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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Quarterbacks

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Quarterbacks

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.


Additions: Alex Smith (trade), Kevin Hogan (trade)
Departures: Kirk Cousins (free agent)

Starter: Smith
Other roster locks: McCoy
On the bubble: Hogan

How the quarterbacks compare

To the rest of the NFL: Smith was an MVP candidate for much of last year. Even though he didn’t finish as strongly as he started, he still finished in the top three in the NFL in completion percentage, interception percentage, passer rating, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. However, those were career-best numbers for him and we don’t know if he can repeat them, especially going into a new offense. It’s fair to say that he is in the top 12, perhaps in the lower part. Nobody gets excited about McCoy, but he is a solid backup. Overall the Redskins are in the top 10 to 12 at the quarterback position compared to the rest of the league. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Many fans were delighted to see Kirk Cousins head north to join the Vikings. Others believe letting Cousins go spells doom. The thing is, both sides have valid points to bolster their arguments. But it’s academic now; he is gone and Smith, who is four years older with a much longer track record, is here. If he an upgrade or a downgrade from Cousins. Again, there is solid data to support both viewpoints. I tend to think that Smith will be slightly more effective in 2018 than Cousins was last year, given that it was easily the worst season of the three in which he has been the starter. 

2018 quarterback outlook

Biggest upside: It’s difficult to talk about much in the way of upside when both of the quarterbacks who are likely to make the roster are well over the age of 30. Hogan is on the bubble and if he does make the team he could be interesting to watch. He’s 26 and he does have eight NFL games with the Browns under his belt including one start. With Smith locked into Washington for at least the next three years, nobody is looking at Hogan as starter material. However, if he impresses in camp he could get himself into a position to take over for McCoy as the primary backup in 2019.  

Most to prove: Smith has been around a long time and has made the Pro Bowl three times and he has yet to play in the Super Bowl. While a single player does not win a Super Bowl or, for that matter, lose a playoff game, many view a title as the best way to validate their careers. Smith himself mentioned this in his introductory press conference in March. This may or may not be the organization to do it with but he has a few years left to give it a run. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie quarterbacks on the roster.

Bottom line: Jay Gruden was able to get a lot out of Kirk Cousins after he made him the starter in 2015. Cousins threw for over 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as the starter. The Redskins needed him to play well in order to win. When Cousins had a passer rating of 90 or better in a game, the Redskins were 20-6; when his rating was below 90, they went 4-17. While they may have improved defensively this year, they still will need Smith to play well for the Redskins to win. And since Smith’s contract essentially makes it impossible to move on from him before he’s played here three years, the one whose job is on the line is Gruden’s. 


Gruden on Smith: "He still has got to learn the terminology, so you have got to be careful. Sometimes you assume you’ve been in the league a long time and he went to Utah – he’s very, very smart – you throw too much at him. We still want to control our pace but there’s really not a lot we can throw at him that he has not seen."

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series


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Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

You're going to feel absurd for reading the following sentence, but probably not as absurd as it felt to type the following sentence.

The Redskins, who are on their fourth option at QB, who made the '18 Giants look like the '72 Dolphins and who are large underdogs this weekend to the 4-9 Jaguars, actually still have a straightforward path to the playoffs.

Now, the word "straightforward" only applies to the path on paper, because realistically, there's nothing straightforward about fixing the litany of issues that are plaguing Washington at the moment.

Regardless, by losing on Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings blew a chance to separate themselves from a pack of NFC teams chasing(?) them and their final wild card spot. The Redskins are one of those teams, and here's how they could pass Minnesota to qualify for the postseason:

With the way the season is unfolding, you'd expect the Burgundy and Gold's playoff scenario to involve a bunch of teams losing a bunch of times in these final three weeks. The tweet above illustrates that's clearly not the case. They only need Minnesota to drop one more to go along with the Redskins winning out.

Of course, the Redskins stringing three straight plays together without committing a holding penalty feels like too much to ask for, so anyone expecting a three-game winning streak is either a bit crazy or a relative of Josh Johnson. But still, they're not out of the hunt quite yet. Somehow.


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Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

Jay Gruden not considering changes to his coaching staff

The Redskins gave up 40 points and more than 400 yards in a loss to the Giants last Sunday, and that was without Odell Beckham suited up for New York. 

The Redskins have lost four straight games, and five of six, while giving up more than 30 points three times. 

The Redskins surrendered more than 200 rushing yards to the Giants, and have not held an opponent under 100 yards rushing in their last six games. 

You get the idea. 

After the Washington defense got out to an impressive start to the season, things have fallen apart down the stretch.

Despite the struggles, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has no intention of shaking up his coaching staff.

"No. Not really," Gruden said on the Redskins Talk podcast when asked about any coaching changes. 

As the Redskins struggle and lose their grip on a playoff spot, it's not unheard of to think some staff changes might be coming. The Panthers fired two defensive assistants last weekend, and as the NFL season approaches the finish line, more coaches will lose their jobs. 

In Washington though, it seems the staff is safe. Still, the Giants loss stings. 

The Redskins' offense has been decimated by injuries, particularly at quarterback and along the offensive line. There was some leeway for a loss to New York, but not when the home team got down 40-0 to a 4-8 Giants team. 

That type of deficit brings questions. Questions about the coaches, questions about effort.

On Sunday, Gruden made clear he understands his future is week to week.

"We have a game to win next week in Jacksonville," the coach said. "We have to go about trying to find a way to do it."

On Monday, he made clear his assistants are safe. As far as he is concerned anyway.