- There will be ZERO spoilers in today’s Sixpack, so have no fear as you rumble through these ramblings. My son and I finally got to the theater to watch “The Avengers: Endgame” yesterday afternoon. I didn’t plan it this way, because saying goodbye to an era of Marvel movies was difficult enough without having to stare down the barrel of a “Game of Thrones” series finale last night. That double-whammy of era-ending entries from two of my all-time favorite entertainment vehicles has left me just a little bit verklempt. I know not everyone who reads this cares deeply about either the HBO series or the superhero movies that have dominated pop culture for the last decade, but it was quite the Sunday for many. Given that football tends to drive the agenda for the biggest Sundays on my calendar (next to church of course), it wasn’t lost on me that I had that gameday feeling of anticipation I so sorely miss from the fall. And yes, I did also have that feeling I get on Super Bowl Sundays...the one where you know that after the game ends, there will be a serious void for quite some time. To all of you feeling the effects of a “Game of Thrones” hangover today, regardless of whether you liked the final season (irregardless, even), I feel your pain. With both “The Avengers” and the “Game of Thrones” exiting stage left (in their current forms anyway), I find myself hungry for compelling drama and legit entertainment. It is the perfect opening for the beginning of another potentially fulfilling drama that can inspire us and keep us not just wanting more, but caring deeply for the characters and story lines. The Washington Redskins used to be that kind of uplifting, inspirational entertainment that had us on the edge of our seats. It used to unite us together under a blanket of positivity and excitement. We might all agree that the intrigue around the organization has sucked us all in to the show, but the blanket of positivity has morphed over time into a shroud of cynicism. Is it possible for this franchise to flip the script on this show and offer Redskins fans an honest-to-goodness story that can once again bind us into a happy, hopeful group? Maybe I’m still too emotional to lead this discussion...but no matter how much I love watching these shows/movies that ultimately come to an end, I love watching football as much or more, and the Redskins have a sense of “forever” that carries an inherent hope. On what shall we pin our hopes?
- Thanks for asking, Ken. Did you forget the Redskins just drafted a quarterback who is considered the “best in his class” by most experts with an opinion on the subject? Dwayne Haskins is as accurate a passer as any I have ever lusted for out of college. He steps up in the pocket the way you would expect a veteran to do, and he has the size to at least persuade us of a durability that is necessary in this league full of menacing defensive beasts. Oh, and boy can he spin that ball. For those of you who can remember the Jeff George Era here in D.C. (if you haven’t succeeded in completely repressing that memory), the arm strength is reminiscent. The main ingredient for any fall drama involving your football team—one with a chance for a happy ending—is a quarterback everyone can believe in (apologies to Robert Kraft). Rookie quarterbacks are not a breed of football player that you can just start depending on right away, but when you choose the right one in the first round, everything around him gets painted with a more optimistic brush. This fanbase has been treated to the worst version of this story inside the last decade. The ultra-high cost of Robert Griffin III, along with the team’s efforts to hype and market their prized asset, really soured folks on this particular kind of ride, but that is in NO WAY the fault of Dwayne Haskins. Thanks to the Redskins not having to trade up for a quarterback—and the ability to still land a pass rusher later in the first round—the Dwayne Haskins story has a TON of upside.
- For the last couple seasons, I have touted the presence of Jay Gruden as a real positive for this team/franchise. It isn’t that I am moving very far off of that stance, but I am taking a break from placing all of my eggs in the Gruden basket at this point. I love that we have been able to keep a coach past his first contract. It is a huge step for Dan Snyder (clap, clap, clap), and whether you like the move or not, the stability on the sidelines has at least made it possible for the franchise to grow. What I find interesting is that the Redskins, under Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen (and Doug Williams), don’t strike me as being extremely married to the long-term idea of Gruden. My only issue with that is they just drafted a rookie quarterback that they seem to have every intention of playing this year. It kind of feels like they have saddled Gruden with a tenuous situation under center for a season before turning to someone else to reap the future reward. The problem here isn’t just that they seem to be on the verge of giving Haskins two head coaches in his first two years—it’s that Haskins needs the next coach to want him. Not that the Skins would pull a full-scale Kingsbury and let a new coach torpedo a year’s worth of work, but...I have seen them do dumber things. If we believe that Gruden isn’t about to get the benefit of the doubt this season with a rookie quarterback, I have to believe that means he is going to demand that his offense takes a lot of chances.
- One of the hardest parts of getting hooked on a new show is suffering through that period where the writers are desperate to get you “connected” to core characters—ones they know are about to be integral to the plot. For the Redskins, the name of the game this year will be finding out on some new receivers. Even returning players like Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn still need some work to fully reach the masses inside Redskins Nation. A young guy like Cam Sims is garnering a ton of attention right now from Redskins fans, because folks believe that we haven’t found a corps yet and they are happy to churn players until we do. The rookies, Kelvin Harmon and Terry McLaurin, should benefit from opportunity out of the gate, and by the time you mix in a guy like Josh Doctson, you have the makings of a WR unit that could be both capable and likable. Juice (Kevin McLinton) continues to push the notion that Doctson will NOT be on this team when the season opens, and I have to believe he is being fed a reliable tip for him to double down on it like he has, but as it stands right now, the Redskins NEED Josh Doctson to play well in burgundy and gold this season. Consequently, HE needs to play well in a contract year, so that part of it works in our favor. I think we will be watching McLaurin in the starting lineup, and if he is the kind of player some of us think he is, he could be quite the story to follow. He could open things up for his fellow receivers AND he could be a leading reason why the team moves to Haskins. In Doctson, Richardson, Quinn, McLaurin, Harmon and Sims, the Redskins have me very interested. Of course, it could still go a lot of ways, but if you combine the last three points, you could say it this way: Gruden won’t be playing conservative ball this year, no matter who his quarterback is, and there is some real speed and ability in these wide receivers that could lead to a few fun Sundays.
- Terry McLaurin is going to steal a lot of ink this year on offense, I think. He just seems polished and ready to play ball at the next level. This could work on a number of levels for us, the fans of this fledgling drama. As much as you need wide receivers to play well in this league in 2019, football is still football. You need a ground game. The Redskins will be trotting out a good-looking group of running backs: Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson and assuming he is healthy, Bryce Love. All of us are going to be holding our collective breath until we actually see Guice on Sunday, but this foursome of backs is as good a group as we have had the good fortune of watching in D.C. for quite some time. Gruden’s offense can do all the things it wants to do with these guys, and they can do it interchangeably (to a degree). Bryce Love is going to be that classic preseason player that fans fall in love with in August because he will get reps (again, assuming health), but he should be safely in the team’s plans and could be contributing quality carries before the season ends. We love our running backs in town, but the success of an offensive player like McLaurin would be huge for this stable of backs. I mean, the success of any wide receiver would be refreshing and enjoyable, but McLaurin could really move the needle for this offense, and I feel like I haven’t appropriately over-hyped a rookie just quite yet.
- I was prepared to sell you on the idea of this defense as an absolute keystone of this new show we could be watching. Instead, we learned of the potential knee injury to Reuben Foster prior to this column’s publishing. Hmmmmm...this seems more like a rerun than a new episode. We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that news as it develops, but the Redskins will be back to being slightly thin at middle linebacker again it seems. If Foster is really that injured, it would be a major setback, but I can’t help but think that our season was not really on the verge of hinging on him saving us. On the other hand...this show has our undivided attention already!
Can Redskins provide compelling—and successful—drama this season...or will the same old tired plotlines continue to bore and turn away lifelong fans?