The Redskins success last season surprised many around the NFL - and some in Washington - as a late-season surge resulted in an NFC East championship. Even with the division title, the Redskins 9-7 record is not all too impressive, especially considering the team struggled against top competition.
Based on that, ESPN's Todd McShay released a "Way-too-early 2017 NFL Mock Draft" last week that predicted the Redskins would hold the No. 7 pick in next year's draft. A Top 10 selection would generally mean the 'Skins win less than seven games, and to land at No. 7 likely suggests the Redskins go 5-11 next season. For context, the folks at Sportsbook.ag set a win total of 7.5 for the 2016 Redskins, with no monetary advantage to bet over or under.
McShay's mock draft prompted an interesting debate from ESPN 980's Kevin Sheehan and Chris Cooley on Monday that asked what should be the basement of expectations for the 2016 Redskins. Though neither predicted Washington to drop to 5-11 from last season's 9-7, Cooley said he could see the Redskins falling backwards to a six-win season. Sheehan voiced a more bullish opinion, suggesting Jay Gruden's squad should lose no more than eight games.
"This team is going to be better offensively than it was a year ago," Sheehan said.
While last year's team did provide some offensive fireworks late in the season, and the addition of Josh Norman should significantly improve the defense this fall, Washington is still a franchise with just three winning records in the last decade. Scot McCloughan has done much to overhaul the roster, but the 'Skins are still just one year removed from a disastrous 4-12 campaign.
In Vegas, gamblers like to look at the trends to come up with a bet. For the Redskins, the trends are paradoxical.
On one hand, the success of Kirk Cousins from last year, combined with a full offseason at the No. 1 QB spot with no position battle, should be a harbinger of more success. Add to that the 'Skins added talented playmakers in rookie WR Josh Doctson and veteran TE Vernon Davis, and maybe Cousins should outpace even 2016's record numbers. With that in mind, and even a marginally improved defense, it could be easy to project a seven or eight win floor for the Burgundy and Gold, with a much higher, fan-pleasing ceiling.
But, consider the team has done little to improve an anemic run game, or to bolster their run defense, and the optimism wanes. Add a first-place schedule, and remember the 2016 Skins never beat a team with a winning record, and a backslide almost seems inevitable.
It's May so these types of hypothetical debates will rage for months until Gruden leads his team out on the field. Is the glass half full or half empty for the 2016 Redskins? Backslide or improve?
Let us know what you think in the comments.