During the Redskins’ bye week we’re taking a look ahead at the 2016 version of the Redskins. We’ve looked at the pending free agents and at the salary cap and what adjustments can be made. Now it’s time to take out the crystal ball and see what the depth chart will look like when they line up next September.
(Starter changes from 2015 are in bold)
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Colt McCoy, draft pick
Sure, things can go south in the next nine games but right now the best bet is that Cousins remains the starting quarterback. I think they have to draft a quarterback; the only question is if they take one on Friday (rounds 2-3) or Saturday (rounds 4-7).
Running backs: Matt Jones
Backups: Chris Thompson, free agent, draft pick
When all is said and done, I think that Alfred Morris ends up leaving town and signing with a team that is more committed to the zone-blocking scheme. It also looks like Darrel Young could be headed out and the team will operate without a fullback. Assuming Jones can refine his rushing technique over the last nine games, he inherits the “lead dog” mantle. Thompson is a solid third-down back. Look for them to add a bargain veteran free agent and/or a Saturday draft pick to the mix.
Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon, first-round draft pick
Backups: Jamison Crowder (slot receiver), Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross
Yeah, I’ve spent the top draft pick already. With DeSean Jackson gone since he doesn’t fit into what Scot McCloughan is looking for in a veteran player, they need a big threat at wide receiver. To take a preliminary stab at it six months out, I’ll go with 6-2 Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss. Unlike Jackson, Garçon has the work ethic that McCloughan wants to keep around as an example to younger players. Crowder is the slot receiver for the foreseeable future.
Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Niles Paul, Derek Carrier
The only good thing about the ankle injury that Paul suffered is that it was in the preseason opener, so he will have plenty of time to rehab. Reed will be going into his contract year and staying healthy will be of paramount importance for both him and for the team.
Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, 1-2 draft picks
I’m not 100 percent sure that Long can be an NFL starting center but he is probably the most immediate replacement for Kory Lichtensteiger, who would be better off in a zone scheme. The rest of the group can stay intact and continue to gel.
Defensive line: Trent Murphy, Terrance Knighton, Chris Baker
Backups: Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea, Frank Kearse
The unit gets a needed injection of youth with Murphy packing on a few more pounds and converting to end. Knighton re-signs for two or three years.
Linebackers: OLBs Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan; ILBs Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson
Backups: Preston Smith, Will Compton, Jackson Jeffcoat, Houston Bates
I’m not sure what to think of Riley’s future. He has a year left on his contract and his stock still seems to be pretty high within the organization. But Will Compton does a good job when he fills in and there could be a replacement in the draft or in free agency. Joe Barry will work to design ways to get Smith, Kerrigan, and Galette (who I think returns on an incentive-loaded deal) into the game at the same time.
Defensive backs: CBs Bashaud Breeland, Chris Culliver; SS Kyshoen Jarrett, FS Dashon Goldson
Backups: Trenton Robinson, Jeron Johnson, Quinton Dunbar, 2-3 draft picks/free agents
The starting corners are an easy call while the rest of the picture is murky. Goldson likely would have to agree to a renegotiated contract that would considerably lower his $8 million 2016 salary. If he doesn’t, I don’t see him staying but that leaves a hole at free safety that could perhaps be filled in the free agent market. Do things click for Jeron Johnson, allowing him to play a regular role? Does Jarrett return to safety, the position he was drafted to play? Or do they keep a good thing going and leave him in the slot? Do rookie free agents Dunbar and Deshazor Everett show enough promise that the team will bypass a late-round project in the draft?
Specialists: K Dustin Hopkins, LS Nick Sundberg, P Tress Way
Hopkins came out of nowhere to become the best kicker in recent memory, although we’re looking at a small sample size. Way is getting better at refining his craft and could have some Pro Bowls in his future.