One of the reasons the Redskins more than doubled their win total from 2014 and advanced to the NFL playoff was their improvement in their ability to keep their quarterback up right.
A look at the big picture numbers shows improvement. They allowed 58 sacks last year, second worst in the NFL. This season they more than cut that in half, dropping the total to 27 sacks, tied for fourth best in the league.
But taking a closer look gives a better idea of how much the protection has improved or, perhaps more accurately, how bad it was last year. During a six-game span from Weeks 11-15 (Week 10 was a bye week) Redskins quarterbacks were sacked 36 times. So in 16 games this year they allowed nine fewer sacks than they did during the six-game span in the middle last year.
One reason for the reduction in sacks is the presence of Kirk Cousins at quarterback. He tends to get rid of the ball more quickly than Robert Griffin III and Colt McCoy, the starters during the pass protection nightmare stretch last year. But the Redskins also have overhauled their offensive line from last year.
There have been four new starters on the line from last year for most of the season. That number will drop to three on Sunday as Kory Lichtensteiger returns to the lineup after missing the last 11 games with a neck injury. But the right side has been rebuilt with two new starters, second-year player Morgan Moses at tackle and rookie Brandon Scherff at guard.
Left tackle and offensive captain Trent Williams is happy with the progress of Moses and Scherff but he’s not surprised by the play of the two.
To be honest, if that would have been anybody else and having the young guys over there, I probably would have been worried a little bit, but from working with them and from seeing them lay, from seeing them practice day in and day out, I know we’d be OK,” said Williams. “They’ve done an outstanding job this year.
They are going to need to work to keep Cousins upright on Sunday. The Packers racked up 43 sacks this year, tied for seventh in the NFL.
In some circles of modern culture, producing shocking commentary or content seems like the top goal. Being shocking gets clicks, gets attention, and in turn, gets dollars.
On NFL Draft night, nothing should be shocking. Remember, last season there was no way Jonathan Allen would fall to the Redskins at 17. There was no way Kansas City would trade up for QB Patrick Maholmes. There was no way Chicago would trade up for Mitchell Trubisky. But all those things happened.
Sure, for months draft experts have expounded about what will happen, but the truth is, once the Browns are on the clock, nobody actually knows anything.
With that in mind, let's look at a bunch of options that should not shock Redskins fans.
- Don't be shocked if Washington takes Minkah Fitzpatrick. They want him.
- Don't be shocked if the Redskins draft Da'Ron Payne over Vita Vea. Washington loves Payne's potential to be a disruptor in the pass game and his incredible strength.
- Then again, don't be shocked if the 'Skins take Vita. Plenty of folks like him too.
- Don't be shocked if a team makes a move for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. That could happen after the Redskins pick at 13, but Washington's pick could also prove important in the race for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
- Derwin James will be on the 'Skins list, but don't be shocked if he goes off the board before the Redskins pick.
- Don't be shocked with a trade back, but remember that isn't the goal. With four QBs expected in the Top 10, an elite talent should make it to Washington at 13. If that happens, the Redskins should take advantage of adding a blue chip to their squad.
- Don't be shocked if Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds ends up wearing the Redskins draft hat. Also, don't be shocked if he plays some outside linebacker in the Washington 3-4 scheme, not just the inside LB role most project for Edmunds.
- Don't be shocked if a seemingly sure thing slips all the way to 13. Perhaps that's Quenton Nelson? Or Denzel Ward? Remember, there was no way Jon Allen was supposed to fall to 17 last year.
There are some things Redskins fans should be shocked by.
- Washington should not trade up.
- Washington should not draft a running back at 13 unless Saquon Barley is available. He won't be.
- Washington should not draft a wide receiver at 13.
- If one of the top four QBs is available at 13, Washington should vigorously work the phones to move the pick. Move down a few spots and get Payne should be the exact plan in that scenario. Arizona at 15 needs a QB.
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NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the fourth episode above and more here.
After this weekend's NFL Draft, the Edmunds family will go from having one son in the league to three.
Trey is already on the Saints, but Tremaine and Terrell aren't pros just yet. So, when will they be taken? Here's a collection of predictions from NBC Sports Washington's NFL crew regarding the middle and youngest Edmunds brothers.
JP Finlay: The Niners at nine. John Lynch won't be able to get past Edmunds' combination of size and speed, and the elite potential of the just 19-year-old. Remember, too, San Francisco might not have Reuben Foster this fall.
Rich Tandler: Eighth to the Bears. Physically, he is a double for Brian Urlacher and he worked out well enough for the Bears that he is headed for the Hall of Fame this year.
Mitch Tischler: No. 9 to the San Francisco 49ers. We all know Kyle Shannahan loves him some offensive threats but getting an edge rusher that could tally double digit sacks and play both inside and out is going to be too tough to pass up at nine.
Pete Hailey: No. 10 and the Raiders. Jon Gruden won't let the dynamic Edmunds fall any further.
JP Finlay: Kansas City in Round 3. They could use additional depth in the secondary and that franchise knows value when they see it.
Mitch Tischler: The Steelers in Round 3. He fits their scheme, has an nfl body and measured very well at the Combine.
Pete Hailey: Round 3 to the Cardinals. Terrell can learn from Antoine Bethea then fill in for him once Bethea moves on.