If Redskins fans need something to cheer them up looking at the 2019 season, consider the last playoff team in D.C. had one striking similarity with this year's version: an inexperienced quarterback.
In 2015, the Redskins went on a late-season win streak to win the NFC East. First-year starter Kirk Cousins was the quarterback.
In 2019, who knows how the Redskins will finish, but there's a good chance an inexperienced QB will take over at some point. Considering their years in the NFL, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy don't have a ton of starting experience. And it's entirely possible rookie Dwayne Haskins could be the 'Skins starter too. Much more goes into a playoff season than quarterback play, but that is the easiest place to start.
Beyond quarterback what is crazy is that from a pure talent standpoint a case can be made that the 2019 Redskins have more skill than the previous NFC East champions from D.C.
In 2015, Washington did not have a 1,000 yard rusher. In 2019, Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice both look like they could hit that mark. Peterson did it just last year.
In 2015, Jordan Reed was the Redskins best receiving threat and nobody went over the 1,000 yard mark. In 2019, the Redskins would love for Reed to get back to an elite tight end level, and none of the other wide receivers project to be the 1,000-yard type. The 2015 team definitely had more individual talent at receiver - Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson played for Washington that year - but still injuries kept any WR from getting to four digits.
Defensively, in 2015, the Redskins had no pass rusher hit double-digit sacks. In 2019, at least Ryan Kerrigan should get there, and Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis seem legit candidates for 10 sacks or more. Generating turnovers wasn't easy in 2015 either. No Redskins defender had more than two interceptions in 2015. Last year, Josh Norman recorded three INTs and Quinton Dunbar had two picks in just six starts. Plus the Redskins added Landon Collins this offseason.
Cousins got crazy hot down the stretch in 2015. He went for at least 300 yards passing in four of the last six games that year, and threw 11 touchdowns in the Redskins final three regular season games that year. Jay Gruden can't count on one of his quarterbacks again getting that hot. It could happen, but it's not a reasonable expectation.
What Gruden must look for then is a more balanced team. The coach needs to run the ball much better with Peterson and Guice, and get much better defense from a retooled Redskins staff and team. Collins and Sweat give the Washington defense more speed, and a stout defensive line led by Allen, Ioannidis and Daron Payne might be able to control the line of scrimmage. Add in the experience of Ray Horton and Rob Ryan to the defensive coaching staff, and maybe that unit has less volatility and more consistent results.
Beyond their own talent questions, the biggest hurdle for the Redskins to get back to the playoffs this year looks like a difficult early-season schedule and much improved NFC East competition.
When Cousins and the Skins won the division in 2015, the NFC East was bad. Washington won the division with a 9-7 record.
Sure, the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants will beat up on each other, but the division will be much better this year than it was in 2015. NIne wins probably won't win the division. Philadelphia looks like a Super Bowl contender, and Dallas might be too.
There's also the lingering Trent Williams holdout, the playoffs-or-bust pressure on Gruden, and the overwhelming recent injury bug for the Burgundy and Gold to overcome if the team is going to get back to the playoffs. Any one of those things could be insurmountable, let alone all of them combined.
Looking at 2015 when the Redskins last made the playoffs, the 2019 team looks better defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, the receivers in 2015 were clearly much better, but other than that, the 2019 version looks comparable.
The biggest problem is the overall division looks much tougher, and of course, QB questions make any prediction difficult to make.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
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- Bruce Allen on Trent Williams: 'I know what the truth is'
- The QB battle: A depth chart is starting to develop
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