A season ago, Dezmon Briscoe was a young NFL player whose career was on the rise.Right now, hes just trying to land a job.Briscoe caught six touchdown passes for the Buccaneers in 2011, but was waived late last month after reportedly failing a conditioning test. Twenty-four hours later, the 22-year-old found himself on the Redskins, hoping to snag one of the final spots.Once you get cut, you want to prove that the other team was wrong as well as everybody that feels that this guy slacked off in the offseason and is out of shape, which is not true at all, he said this week. I guess I wasnt fitting in their program and they made their decision. Im okay with it. Im just trying to seize my opportunity now.Asked about his goals for the upcoming season, Briscoe was humble.Big break out year? he said, shrugging. I dont want to go that far with it. Right now Im just trying to make the team and get a job.Although Briscoe was not targeted in the Redskins preseason-opening victory in Buffalo, he has impressed Coach Mike Shanahan with his playmaking ability in practice. Secondary coach Raheem Morris, who was the Bucs head coach last season, likely played a role in convincing Shanahan to take a chance on Briscoe.You can see he is a football player, Shanahan said. He has made plays throughout training camp and practice, and he will get a chance.That chance could arrive Saturday in Chicago. And, if it does, Briscoe said hes had enough time to familiarize himself with Shanahans offense and will be ready.My comfort level is very high, Briscoe said of learning the Redskins offense on a truncated schedule. I go out there confident, knowing that I know what to do and put good stuff on film.Coaches are critiquing everything, whether its a key block or a big catch, he added. Youre just trying to do the little things to surprise the coaches.Briscoe is battling Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, Aldrick Robinson and Terrence Austin for the final two spots on the Redskins roster at wide receiver. The others also contribute on special teams; Briscoe does not. Which means the Texas native must prove himself to be a superior pass-catcher in order to claim a spot.Two things are working in Briscoes favor: at 6 foot 2, 210 pounds, hes bigger than his competition, and he caught more touchdowns last season than the others have combined in their careers.I think my height is probably my biggest thing, Briscoe said. Me and Leonard Hankerson are the biggest receivers we have. So that helps me out a lot.After having a limited role against the Bills, Briscoe knows hes got to start showing what he can do in games. But hes not sweating it yet.We got three games left, he said. I still got a little more playing time this preseason. Thats my opportunity and I have to take advantage of it.
When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.
In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.
Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.
What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games.
The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.
The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.
—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105
Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.
Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016
(originally posted January 28)
As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.
The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.
The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.
The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.
While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.
Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.
The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.