head coach. For the Redskins, and for fans of the Redskins, I don’t see a better upside scenario than the one that features Jay Gruden as the driving force behind a successful 2018 season. It certainly bodes well for the future of the team if Jay Gruden cements himself as the reason for our success. On the flip side, for all you out there saying Gruden can’t be the guy, rest assured—if he is not the guy, he will be out sooner rather than later. I do think his seat is burning right now, and I do think he will be hanging out in the deep end of the pool without his Bruce and Dan water wings. Also, the Redskins aren’t replacing Kirk Cousins with a rookie, which typically buys a head coach time. They brought in Alex Smith, a classy pro, to steady the ship on the field. As one who leans optimistic, I will bet on Gruden to succeed, but this one is close. Real close.
- Our offense (and franchise) is best-served by the acquisition of a veteran quarterback as opposed to drafting a rookie and letting him sink or swim. While I feel like this should be universally agreed upon, I fear the opposite. The Alex Smith pickup is something that makes me believe more in point #2 above. I think the team is giving Gruden every chance to maintain stability on offense, while trying like hell to get the defense whipped into shape. If the team had decided to go the rookie route, it would mean that Gruden was a dead man walking I think. It would hurt the growth of the defense because they would likely be spending a lot more time on the field. It would damage what morale there is in the locker room of a club coming off of a 7-9 season. In short, Alex Smith is a stabilizing force that increases the probability of the team succeeding. Haha...this one is going to cause some comments.
- If the Redskins are handing the ball off to Samaje Perine on the first down of the 2018 season, we might be in trouble. I mean no disrespect to Perine, and I think the Redskins can enjoy some success if he is our starting running back, but this offense will not achieve its full potential if Perine is the #1 RB on this team. Chris Thompson, when fully healthy, is a key cog in the offense, but he needs a guy that defenses fear to complement him. In short, I don’t think opposing defenses fear Perine. There is a new breed of #1 RB in the NFL, and the Redskins don’t currently have a representative of that breed on the roster. It is a back with size, speed, hands, strength and a little bit of boogie in his step. It is a back that can get you one yard 99% of the time you need it, and one that can take a pass out of the backfield for a monster gain or score. Perine would be an eminently classy change of pace guy that could run the ball between the 40’s or even the 30’s to power the offense and help with time of possession. Samaje would be great at wearing down the defense and I’m not even afraid to hand him the ball with a lead to work the clock in the fourth quarter (unlike someone whose name rhymes with Pat Schmones). He failed to get that one yard last year more than once, and while he proved he could catch that pass out of the backfield, his greatest asset after the catch was delivering/absorbing a hit as opposed to being elusive and speedy (he was no Alvin Kamara in other words). This draft is loaded with running backs that could start for the Redskins on day one if the team went that route in the first or second round—it looks like there could be five running backs ranked in the top 50/55 prospects that you would pencil in as a starter for Washington (Barkley, Guice, RJ2, Michel, Chubb). I think the Redskins pick 12th in the second round, or #44 overall, and I don’t think five running backs have been taken inside that space in quite some time (Steve Shoup will be on the hook to predict if that will be the case this year on The Audible). Given that I haven’t seen the Redskins show great interest in paying running backs in free agency, the draft seems like the most likely source for this upgrade.
- Josh Doctson has to be The Man in 2018 for the Redskins to be a playoff team. I don’t even know if it’s a “thing” as much these days, but Doc is entering that magical third year for wide receivers. Historically, if it doesn’t happen this year, it might never happen. Fortunately for Redskins fans, #18 has flashed the kind of talent and ability that lends itself to bold proclamations about his third-year potential. Alex Smith is capable of getting production out of Doctson, and he is capable of getting it deep down the field. There are few quarterbacks as accurate as Smith when throwing the deep ball—Kevin Ricca has educated us all on those stats. I don’t know that Smith had any wide receiver with as big of a catch radius as Doctson in Kansas City last season (Travis Kelce is of course, a tight end). My guess (and hope) is that any difficulty transitioning from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith on Doc’s part will be mitigated by the fact that Gruden’s system remains in place and Smith is both smart enough and athletic enough to execute the scheme the way Jay wants it executed.
- Torrian Gray will be the reason why the Redskins are able to minimize the loss of Kendall Fuller. In particular, his work with Fabian Moreau this summer will hopefully be his Sistine Chapel. Moreau has the chops to start in the league, and though he may be looking up at Quinton Dunbar on a meaningless March depth chart, he is the guy the Redskins will be counting on the most in the secondary to turn the corner professionally. He has the size and athletic ability to be a difference-maker in either the slot or on the outside (he showed some raw athletic skills as a gunner on special teams last year that translate). One thing the Redskins have done the last few years is put solid position coaches in place. From Bill Callahan to Jim Tomsula to Torrian Gray, I think this is something that is paying off for the middle of the roster at key positions. The Redskins are able to develop their young talent and get them onto the field thanks to these position coaches in particular. It says here that Fabian Moreau will be this year’s winner of the “Morgan Moses Leap” award, turning into a legit starter that could really help with the pain of losing Kendall Fuller. (I suppose this is prediction-esque, so maybe I will theorize that we all agree Moreau is a starter in 2018?)
Do Redskins fans agree on these things as we near the official start of NFL free agency?