Where are the Redskins in terms of building a team that can consistently compete for Super Bowls? Let’s take a look at the 22 projected starters for 2016 and see who the core players are and who could become starters on a team capable of making a deep playoff run.
To be clear, the core players listed here are not necessarily future All-Pros or players who could bring the team to Super Bowl LI (they’re going back to Roman numerals). We’re talking about players you could envision starting for a good playoff team in the next few years.
The projects are young players who could develop into core players in the next year or so.
Core players: QB Kirk Cousins, OT Trent Williams, G Brandon Scherff, OT Morgan Moses, TE Jordan Reed, Slot WR Jamison Crowder
I think that the offensive linemen and Reed were good enough in 2015 to play on a very good team. Cousins would need further development, the kind that can only come from working with the first team week in and week out and taking snaps in regular season NFL games. There is no guarantee that he will get there but he represents the Redskins’ best shot at having a franchise quarterback and it’s realistic to think that he could get there.
Projects: G Spencer Long, RB Matt Jones
Long probably will never visit a Pro Bowl but he can be a piece of the puzzle on the offensive line if he takes a few steps forward. Jones’ prospects are much more problematic. Although there is reasonable confidence that he can learn to hold on to the ball, he still needs to work on identifying running lanes and getting through them.
So, if both of the projects come through the Redskins are looking for long-term solutions at both wide receiver spots and center. Those are positions to look for in the next two drafts.
Core players: DE Chris Baker, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, ILB Will Compton, CB Bashaud Breeland
Baker’s presence here is a coin toss. He’ll turn 31 early in the 2018 season. But he didn’t play a whole lot until he was 27 so he could still be effective then. Kerrigan will turn 30 before the 2018 season starts but he should still be a steady pass rushing presence. Compton won’t visit any Pro Bowls but he could start at inside linebacker for the next decade.
Projects: OLB Preston Smith
Originally Smith was with the core players group but on second thought he has more to prove. Near the end of the year the rookie figured out what he needed to do to be successful. If he continues that through OTAs, training camp, and the regular season he will be a very good player. But seeing is believing.
Junior Galette perhaps could have been included on either list but he is on a one-year contract. Will the team be able to pay him, Smith, and Kerrigan?
Regardless, the headline here is what the Redskins will need. Scot McCloughan will be looking for two linemen, an inside linebacker and three frontline players in the secondary. Perhaps Kyshoen Jarrett or Quinton Dunbar can emerge as core players; in any case, they should be solid role players, something that a winning team needs plenty of.