Heading Into Uncharted Waters
The Washington Redskins are heading into uncharted waters in 2015. After years of doing things the wrong way, the team looks to finally be on the right path under new GM Scot McCloughan. McCloughan’s plan to rebuild the Redskins starts with strengthening the trenches on both sides of the ball.
For years the Redskins have been their own worst enemy, not signing/drafting players that fit team needs, but in fact, chasing flashy players for want. That process, coupled with a poor draft strategy left the team with very few skill players that actually fit the overall scheme. Which is the equivalent of trying to force a square peg into a round hole…anyone who may have attempted that knows it’s a painstaking process that common sense should help you avoid. In recent years attempts to correct these issues have been held back by salary cap penalties, injuries and incompetent individuals in charge.
McCloughan aims to change that process and this year’s free agency and draft are a good start. It’s been said by multiple Redskins players and coaches that the focus in 2015 will be on winning the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The defensive line is completely re-tooled with the additions of Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton, and Ricky Jean-Francois. The linebacker corp added Mississippi State edge rusher Preston Smith and talented Arkansas Razorback Martrell Spaight. Smith will push for starting time at linebacker immediately, while Spaight (2015 SEC leader in tackles) will likely see time on special teams.
McCloughan has also enacted a plan on the offensive line as the team drafted Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff (1st round), Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio (4th round) and center Austin Reiter (7th round). Just this past week the team also released right guard Chris Chester, a move that opens up that position and saved the team $4 million in cap-space. Second-year guard Spencer Long is the early front-runner to take Chester’s spot on the line. Which means the Redskins will have a completely different right side than the one they ended the season with last year.
The Redskins also hired former Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan to lead the unit. Callahan will be using more of a power-rushing scheme as he looks to toughen the Redskins offensive line. Which means the team will be moving on from the zone-blocking scheme that ex-coach Mike Shanahan brought with him to town in 2010.
The hope is that the re-tooling of the lines lead to mass improvements on both sides of the ball. It’s no secret that the Redskins need to get to the QB more on defense as well as protect their own QB better on offense. While some critics believe the problem is at quarterback, the truth is we’ll never know until the line gives him time to complete plays without fear of getting killed in the pocket. That last statement is interchangeable with all quarterbacks currently on the Redskins roster.
To go along with the re-tooling of the lines, McCloughan also used free agency and the draft to add pieces to a very thin secondary. The team signed cornerback Chris Culliver, traded for safety Dashon Goldston, signed Jeron Johnson and drafted Arkansas corner Tevin Mitchel and Virginia Tech safety Kyshoen Jarrett. Culliver is expected to compete with DeAngelo Hall, Bashaud Breeland, David Amerson and Mitchel at the corner position. Goldston is expected to start at free safety while Johnson will compete with Duke Ihenacho at strong safety.
Among other notable additions by McCloughan that will make an impact are receiver/return man Jamison Crowder and running back Matt Jones. Crowder will be the Redskins return man in 2015, beyond that he could make a push to start in the slot. Andre Roberts should be worried about Crowder being drafted, if he plays next year like he did in 2014 he’ll likely not be back with the team.
Matt Jones was an interesting draft pick. The team already has Alfred Morris but recently lost Roy Helu in free-agency. Helu was a major part of the Redskins passing game as the teams third-down back while Morris has struggled to catch passes. If Morris wants to be a Redskins player beyond 2015 he needs to step his game up because his contract is up after the season. If Jones shows he can catch passes consistently his role could end up being a lot larger than a third-down back.
Although you will hear no predictions from this direction until after camp, this team is without a doubt improved over the one that took the field in 2014. It may take a few years to fix all that’s wrong, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now that McCloughan is steering the ship.