NFL Power Rankings | 27. Washington Redskins
Prediction: 4-12, 3rd in NFC East.
SOME would agrue that simply the addition of Ron Rivera and a solid draft should call for a more generous prediction than a mere four wins for the Redskins -- they might be right.
Riverboat Ron is confident.
So much so, that he has proclaimed to the media that the turnaround in his side's fortunes could happen sooner than most expect. If so, the NFL schedule makers will be kicking themselves as the Redskins have zero prime-time games this year -- for the first time in 38 years!
Washington's faithful will love Rivera's optimism though and whilst there are many reasons to be positive, the roster remains incomplete and they are very clearly a notch below the two contenders in the division: annual foes the Eagles and Cowboys.
Positives include the NFL Draft. The Redskins came away from the draft with a strong haul including the top player in the nation, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
Young had an outstanding college career at Ohio State and comfortably graded out as the best player in the 2020 NFL Draft class. His rating remained stable throughout the entire year and was a no brainer pick for the Redskins, who sat at number two overall. His almost unparalleled athletic ability projects him as an instant starter and difference maker on what is already a strong Redskins DL. Young is able to attack the QB in a multitude of different ways thanks to myriad pass-rushing moves in his arsenal. Speed, lightning hands, polished technique and sheer strength, Young has it all. This is the kind of blue-chip prospect who does not need NFL combine testing numbers. He passes the eye test every time.
As stated, the 'Skins defensive line was already a strength of the team even before Young joined. In the long run he may become a replacement for Ryan Kerrigan, but immediately acts as a compliment to Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and the criminally underrated Matt Ioannidis. This combination projects as one of the league's best and are perfectly suited for the 4-3 defense that Rivera will introduce. They will notch a win or two by themselves and there could be two double-digit sack artists in the group.
Allen became a Redskin in 2017 as a marquee draft choice and has 14 sacks in his first two years in the league. He has also been excellent against the run and provides an inside-out threat that is invaluable alongside Ioannidis. Da'Ron Payne, Ryan Anderson (could stay as a linebacker in the 4-3) and Caleb Brantley round out an formidable group.
It will be interesting to see how the linebackers adapt to the new 4-3 scheme that Rivera and new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will look to install. 16th year veteran and new signing Thomas Davis Sr., will man the weak-side spot with ease having played under Rivera for years in Carolina and will provide a terrific role model for new fifth round draft pick Khaleke Hudson as well as depth pieces Shaun Dion-Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons. Davis Sr. will likely be backed up by Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Despite being a fifth rounder, Hudson has the opportunity to start right out of the gate at SAM. Hudson played the strong-side position at Michigan and the existing linebackers may take time to find their place in the new system. Having said that, Reuben Foster is the leading candidate for that role at present. Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb will compete for the starting middle-linebacker spot.
Washington's main problem on defense lies at cornerback due to the turnover they have experienced to their starters this off season. Fabian Moreau will be trusted as the number one corner in a system that saw Quinton Dunbar, PFF's 2nd graded cornerback in 2019, leave for pastures new. The declining Josh Norman has also departed. He will be replaced by the returning Kendall Fuller who will man multiple spots if necessary, but grades out highest in the slot. The inconsistent Ronald Darby is another new signing who will likely play outside.
Landon Collins and Sean Davis offer stability at the safety position and provide a nice combination of experience and athleticism respectively, at the back end of the defense.
Offensively, Dwayne Haskins is embracing being "the guy" in D.C. Ron Rivera has brought in Kyle Allen to be a familiar and reliable backup from Carolina in case Haskins falters but early signs this off season sound promising that Haskins is working hard to ensure that is not the case.
Rivera appeared unsure of Haskins at first but has assured the second year QB of his importance to the franchise and has complimented Haskins' poise and leadership since his initial assessment, pointing to Haskins' performance last season in a comeback win against Detroit. The fact that Rivera took Chase Young over Tua Tagovailoa should further fortify Haskins' confidence.
Haskins has reason to be excited thanks to the new toys from the draft he has been given to play with: the 'Two Antonios'. Antonio Gibson is a fifth-round draft pick and a Swiss-army knife threat as a runner, returner and receiver and Antonio Gandy-Golden could be a fourth-round steal out of Liberty with a pterodactyl-like wingspan.
Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon will be the perimeter receivers who will be looking to build on promising seasons with Steven Sims being given the chance to man the slot. Overall, youth and versatility is in abundance for Haskins and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner to begin to form an effective aerial attack.
Unfortunately, a massive weakness that could haunt Haskins is at tackle. Long-time franchise cornerstone Trent Williams has been traded to San Francisco for pennies on the dollar and fellow key lineman Brandon Scherff appears less-than content. Could Scherff move on before the season? He has been franchise tagged and it is likely that he will treat this as a 'prove it' year to earn a long-term contract either in Washington or elsewhere.
The best way for Scherff to do this may be to move to right tackle and replace the underwhelming Morgan Moses. Scherff was drafted at number 5 overall in 2015 originally to play the tackle position and appears to be looking for tackle money. This may be the best way for him to assert his case.
Wes Martin could replace Scherff at RG and Moses would remain as swing tackle. The center position is set in stone thanks to the highly competent Chase Roullier, who is also in a contract year. Wes Schweitzer has come from the Falcons and will provide decent depth at left guard whilst competing with Ross Pierschbacher.
An interesting camp battle could form on the blindside. Another steal in the draft for the Redskins was Saahdiq Charles. Charles has had his off field concerns, but has the talent to become the left tackle of the future for Washington unless veteran Cornelius Lucas beats him out. Either way, the position is a high-risk, high-reward question mark right now.
Rivera's Redskins are a work in progress and the home opener to Philly will be a yardstick as to where they stand. Can Haskins deliver? Is it conceivable for Alex Smith to play at some point if Haskins does struggle? Is Kyle Allen of the requisite standard if Smith can't go?
Adrian Peterson may be past his prime, but if runner Derrius Guice can stay healthy, then it will take some pressure off the young passer in his quest to be the franchise QB in D.C. Unfortunately that is a big if as the running back appears to be made of glass. Hopefully for the Redskins they can also find out what they have in the explosive Bryce Love who missed his entire rookie year due to a torn ACL prior to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ron Rivera will welcome his former team, the Carolina Panthers to FedExField in Week 16. It will be an emotional affair for Riverboat Ron but unfortunately it will come too late in the season for it to mean much other than premium draft position for both sides. 2021-22 will be the season where we see the true potential of the Redskins.
Current 2021 NFL Mock Draft Prediction: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State.