They have a veteran coach in his third season with his second NFL team with precious little to show for the first two years. They have a quarterback who had a breakout performance in his first extended NFL action. And they started the season with nobody expecting anything out of them.That is a description of the 2012 Redskins with Mike Shanahan coming off of 11 wins in two seasons and Robert Griffin III having a big game against the Saints in his NFL debut.But that also describes the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Dick Vermeil, who took the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 1980, had returned to coach the Rams in 1997 after a much longer hiatus than the one year that Shanahan took off. After not coaching in the NFL from 1983 through 1996, Vermeil took the reigns of the Rams and immediately left the impression that he should have stayed retired. St. Louis won five and four games in his first two seasons.But things were different in 1999 when Kurt Warner started the season at quarterback. He came into the opener against the Ravens with just 11 career pass attempts but he passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns as the Rams beat Baltimore. He went on to pass for over 4300 yards and 41 touchdowns that year on the way to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-NFL honors.I think you see where Im going here but Im not going to go very far down that road. The 2012 Redskins have some work to do before they become a 21st-century edition of The Greatest Show on Turf. Those Rams averaged almost 33 points per game, won their first six games, finished the regular season 13-3, and won Super Bowl XXXIV.The 99 Rams had a couple of assets on offense that this Redskins team does not appear to have. Alfred Morris might have a nice rookie season but hes no Marshall Faulk, who was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. And the Redskins dont have a receiver who is nearly as accomplished as Isaac Bruce was at that point in his career. Bruce was 27 that year and he already had posted a 119-catch season (1995) where he gained over 1700 yards.But the 99 Rams do serve as a reminder that a struggling franchise with an old-school coach can turn things around in a hurry with an injection of improved quarterback play. Again, the Redskins have a long way to go before becoming The Greatest Show II but stranger things have happened.
The Redskins will have to get through the season without Junior Galette, who suffered a second torn Achilles tendon in as many seasons. He won’t be easy to replace but they will have to line up and play 16 games without him just like they did last year.
Ryan Kerrigan, who had 9.5 sacks last year, will start at left outside linebacker as he has since he was drafted in 2011. Preston Smith, who was going to compete with Galette for the starting right side job, will now have that to himself.
Kerrigan had 13.5 sacks just two years ago and Smith has the potential to have that many. After that, however, the Redskins are quite thin.
Last year they had Trent Murphy starting 15 games at right outside linebacker. But he has been moved to the defensive line, adding around 30 pounds to make the position change. Even if the team wants to move him back to linebacker it may not be possible to have Murphy shed the weight.
Assuming Murphy stays on the line, the Galette injury could open the door for a few other players to get an opportunity. Houston Bates played in eight games last year, most on special teams. Willie Jefferson has been looking for an opportunity since he played six games for the Texans in 2013. And Lyden Trail is large (6-7, 270), athletic, and very, very green.
The Redskins also could use rookie Su'a Cravens, their second-round pick, to help out with outside pass rush. He could be of help in nickel situations but at 6-1, 222 he is not big enough to be effective defending against the run from the ouside linebacker spot.
Training camp is always important for young players but for this group the stakes just went sky high. We will see who responds starting in a few days.
Kyshoen Jarrett was one of the best stories on the Redskins last year. A 6th-round rookie from Virginia Tech, Jarrett found his way into an important role for Washington as the slot cornerback, and saw his playing time steadily increase throughout the season.
Then, in a meaningless Week 17 win over the Cowboys, Jarrett sustained a shoulder injury. But the shoulder injury wasn't the worst part as he sustained nerve damage that stunted his rehab.
In a move that surprised few who saw him this summer, on Monday the Redskins waived Jarrett with a failed physical designation.
From a football sense, the 'Skins secondary should still be much improved after the signing of free agent Josh Norman and drafting Kendall Fuller, another Hokie, in the third round this year. From a personal sense, the Jarrett news is sad to see, as coaches and teammates often said he was a hard worker with what appeared to be a good NFL career in front of him.
Jarrett played in 16 games last year, making 58 tackles to go with four passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Just days before training camp begins, Junior Galette again tore his Achilles and will be out for the year. Are there any edge rushers available on the gree agent market that the Redskins would consider?
One name stands out: Greg Hardy.
Though a disappointment on the field and a mess off of it for the last two seasons, few players in the NFL can get after quarterbacks like Hardy once did. In 2012 and 2013 Hardy combined for 26 sacks and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Undoubtedly Hardy's name carries a lot of personal questions. A lot. But that won't scare off everybody in the NFL - in fact, Hardy recently worked out for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The guess here is Washington does not even consider Hardy, but stranger things have happened.
Another name that will be mentioned is Dwight Freeney. At 36 years old, Freeney's best days are behind him, but the veteran was able to post eight sacks last year with the Cardinals. Arizona smartly deployed Freeney in a strict situational role, and if the 'Skins could come up with a similar plan, he might be a fit.
Beyond Freeney and Hardy, it's hard to see a current free agent that would be better than the Redskins options behind Galette. And given Hardy's history, it's unlikely he is an option.
Considering Washington won the NFC East last year without Galette, and second-year LB Preston Smith could continue to emerge after eight sacks his rookie season, it would not be a surprise if Scot McCloughan simply stands pat.