Redskins season preview 2016: Predictions and analysis

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Redskins have not won consecutive NFC East titles since Joe Gibbs was on the job back in the 1980s. They have a chance to do just that in 2016, but it won’t be easy.

Washington shocked most of the NFL world last season by going 9-7 and taking the division, due in large part to Tony Romo’s clavicle and the New York Giants forgetting what a clock is. That’s not meant as disrespect to the Redskins, who raised their game higher than most believed possible, but these are the facts.

For the Redskins, the expectations within the nation’s capital are a division title or bust. If those lofty goals are going to be met, quarterback Kirk Cousins has to play lights out. Cousins, who was put on the franchise tag at a shade below $20 million, needs to back up an impressive 2015 campaign in which he tossed 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

The Redskins aren’t sure if the fifth-year veteran can repeat the feat, otherwise they would’ve locked him up long term. However, Cousins has all the weapons around him to best his 4,166 yards of a year ago.

DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and rookie Josh Doctson are an electric trio of receivers who can both make the catch across the middle and run the deep post with ease. Jackson is the burner of the group, racking up 528 yards and four touchdowns in only 10 games last year. Garcon provides the possession receiver who can break away in the open field, hauling in 72 passes for 777 yards and a half-dozen scores.

But it’s tight end Jordan Reed who creates the most problems for opposing defenses. Reed, 26, led Washington with 87 catches, 952 yards, and 11 touchdowns, breaking out as a third-year man from the University of Florida. Reed has put himself in the class of Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, and Jimmy Graham, sitting a notch below the incomparable Rob Gronkowski. With a tremendous combination of size and speed, Reed is a mismatch against both safeties and linebackers.

General manager Scot McCloughan also made a splashy move in the offseason, signing First-Team All-Pro corner Josh Norman to a five-year, $75 million deal. McCloughan rightfully realized that in the NFC East, a team needs to have a shutdown corner and the Redskins got one of the best in the business.

With Norman on the squad, Washington can now be aggressive in sending blitzers. The Redskins struggled getting pressure at times in 2015, with their only reliable threat being Ryan Kerrigan. With Norman taking away the opponent’s top receiver, defensive coordinator Joe Barry can dial up exotic pressures.

Washington still has legitimate concerns. The running back position is underwhelming and the front seven needs to be upgraded. Still, if the Redskins can get another quality years from Cousins, and if Father Time leaves Jackson and Garcon alone, this is a dangerous, dynamic group.


Week 1 – Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon.)
Week 2 – Dallas Cowboys
Week 3 – at New York Giants
Week 4 – Cleveland Browns
Week 5 – at Baltimore Ravens
Week 6 – Philadelphia Eagles
Week 7 – at Detroit Lions
Week 8 – at Cincinnati Bengals (London)
Week 9 – BYE
Week 10 – Minnesota Vikings
Week 11 – Green Bay Packers (Sun. night)
Week 12 – at Dallas Cowboys
Week 13 – at Arizona Cardinals
Week 14 – at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 15 – Carolina Panthers (Mon.)
Week 16 – at Chicago Bears
Week 17 – New York Giants

The middle section of this schedule is absolutely brutal. Washington will go on the road five out of eight games between Weeks 7-15, including dates with the Cowboys, Cardinals, and Bengals. The three home games? Minnesota, Green Bay and Carolina.

The beginning of the season could give Washington a nice start and some momentum, though. The Redskins have three games at home and then travel to Baltimore, which is only an hour up the interstate. Washington could find an early lead in the NFC East.

Draft class

Round 1 (22) – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Round 2 (53) – Su’a Cravens, OLB, USC
Round 3 (84) – Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Round 5 (152) – Matthew Ioannidis, DT, Temple
Round 6 (187) – Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana
Round 7 (232) – Steven Daniels, ILB, Boston College
Round 7 (242) – Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

It’s tough to understand what the brass was thinking here. Washington could have used some help on the defensive side of the ball but instead went with Doctson, a nice prospect but someone who will have to earn playing time alongside Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

The selection of Fuller is a really nice one. The former Virginia Tech star could play right away, after some believed he would be picked on the first night. Washington needs some help in the secondary even after the acquisition of Norman, and Fuller fits that bill.

Offseason moves


Josh Norman, CB (5 years, $75 million)


Alfred Morris, RB (DAL – 2 years, $5.5 million)
Robert Griffin III, QB (CLE – 2 years, $15 million)
Terrance Knighton, NT (NE – 1 year, $4.5 million)


Can Kirk Cousins do it again? Last year, Cousins earned the starting job and played well, throwing for 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. However, there is a thought within some league circles that Cousins benefited from the players surrounding him, not the other way around.

If Cousins can take his game to the next level, Washington is a real contender to make some noise come January. Few teams have the offensive explosiveness that the Redskins possess and with Norman in the fold, the defense looks upgraded.

Bottom Line

The Redskins should be better than they were in 2015, and that’s good news considering they won nine games and took the East. With Cousins in his second year behind center and the defense adding one of the best corners in football, this team is legitimate.

All that said, the Redskins are short on depth. Injuries to this team would be a death null, so folks in D.C. should be holding their breath every time someone goes down. If health is there for Washington, though, the playoffs could be too.