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2008 Redskins: Stuck in the muddled middle

2008 Redskins: Stuck in the muddled middle

A lot of things about the Washington Redskins will be different in 2008. There is the new head coach in Jim Zorn and a new offensive coordinator in Sherman Smith bringing in a new offense. The West Coast scheme has a new approach, increasing the emphasis on passing and utilizing less of the power running game that Joe Gibbs preferred.

There is a new defensive coordinator in Greg Blache. By and large he will take the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, keeping the same basic scheme that Gregg Williams used to bring three top-10 performances in the last four years. But Blache is certain to put his own stamp on the defense and there will be differences, most of which will be unveiled starting Thursday night in the Meadowlands.

There are a lot of new players, 15 of them to be exact. Ten of them were drafted as 100% of the team's draft class made the final cut.

But for all the change, things will look very familiar when the team takes the field in Giants Stadium. Of all of those new players, only defensive end Jason Taylor is slated to start, and he might not due to a sprained knee. Rookie Durant Brooks will be handling the punting duties. Stephon Heyer will start at right tackle in place of Jon Jansen, but Heyer started there the last five games of 2007, so that's nothing new.

So what will all of this change add up to in 2008?

The best-case scenario has the team grasping the new offense quickly and getting up to a reasonable level of proficiency in a hurry. Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts keep things rolling on the ground while Jason Campbell fine tunes his game. Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas get into the act by Halloween given the Redskins the deepest, most versatile receiving corps in the game.

The Taylor-Andre Carter defensive end tandem becomes one of the most feared in the league. The added pressure on the opposing quarterback leads to the defense getting takeaways by the bucket, setting up a lot of confidence-building short drives by the offense.

The Redskins stay reasonably healthy and Zorn is portrayed by the media as a quirky genius. They pull off a few upsets, win most of the games that they should win, and finish 10-6. They win a Wild Card playoff game and go into 2009 as a team on the rise.

The worst-case scenario has the team being out of synch offensively from the get-go. With little threat of the pass, opposing teams crowd the line of scrimmage and Portis and Betts can't get untracked. The defense holds its own early in most games but the same fourth-quarter collapses we have seen too many of over the past several years persist because the offense can't put away the opposition.

The Skins suffer a few key injuries and Zorn is portrayed by the media as being in over his head. They go 1-5 in the tough NFC East and stumble to a 6-10 record.

And so it goes. For all that is new and different about this team, the Redskins remain where they have been for the past 15 years. They are in the muddled middle of the NFL. They could have a few things go right and get a fifth or sixth playoff seed. Or some things could go wrong and they could be picking fifth or sixth in the '09 draft.

Given that, it says here that the Redskins will go 8-8 this year. They will start off reasonably well as opposing teams see Zorn's version of the WCO for the first time. Let's say 3-2 in the first five games, winning the home contests and pulling a road upset against one of the division foes.

Once the other teams have enough on film to counter Zorn's schemes things will get tougher. They stumble somewhat against what should be a soft spot in the schedule, going 1-2 against the Rams, Browns, and Lions.

Standing 4-4 at midseason, their play improves but the opposition gets tougher and they go 1-3 while facing four 2007 playoff teams in Pittsburgh, Dallas, Seattle and the Giants.

In a script familiar to Redskins fans, they have a good December, going 3-1 to finish off the season.

It's possible that 8-8 will get them into the playoffs in the NFC. The way things worked out last year, the Redskins could have lost to Dallas in that last game and they still would have been the sixth seed at 8-8.

Still, the playoffs are an unlikely destination for the 2008 Redskins. They will go into 2009 still in search of the keys to breaking out of the mediocre NFL pack.

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Over/under: Redskins pass catchers in 2017

Over/under: Redskins pass catchers in 2017

Our offseason over/under predictions for the Redskins rumbles on.

Today we are predicting the numbers involving the Redskins pass-catchers.

Redskins receivers/tight ends over-under

The Redskins’ receiving corps was forced to undergo some changes after top wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon departed via free agency.

How will their replacements do?

How will the talented holdovers perform? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins pass catchers stats.  

RELATED: OVER/UNDER - KIRK COUSINS

WR Terrelle Pryor, 1,000 receiving yards

Tandler: I know that a lot of people, including Finlay, are looking for a huge year out of Pryor. I think he’ll do well, but a thousand yards is going to elusive. He did go over 1K last year with the Browns with terrible QBs throwing to him. But Pryor also had the benefit of being one of few viable receivers in Cleveland. That’s not the case here. He won’t get anywhere near the 140 targets he got last year. Under

Finlay: Not sure when I said a huge year for Pyror, that seems like Tandler throwing shade, but I do think he is capable of 1,000 yards. The quantity of targets will certainly drop, but the quality should be much greater. In today's NFL, 1,000 yards is no longer the benchmark it once was. The bulk of the league deploys a pass-first offense, and the Redskins definitely do. 25 wideouts went over 1,000 yards last season, including two on the Redskins. Over 

RELATED: WHO IS NEXT AT QB FOR THE REDSKINS?

