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Washington Redskins season preview: The running game a light in the tunnel

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The Washington Redskins are the only team in the National Football League that hasn’t won eleven games in a season since 1991. They haven’t made the playoffs in four seasons. And yet, they aren’t in a full rebuild.

At least that’s what a trade that brought former Vikings and Broncos QB Case Keenum to Landover signalled back in March. For about a month it looked like Keenum’s starting place was not under any kind of dispute. Enter Dwayne Haskins.

That gets us the biggest storyline of the 2019 Redskins – if/when is the Ohio State first-round pick going to become the starting quarterback of the team? There are plenty of reasons to believe in Keenum, especially after two solid seasons, and the miracle year in Minneapolis behind a weak offensive line and without Dalvin Cook. However, because of the wide receiving corps, we are going to get to that in a while, Keenum’s place isn’t safe.

Whoever gets to be the starting playmaker longer, he is not going to have an easy job. Washington’s OL allowed 42 sacks last season (11th in the league), and that’s addition to a clear lack of good options in the field of the passing game. With Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at QB, the Redskins were 28th in yards per game. Now the best receiving option lines up to be third-round pick Terry McLaurin, who caught 667 yards in 11 games at Ohio State. Dwayne Haskins threw to him – another reason why Haskins might have leverage to become the starter.

On the other hand, the running game could be a real light at the end of the tunnel. Darius Guice, a 2018 second-rounder, has yet to play his first NFL snap but head coach Jay Gruden recently said that he’s not only going to be the primary piece in the running game, but that “the Redskins offence is going to run through him”.


That once again put the focus on the ground game (which has, by the way, established him as an extremely hot property in the late-offseason fantasy drafts). Guice has really solid secondary backs in veteran Adrian Petersen, who had his 8th career 1,000-yard season in 2018, as well as Chris Thompson and former Philadelphia Eagle Wendell Smallwood. Jordan Reed remains one of the most dangerous tight ends in the NFL – he’s had average yards per carry north of ten in four of six seasons as NFL running back.

Landon Collins was the most notable addition to a very average defence, ranking 15th in points allowed. The former Giants safety signed a six-year, $84-million contract and Washington hopes that he’ll be able to replicate his 2016 performance, when the three-time Pro Bowler had 5 interceptions and was second in solo tackles with 100. Josh Norman will also be looking to return to star status in the 4th season of his five-year deal. Norman made a quiet surge after a nightmare 2017 with 3 INT and 3 forced fumbles last year – the same amount as during his only Pro Bowl season in 2016 as a Carolina Panther.

The expectations are very low so a bad campaign is unlikely to put the head coaching job of the highly-criticized Jay Gruden is any kind of jeopardy. His position beyond 2021, when his contract expires, will depend on the team’s performance in 2020, when he’ll have the chance to address the wide receiving core, the only group that went unaddressed this offseason.

Likelihood of making the playoffs: Highly unlikely

Washington has a depth to its running game but it didn’t give the necessary weapons for Keenum to succeed, which turns the passing game, where McLaurin is the most impressive option, into a gambling game. The team is better overall, but is in a division with solid Cowboys and Eagles teams, from which the Redskins are far off. They start their season at Lincoln Financial Field and play the NFC North and AFC East as inter-division matchups. A record of 5-11 seems the best bet, which likely puts them at either third or fourth place in the NFC East.


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