NFL Preview: Can Washington Take Home the NFC East Division?

Going into the 2016-2017 NFL Season, Washington figured to be one of the teams to beat in the NFC East. The season before, Washington had won 6 out of their last 9 games to get into the NFC Playoffs. Washington’s 6 wins included winning their final 4 regular season games just to make it to the playoffs.

Washington Redskins 2017 Preview

It didn’t even matter that much that Washington lost 18 to 35 to Green Bay in a wildcard game. The fact that Washington had made it to the playoffs was huge. Last season, the Redskins finished 8 and 8. It was a big disappointment for Washington D.C. and its fans.

Could Washington bounce back from the disappointing season? Will Kirk Cousins impress enough in 2017 to garner a lucrative free agent quarterback deal for next season? Can Washington’s defense improve? Also, will the offense lose a step because offensive coordinator Sean McVay took the head coaching job for the Los Angeles Rams?

Below, I try to answer all of those questions in this Washington Redskins 2017 preview.

How Effective Will QB Kirk Cousins Be?

The Washington Redskins headed into the offseason looking to resign their burgeoning star quarterback Kirk Cousins. Washington never signed Cousins to a long-team deal. What it means is that Kirk is going to play under the franchise tag this season. Could that affect how well Cousins’ plays? I don’t know.

The lack of viable starting quarterbacks in the NFL means that unless Cousins absolutely implodes, or gets hurt, he should garner at least $18 million to $22 million a season from some team in 2018. That team could be Washington although it’s doubtful Redskins owner Dan Snyder ponies up the money to keep Cousins after this season if he didn’t want to during the offseason.

Knowing that you’re due for a huge pay day could have an affect on how you play. Before getting into that, check out Cousins stats from last season:  25 TD passes, 12 interceptions, an over 67% completion rate, 4,917 pass yards, and a 97.2 QB rating.

The stats imply that Kirk Cousins has what it takes to be one of the better starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

But, Cousins knows he’s got a big payday coming. Does Kirk lay it all out on the line to make sure he gets Washington to the playoffs even though he knows the chances of him playing QB in D.C. next season is slim to none? Or, does Kirk take it easy this season? Makes sure he doesn’t get hurt?

I think Cousins plays as hard as he can. He doesn’t strike me as the type of player to take a few games off so that he doesn’t get hurt. Then again, our subconscious minds can take over when danger is involved. Cousins may not play as well as he can this season because the pressure not to get hurt could cause Kirk Cousins to make bad decisions.

A 25 to 12 TD to interception ratio isn’t exceptional. Usually, when a star quarterbacks throws double-digits in picks, it means that star QB has thrown over 30 TD passes. We must remember that Cousins threw those 12 picks while offensive system genius Sean McVay called plays.

McVay is now the Rams’ head coach. How will Cousins play with a new offensive coordinator while playing on a 1-year, franchise tag, tender?

I guess, that’s one question I can’t answer.

One thing Washington did during the offseason to give Kirk his best chance at success was signing WR Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, a former quarterback, has proven he’s got the speed and hands to be a top flight pass catcher. Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards last season. He also scored 5 TDs.

The stats aren’t mind-blowing. I’ll grant you that. One thing to note, a big thing to note, is that Pryor played with the Cleveland Browns last season. He caught 77 passes while his quarterback was mainly rookie Cody Kessler.

If Cousins truly is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, and if he plays like it this season, Pryor’s numbers should rise substantially from last season. Over 90 catches, over 1,400 yards receiving, and at least 10 TD passes isn’t out of the question for Pryor if Cousins plays well.

Who Rushes the Football For D.C.?

Who’s going to rush the football for the Redskins this season? That’s a huge question because last season Washington averaged over 106 rushing yards per game without a single one of their rushers going for over 1,000 yards.

Rob Kelley, projected as Washington’s RB1, came the closest. He rushed for 704 yards while scoring 6 rushing TDs. Kelley averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Matt Jones and Chris Thompson are both talented enough to garner some carries.

Overall, Washington’s rushing attack ranked 21st in the NFL. If the team that plays in D.C. is to protect their defense (I get to that unit in the next section), it must run the ball better. That might require allowing an RB, Kelley, Thompson, or Jones, to get into a rhythm.

Washington’s Defense Must Improve

There’s no fancy way of writing this, the Washington Redskins defense must improve if D.C. has any hope of making it to the playoffs. Washington’s defense ranked 28th in the NFL last season based on yards allowed per game. The D allowed a ridiculous 377.9 total yards per in the 2016-2017 NFL Season.

The biggest issue for the defense is that opponents both passed and rushed versus the Native Americans’ defense. Opponents passed for an average of 258.1 yards per game. Opponents rushed for an average of 119.8 yards per game.

When Washington didn’t commit to stopping the pass, teams rushed against them. When Washington committed to stopping the run, teams passed against them. Opponents averaged 23.9 points per game versus Washington’s defense.

Has the defense improved? I believe it has. With their first 2 picks, in Round 1 and Round 2, the Redskins chose 2 defensive players from the University of Alabama. The first player they chose, DT Jonathan Allen, is an excellent run stopper and pass rusher. The other former Alabama player, outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, can get to the QB.

Allen projects to start in Washington’s 3-4 defense in Week 1. Anderson is projected to back up LB Ryan Kerrigan. Don’t be surprised if Anderson and Kerrigan are on the field at the same time on obvious passing downs.

2017-2018 Washington Redskins Schedule

Washington’s schedule, like for every team in the NFC East, is tough. D.C.’s bye is in Week 5. Before their bye, Washington hosts Philadelphia, is at the L.A. Rams, battles Oakland, and is at Kansas City. I don’t believe the Redskins win more than 1 of their first 4 games.

I predict Washington goes into their Week 5 bye with a 1 and 3 record. Coming out of their bye, Washington takes on San Francisco, is at Philadelphia, battles Dallas, is at Seattle, hosts Minnesota, and travels to the Big Easy to battle the Saints.

How many of those games will Washington win? I predict D.C. goes 3 and 3. I’m not sure who they lose to and who they beat. But, I do feel that they go 3 and 3. The record after 10 games is 4 and 6.

In Washington’s last 6 games, I predict an implosion. Washington should only win 2 out of their last 6 games. The games are against the New York Giants, at Dallas, at the L.A. Chargers, Arizona, Denver, and at the New York Giants.

Washington can beat Dallas, the L.A. Chargers, Arizona, and Denver. I only believe that they win 2 of those 4 games. I don’t think Washington is capable of winning all 4. The Giants should sweep the Redskins this season.

I think Washington goes 6 and 10 this season.

Washington Redskins Super Bowl 52 Odds

Washington is currently at 50 to 1 to win Super Bowl 52. I don’t have any faith that Kirk Cousins has an excellent season. I don’t believe that Washington’s defense truly steps it up although it will have improved.

Those are a couple of reasons why I don’t like Washington at 50 to 1. The 2 biggest reasons Washington is play against at the odds are:  a) Washington’s schedule is brutal, and b) the NFC East is too deep for D.C. to win it.

Dallas, the New York Giants, and Philadelphia all have a shot at winning the NFC East Division. Washington is the only team that appears not to have a shot.

I think Washington is a play against at any odds less than 100 to 1 win Super Bowl 52.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson