To paraphrase a question that is making the rounds in political circles these daysare the Redskins better off today than they were one year ago?Its easy to go overboard with the Redskins 40-32 win over the Saints in New Orleans. After all, you dont have to go back more than one year to find the Redskins with a big opening day win over a quality opponent. They created all sorts of buzz a year ago when they beat the Giants 28-14 in last years season opener. Players talked about there being a new attitude in the locker room, that things would be different in 2011.And the good feelings lasted a while as they moved to 2-0 and later to 3-1. But things came crashing down after that and they won just two of the their final 12 games.But at least right now, this one feels different. The main reason, of course, is the play of Robert Griffin III. It could be argued that he hadthe best debut any rookie quarterback has ever had.Rex Grossman had a pretty good day against the Giants, completing 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. But nobody walked away from that game thinking that a star was born and maybe the Redskins had their long-term solution at the most important position on the field.But there was more than that. An offensive line that was thought to be a weakness was very much a strength, as Griffin was sacked just once and the Redskins rushed for 153 yards.Against the Giants, Grossman was sacked four times and the Redskins rushed just 75 yards.Tim Hightower was the main runner against the Giants and he picked up 72 yards on 25 carries. At 2.9 yards a carry his performance was passable but not spectacular. Today Alfred Morris picked up 96 yards on 28 carries, a 3.7 average. Morris was not spectacular but he did become one of just five players to rush for at least 90 yards and score two or more touchdowns in his NFL debut. Advantage: MorrisA year ago against the Giants, the defense put up better numbers than they did yesterday. But, with all due respect to Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, and company, the Saints are a much better offense. And against New Orleans they came up big on a couple of occasions.Late in the third quarter the Saints were threatening to halve the Redskins lead. Trailing 30-14, Brees drove the Saints to a third and goal at the three. His pass to Darren Sproles was on the money but London Fletcher came up and knocked the ball loose.Then, the only time after the first quarter that the Saints had the ball with a chance to tie the game, their drive lasted just one play. DeJon Gomes, filling in at safety for the injured Brandon Meriweather, picked off Brees deep pass and returned it 49 yards to the three. One play later Morris put the game out of reach with a touchdown run.There were some down moments. Mike Shanahan may have been able to pull Griffin in the fourth quarter and let Kirk Cousins have some fun if not for a blocked punt late in the first half that turned a 20-7 laugher into a one-score game. Later in the game the prevent defense didnt prevent much of anything. And rookie safety Jordan Bernstine suffered a knee injury that might cost him the rest of the season.Despite that, the Redskins have plenty of reasons to feel good about themselves today and their fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.Should they feel better than they did a year ago? It seems that they should, but time will tell.
Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 21, 16 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.
—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 8
—NFL Combine (3/2) 9
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 55
—NFL Draft (4/27) 65
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 201
Under the radar offseason issues for the Redskins
We know the top line personnel issues for the Redskins this offseason—Kirk Cousins, Jackson and Garçon, D-line, etc. Here are some other issues flying below the radar:
Who’s the backup center? Kory Lichtensteiger retired and John Sullivan is a free agent. That leaves Spencer Long as the only true center under contract. Do they try to bring back Sullivan? Look for one in the draft? The free agent pool is very thin but perhaps a solid backup could get cut.
Guard depth Lichtensteiger also provided some insurance at guard to his absence hits creates a double hit on the depth chart. Right now, the only backup to Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff is Arie Kouandjio. Scherff is durable but Lauvao hasn’t played a 16-game season since 2012. Unless they have more faith in Kouandjio than I suspect they do they will need depth. Perhaps they could spend a mid-round pick for depth this year and then let him compete with Kouandjio for the LG starting job assuming Lauvao moves on after his contract is up
Need depth at cornerback The Redskins’ top two cornerbacks, Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, aren’t bad. And maybe Kendall Fuller and Quinton Dunbar are good as the No. 3 and No. 4 CB’s although they perhaps should have some stiff competition. But it’s a long season and injuries happen. They have former Seahawk Tharold Simon and Dashaun Phillips on the roster and they may re-sign Greg Toler. They probably need one or two more veterans or draft picks to compete for the last one or two spots.
More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0
QB of the future? The most likely scenario in the Cousins saga is that he gets tagged on March 1 and if he does sign a long-term deal it will not be until closer to July 15. That would leave the Redskins in a bit of a tight sport, going through free agency and the draft not knowing if their starter at the most important position on the field will be back in 2018. What about Nate Sudfeld? Would he be ready to at least back up, presumably, Colt McCoy or another veteran? If not, do they need to look for one in the middle of draft, or perhaps earlier? If they are concerned about Cousins’ status and Sudfeld’s ability to develop into a starter this needs to be on the front burner.
Tandler on Twitter
I wonder how many fans are thinking like this and how much of a consideration it will be for the organization. July 15 too late? https://t.co/ioV0WAt36F— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) February 20, 2017
In case you missed it
- Will McCloughan go defense in 1st round?
- Pierre Garçon has simple question: 'Y'all hiring?'
- Expect Kirk Cousins to sign long-term with Redskins, per analyst
- Noman's deal precludes big moves for the Redskins at cornerback
- Redskins OT Nsekhe unlikely to go anywhere
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day
Will the Redskins go with a defensive player in the first round of the 2017 Draft?
Finlay: The Redskins haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round since 2011 when the franchise grabbed Ryan Kerrigan with the 16th pick. In fact, the team has only drafted five defensive players in the first round over the last 15 years.
History suggests Washington will stay away from a defensive player, but sources in Ashburn have suggested otherwise. Assuming the talent is there when the 'Skins pick at No. 17, Scot McCloughan would like to bolster the team's defensive line specifically.
Things will get complicated should Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook slide to 17. Rich Tandler certainly would like to see the Burgundy and Gold add a top-flight running back.
Tandler: Many fans believe that conducting a draft is like going into a grocery store with a list. Defensive lineman is at the top of the list so you go to aisle 12 and put a DL in the cart. Safety is next on the list so you push the cart over to that aisle and pick out one of those.
No, a draft is much more unpredictable. There might not be a defensive lineman who is close to worthy of the No. 17 pick when the Redskins are on the clock. Talk of taking the best available player is like fingernails on a chalkboard to some. But if you’re reaching for need in a draft, you’re losing that draft. Sure, if a player in a position of need is just a spot or two down from the best available you think about it. Still, staying true to your board is the way to build a team.
The other thing to consider here is that we haven’t gone through free agency yet. Needs will shift after that. Suppose the Redskins sign two starting-caliber D-linemen and lose both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agency? Defensive line is no longer a five-alarm priority and receiver will be.
More offseason questions:
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