Washington Football

Washington Football

Earlier in the week, I released my latest 2018 NFL mock draft and tacked on some thoughts about the Redskins’ 2019 top six needs. Then something happened: Folks on social media told me the needs list didn’t go far enough.

It’s often said one shouldn’t read the comments section or Twitter responses unless you have incredibly thick skin or love feeling bad about yourself. In this case, the masses had a point. There wasn’t so much an issue with the position units mentioned or the order list. It’s just that other concerns, some of them significant, existed beyond the six.

That led to a decision: Let’s rank them all. Upon doing so, something became clear. The Redskins have issues going forward. 

Entering 2018 potential existed across the roster but with clear downside a mere injury away with essentially each group. Other than the defensive line, bolstered by two rookies and a second-year player, that scenario remains as the season winds down. 

Of course, Washington can fill holes with free agency and the draft. There will be quite a few and perhaps a ginormous issue depending on quarterback Alex Smith’s recovery from a broken leg.

Here’s the full rankings listed in reverse order. Oh, the top six slots posted earlier in the week, already different. Life moves fast and the Redskins have needs.

14. Punter – Tress Way booted his way to team MVP honors this season, at least that’s how my ballot would read. Though Way didn’t make the Pro Bowl straight out, the case is evident.

 

13. Defensive line – Won’t bother separating out the ends and tackles just because this unit is the team’s clear best headlined by recent first-round selections Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Matt Ioannidis leads the lineman in sacks (7.5) entering Week 16, just ahead of Allen (7). Tim Settle proved forceful in his limited work. Adding depth always works especially with Stacy McGee a potential salary cap casualty. Washington’s run defense struggled over the last two months, but speed elsewhere should fix that.

12. Kicker – Dustin Hopkins stats to date: 23 of 26 field goals (11 of 14 from 40+), 24 of 25 extra points. Solid. Let’s move on.

11. Tackle – We’re assuming here that Morgan Moses returns ($6.9 million cap hit, $5.7 dead money) despite leading all NFL players in penalties. Free agent Ty Nsekhe may not, but the Redskins spent a 2018 third-round pick on Geron Christian. If Christian isn’t ready to inherit the swing tackle role, then this position moves up the list considering Trent Williams’ injury history.

10. Center – Chase Roullier isn’t making a Pro Bowl soon, but he held up in his first full year in the starting lineup. Tony Bergstrom offers versatility. Interior line depth proved concerning all season. 

9. Running back – We’re assuming Derrius Guice opens training camp as the starter despite missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury while Chris Thompson returns in his passing game role. Adrian Peterson carried the offense throughout this season. The physical freak and 2019 free agent also turns 34 in March. Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine round out the group.

8. Tight end – From this point on arguments for each position ranking among the top three needs exist. In this case, it likely comes down to whether the Redskins hang with Jordan Reed or not. He never clicked with Alex Smith, though showed more spark with Colt McCoy. Reed is now dealing with a toe injury after remaining available most of the season. 

Keep Reed and the salary cap hit is $9.7 million. Move on the dead cap money is only $3.6. Part of the issue is who takes over if Reed goes. Vernon Davis turns 35 next year. Jeremy Sprinkle remains more blocker than an every-down option.

7. Wide receiver – The Redskins have never recovered since moving on from Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. The current group lacks a go-to target. Jamison Crowder is a 2019 free agent. Josh Doctson a three-year enigma. There are interesting aspects though, namely Paul Richardson’s speed, Cam Sims’ potential and Trey Quinn’s route running. That’s certainly not enough. Washington might have to run this group back depending on needs elsewhere.

6. Cornerback – Is Josh Norman back? That might seem like an obvious yes. However, the Redskins paid Norman big bucks the last three years and never quite received the desired payoff, though Norman remains their top corner. He would count as $6 million in dead cap space if released. Would the Redskins feel comfortable going forward with Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and some combination of the three rookies that made the Week 1 roster and mystery guest free agents? 

 

5. Safety – Arguably, the weakest unit entering the season largely played that way though D.J. Swearinger had Pro Bowl caliber moments. Uneven work from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after his in-season acquisition, but Washington spent a fourth-round pick to add the one-time Pro Bowler and 2019 free agent. Montae Nicholson lost his role when Clinton-Dix arrived and the chance to play in the final two games this season following an arrest this week. Troy Apke, a risky fourth-round pick, made zero impact before his rookie season ended on IR.

4. Inside linebacker – Had this group as No. 2 on the list from earlier in the week in part because of Mason Foster’s private messages and Zach Brown losing his starting job. Moving on from their contracts isn’t complicated. There are some interesting candidates behind them, namely rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton, who replaced Brown. There’s also Josh Harvey-Clemons and the long shot situation involving Reuben Foster. The Redskins clearly need more speed here and with the defense overall. It’s possible they feel in-house options offer are good enough.

3. Guard – It is still hard to believe the Redskins didn’t add any significant help entering 2018 considering Shawn Lauvao’s injury history and struggles. Arie Kouandjio and Tyler Catalina should be ready for offseason workouts after season-ending injuries. They represent potential depth, not a Week 1 starter. 

2. Edge rusher – The Redskins are ninth with 40 sacks. That’s not bad considering the lack of production opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Preston Smith, another 2019 free agent, and 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson have a combined 5.5 sacks entering Week 16. Kerrigan isn’t slowing down, but he turns 31 next season so this issue is both a short and long-term consideration.

1. Quarterback – Wrote this earlier in the week. Nothing has changed even with Josh Johnson's Week 15 win. Much speculation surrounds Alex Smith’s recovery from his broken right leg including concerns over possible infections from the compound fracture. From the football perspective, his playing career could be in jeopardy. Smith’s hefty contract remains on the books with salary cap hits of $20.4 and $21.4 million over the next two years. That limits Washington’s options since a notable free agent signing or a first-round selection makes would put a huge chunk of the team’s asset allocation into one position. But does Colt McCoy and a Day 2 selection sound appealing?

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