OK, now that the 2016 season is over and I have recovered from 2 of the most heartbreaking losses in the final 3 weeks that I can remember, it is time to look forward to 2017. The Washington Redskins are going to need a lot of things in order to make a turnaround and challenge for the NFC East Division again. Can they return to the top? Sure they can and here is how.
A new defense
The Washington Redskins have already begun this process. A few days after the 2016 season ended they fired Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry. There was a lot of speculation on this hire two years ago. How is his guy even in the talk for a defensive coordinating position? His last attempt at the same position was a failure. If you recall he was the DC for the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008. I understand that people change and learn from their mistakes, but he obviously didn’t. He had 2, of the most, awful years as a defense while in Washington. Usually, you think after one-year things will get better with adjustments and what not, not with Joe Barry. 2016 was worse than 2015. Almost historically worse. I have never seen a team that was not able to get off the field more in my time as a football fan.
The new DC must have a proven track record. There are several names that are floating around. Gus Bradley, Wade Phillips, Mike Pettine, and Steve Wilks. Of these, it looks like Bradley is the top candidate. He has a track record with GM Scot McCloughan. Bradley has also been rumored to be the DC of current HC candidate Anthony Lynn if he is to land a vacant spot. Wade Phillips more than likely will not return to Denver so he makes another solid choice. Pettine and Wilks I would suspect as long shots. Even if it is someone that is getting a promotion to a new position, they cannot be as bad as Barry was. Along with a change in coordinators, I believe there has to be a change in defensive philosophy as well.
Find a running game
The Washington Redskins have got to find a way to run the football. They showed glimpses of it in 2016. The youth and inexperience of Rob Kelley became a factor down the stretch. If they want to stick with him, that is fine, however, they need to get him involved more. The Redskins have one of the best offensive line coaches in the game, Bill Callahan. He developed one of the bet o-lines in football for the Dallas Cowboys. He has probably the best, left tackle in the game playing for him right now in Trent Williams. He has youth on the right side with Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses. What the Redskins really need to help out this run game is a left guard. Their current situation there with Shaun Lauvao is a failure. He often gets beat like a rented mule. Bill Callahan needs to make a change at this spot whether it is a veteran free agent or a new young stud. If the Washington Redskins are able to solidify that spot, I believe that they can, once again, find a vaunted rushing attack.
Beef up D-line
The Washington Redskins need to find a way to beef up their defensive line. This will also change when they name a new defensive coordinator. Right now I feel that the Redskins defense is built more towards a 4-3 alignment and not the 3-4 that they have been using since the Shanahan days. Preston Smith, Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan are not your cover type LBs. They are your prototypical, hand in the dirt rushing DEs. Put them in pass rushing situations and let them get after the opposing QBs. If let loose, Ryan Kerrigan could become one of the premiere pass rushing ends on the field today. A new defensive philosophy should bring in a bigger and better defensive line.
Sign Kirk Cousins
This has to be one of the most coveted issues of the 2017 off-season. Will the Washington Redskins re-sign the franchise QB or will they let him walk? There have already been reports that if the two sides do not come to a long-term deal before free agency that Cousins would be franchised tagged again. This year’s QB tag is worth around $25 million. Remember that money is fully guaranteed. If the Redskins and Cousins go that route and a long-term deal is not reached by the July deadline you can expect Cousins to sign and play under the one-year deal just as he did in 2016. However, a third franchise tag in 2018 would cost the Redskins about $35 million. Again, fully guaranteed. If the Redskins are going to pay this out, why don’t they just package that guaranteed money into something more long-term and give him his just due? He has earned his money over the past 2 seasons. I would expect nothing less than the same from him going forward and maybe even better.
The Washington Redskins are not far off from being a perennial contender in the NFC. They do not need wholesale changes on either side of the ball. Changes, yes! Wholesale, NO! If the proper changes are made I do not see why they cannot challenge in 2017. Always HTTR!!