Washington Redskins 2014-15 Team Preview
The Washington Redskins had little go right in its 3-13 campaign last year. After a coaching change, and the hope that the team remains healthy, a .500 season is actually within reach for this team.
The team’s inconsistency and Jekkyl/Hyde nature is the recipe for mediocrity, and not having a first round pick denied the Redskins the chance to add premier young talent.
Robert Griffin III had a tough year in 2013 and he was benched the final three games of the year, by a coach who was on borrowed time. The team will likely improve on last season’s disaster, but improvement is a relative term for a team that won just three games.
Odds to win Superbowl: 50/1
Odds to win NFC: 25/1
Odds to win NFC East: +375
Odds courtesy of Bovada
The offense has a new coordinator in Sean McVay. RGIII will be more of a drop back passer this season, and McVay will look to use his receivers more. Griffin is healthy now and no longer will wear the restrictive brace on his knee any longer. The lack of brace will help him throw harder and will give him the option of more deep passes. He’s likely to have a far better year this season, if only for that reason. Kirk Cousins will back him up, but he’s nothing more than a backup. He’s too turnover prone to be counted on for anything more. Colt McCoy is the third-stringer and threw 20 TDs and 20 INTs in his first two seasons with Cleveland. He barely saw the field in the last two seasons, and is unlikely to this year, either.
The running backs are exceptional given Morris’ production. He had a team-record 1,613 yards as a rookie and followed it up with 1,275 last year, even with a reduced load. He’s likely going to have over 1,500 this year and if he becomes a better pass option, he’ll be the complete back that this offense needs. Roy Helu brings that pass catching dimension and is a good No. 2 RB. Helu had 31 receptions last year. Fullback Darrel Young is a very good blocker and will help protect RGIII from pass rushing defenses.
Griffin has one very good thing going for him: the receiving corp the Redskins boast are very talented. Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson comprise a strong unit. Garcon had 113 receptions last season, but he’ll probably fall to 70-80 this season with more options for Griffin. Jackson should be an end zone option that Griffin will look to frequently, and he’ll be the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Roberts will battle for that No. 2 role, though. TE Jordan Reed is also a solid option, and he had 45 catches last year.
The OL is still shaky, though. Pro Bowler Trent Williams is really the only valuable OL player. The right side is especially poor with RG Chris Chester and RT Tyler Polumbus manning it. It leaves the offense almost destined to run left, and that’s just not preferable for diversifying the play calling. Third round draft selections Morgan Moses and Spencer Long may eventually help shore up this unit, but it’s going to cause problems for the present.
Somehow, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett retained his job. The Redskins retained four free-agent starters this offeseason, but the secondary lacks both talent and depth. LBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will look to rush the pass more this season.
The DL had just five sacks last season. Jason Hatcher should help remedy this, as he had over twice that (11) by himself last season with the Cowboys. Chris Baker will start at NT and he’s really just good for stopping the run. Stephen Bowen also excels at this. Bowen had just one sack last year, but six two seasons ago. The Redskins need that former production level badly. Clifton Geathers is absolutely enormous (6’8” 340) and will add some depth to the unit. It’s hard not to be excited about a guy that is that big, with great pedigree (nephew of Jumpy Geathers), but it will be a surprise if he can help save this defense.
At LB Orakpo and Kerrigan are a great sack duo. Orakpo was denied the $50 million extension he’d hoped for due to his pectoral injuries. He felt his 10 sack season in 2013 was sufficient to dispel any worries management had, but they may simply have been cheap about it, all things considered. Kerrigan had 8.5 sacks and with Hatcher at the end position, he’ll likely have even more this year. 2nd round draft pick Trent Murphy will be an additional pass rusher. Losing London Fletcher will leave a leadership void that someone will have to step up and fill. Perry Riley is the replacement in the middle.
The secondary was notoriously bad last season after allowing 478 points, 29 TDs and a 96.1 QB rating by opposition. Third down stops were next to nothing. DeAngelo Hall is the staple in the secondary, but he’s not a lockdown corner anymore. David Amerson will have to improve on his rookie season and Ryan Clark may still be good for something, even after 12 NFL seasons. Safety Brandon Meriweather was too inconsistent last season and will need to cover far better. The secondary will receive an ancillary boost though from Hatcher’s QB pressuring.
The Skins special teams were anything but special last year. Three punt returns and one kick runback were returned for TDs last season. The Skins returned for just 6.4 yards on punt returns and 20 on kickoffs.
Richard Crawford returning may help the punt returns, but there are no good options for kick returns. Kicker Kai Forbath converted 18-of-22 FGs and nailed all 26 extra points, while only missing once outside of 40 yards. 7th round pick Zach Hocker may be the kickoff specialist, though. A modest improvement in special teams play would still render the Skins horrible.
The Redskins actually don’t have the worst odds to win the NFC East; that honor belongs to the Cowboys. That alone should be considered some type of moral victory given how poorly the team played last season, but NFL players don’t really concern themselves with Vegas oddsmakers…The idea behind an improvement mostly lies in the fact that Griffin should be healthier and more able to realize his immense potential.
The Skins could win half its games this season, which is something the Cowboys have done for the past three seasons. But, when it’s really just a competition to avoid finishing last in the division, it stands to reason that the hopes may run too high after beginning the season against Houston and Jacksonville.