The Redskins enter the 2019 season with a lot of question marks.
Where to start?
On the eve of the season, their All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams hasn’t reported yet. Head coach Jay Gruden is entering Year Six with only one playoff appearance to show so far. The team has two quarterbacks that are brand-new to Gruden’s system in Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins. The receiving corps has one guy who has started a game in the NFL.
Oh, and of the first five games, they face four playoff teams from a year ago, including the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
So you can understand why there isn’t much anticipation for this team on a national stage.
Offense Player to Watch: RB Derrius Guice
Jay Gruden said this week that the offense “will go through” the second-year running back. That means that Adrian Peterson will begin as the backup with Chris Thompson in the third down role.
Will Guice be able to stay healthy? He is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the first preseason game a year ago and has yet to see a regular season snap in the NFL.
In Guice’s lone action of this preseason, he showed flashes of what the Redskins missed without him last year (44 yards on 11 carries) and got everyone excited about the possibility of what could be this year.
The running back group is going to have to carry a lot of the offensive load due to the inexperience at the wide receiver position and the absence of Williams on the left side of the offensive line.
Keenum doesn’t have many weapons with a lot of game experience. Paul Richardson is the only wide receiver who has started an NFL game, while Terry McClaurin, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon have yet to even play in a game. Trey Quinn is the starting slot receiver after being the final pick in the 2018 draft and playing in only three games as a rookie. That’s good for second-most among the group.
Tight end Jordan Reed is another wild card in this offense. Reed had probably the best training camp of his career, but suffered a concussion in his only preseason action. He has been in the concussion protocol since then, but hopes to be cleared to play in the opener.
Reed has proved that he’s the number one option on offense when he’s healthy.
“He’s an elite player,” said Gruden on Wednesday. “He changes the game considerably for us.”
Then there is the quarterback question: Will Haskins see any game action this year?
A lot will depend on the early season and the progress of Keenum. If all goes well, then the Redskins will let Keenum play out the year and get Haskins ready for next year. If Keenum struggles, then there’s a possibility we see Haskins sooner than later.
Unfortunately, Colt McCoy’s ankle still isn’t right. He has been unable to practice for a few weeks was never really able to get in the middle of the quarterback competition.
While the offense has a ton of questions, the defense is a unit with the most upside it has had in quite some time. The potential is there for this to be a Top 10 defense.
Defensive Player to Watch: LB Montez Sweat
The defensive line is the strong point on that side of the ball, with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle anchoring the front four.
The team drafted Sweat to play opposite Ryan Kerrigan and brought in Jon Bostic to call the defensive signals in place of Mason Foster.
Sweat was taken in the first round as an edge rusher and should be a great compliment to Kerrigan. The 6-foot-6, 262-pound edge defender ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever at the NFL Combine by a defensive lineman, 4.41 seconds. That’s exactly what the Redskins need.
In the secondary, they brought in Landon Collins to play safety. That unit should be pretty deep with Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman and rookie corner Jimmy Moreland.
Moreland, a seventh-round pick out of James Madison, has turned heads since he was drafted. “The Peoples Corner,” as he was dubbed in camp, has a nose for ball and made plays day in and day out during the preseason. He has worked his way into a regular spot in the lineup.
Perhaps the most stable unit of all-time is the specialist group: punter Tress Way, kicker Dustin Hopkins and long snapper Nick Sundberg. This group has been very consistent over the past few years and fans should expect nothing less this year.
There are a lot of scenarios that could play out for this year’s team. They don’t waste anytime getting into the thick of the season with three division games in their first four weeks. If the offense can stay on the field, sustain drives, and put the ball in the end zone, the defense will have the chance to fulfill its potential.
If the offense can’t stay on the field and leaves the defense to spend a lot of time on it, then they could wear down and make it a very long year.
It’s just another year with a lot of uncertainty in Ashburn. Buckle up — it could be a bumpy ride.
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