WR Josh Doctson, 6.5 touchdown receptions

Tandler: When Kirk Cousins sees how well the 2016 first-round pick can get up and high-point the ball Doctson will immediately become the favorite red zone target. I’ve predicted as many as 10 TDs for him this year. That’s bold, perhaps crazy, but I feel safe going with at least seven. Over

Finlay: 10 TDs for basically a rookie wideout is nuts. You're talking Odell Beckham/Randy Moss production. Doctson does have great size and potential for the red zone, but I need to see before I believe. Only Jamison Crowder got to seven touchdowns in 2016, and that was with Kirk Cousins throwing for nearly 5,000 yards. Under

RELATED: OFF-FIELD MISTAKES WON'T IMPACT ON-FIELD RESULTS

WR Jamison Crowder, 1,000 receiving yards

Tandler: This is the safest bet on the board. His familiarity with Cousins will make him a security blanket when the quarterback gets in trouble. He’s learning and getting better; he ticked up almost 250 yards and 2.5 yards per catch between his rookie and second seasons. And Crowder is durable. Over

Finlay: I like this one. Crowder went for about 850 yards last season, a jump of about 250 yards from his rookie season. Another year with that improvement gets him past 1,000 yards with room to spare. Early last season, Crowder was the 'Skins best receiver. He posted more than 500 yards before the Redskins bye week. In the second half of the year, the focus shifted to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, which probably wasn't a coincidence as both players demanded the ball knowing they were headed for free agency. I expect Crowder to steadily produce all season in 2017. Over

RELATED: OFFER TO COUSINS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH

TE Jordan Reed, 12.5 games played

Tandler: Although we’re hesitant to make predictions about a player’s health, the fact is that this is the only variable for Reed going into the season. If he is on the field he will produce receiving yards and touchdowns by the bushel. Injuries, not defenses, are what slows him down. He skipped OTAs to spend more time strengthening his body and the results should show. But bad luck happens so this is a tough call. He’s due for some good fortune. Over

Finlay: Tandler is setting these totals with Vegas-like precision. This one is tough. In the last two seasons, Reed has played in 26 games, making 17 starts. I would argue the more important stat is starts, because that's when Reed is actually healthy. Last season, after separating his shoulder against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Reed tried to gut out a few performances against the Panthers and the Eagles. He was ineffective in both, yet those count for games played. In nine starts in 2015, Reed was a monster, putting up nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Starts are what matter, and the Redskins should hope for at least nine of them. Under

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FINLAY: Redskins' statement was a mistake, but won't impact on field results

FINLAY: Redskins' statement was a mistake, but won't impact on field results

The Redskins made a mistake issuing a statement about their failed long-term contract negotiations with Kirk Cousins. The team offered too much specific information.

On the field, however, starting next week in training camp, the statement will make zero impact.

Centered around the roller coaster that occurred between Bruce Allen’s statement on Monday afternoon and Kirk Cousins’ Tuesday interview with Grant and Danny on 106.7 the Fan, some Redskins fans think that hopes for the Burgundy and Gold are buried this fall. 

Was Allen’s statement a wise move? No. There was no reason to publicly put out the team’s offer, or more importantly, tell the world that Cousins never countered. It seemed like an attempt to control the conversation, and a lame attempt at that.

But here’s the thing: A deal was never happening

Cousins knew that. The Redskins knew that.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

And the zaniness of Monday and Tuesday should not have any impact on the 2017 season.

If Cousins can do anything, it’s compartmentalize. 

Last season, he dealt with almost the exact same public mess of a contract squabble. The team never offered him remotely close to market value, and the QB still came out and threw for nearly 5,000 yards. 

Cousins will again block out the noise, and deliver his best possible performance for the Redskins. The team should be better too. An improved defense should help immediately (even if that jump goes from bad to average), and a rebuilt receiving group should give Cousins the weapons to again run Jay Gruden’s potent offense. 

There are fan theories that the team might implode, and eventually, go to Colt McCoy or Nate Sudfeld at quarterback. I don’t see that happening. 

Cousins is under contract for 2017. The coaching staff, and the players, know what he can do. Personally, I don’t think the season unravels. Cousins is a good player. He's established a baseline for his performance over the past two years. 

The time since the franchise tag deadline doesn’t change that. The time since the franchise tag doesn’t change Jordan Reed’s ability to get open. It doesn’t change Jamison Crowder’s quickness on the inside or Trent Williams power on the outside.

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I don’t expect the Redskins to run off 13 wins. I’ve already written that I don’t even think the team will make the playoffs. To be clear, however, I don’t think Bruce Allen’s statement will make a difference once the players take the field in real games. 

On Wednesday, Chad Dukes of the Fan asked me if it’s possible that the Redskins season unravels, and things go sideways with Cousins. I don't expect that, and Dukes wondered if I was being overly optimistic. 

Could things fall apart? Sure. Anything is possible in the NFL, and especially with the Redskins. 

For me, however, Cousins' talent in the Redskins offensive system will mitigate the local penchant for crazy. Cousins has thrown for 9,000 yards and completed more than 68 percent of his passes in the last two seasons. He also bet on himself, again, to produce at a high level in 2017.

I think Cousins is smart. I think Gruden's offense will work. I think the Redskins defense will be improved. 

I don’t think this team makes the playoffs, but they should be close. I also don’t think this team implodes. 

Looking at the big picture, I definitely don’t consider myself an optimist. A realist, perhaps, but only time will tell. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! 

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