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Need to Know: Examining Jay Gruden's reasons for optimism for the 2017 Redskins

Need to Know: Examining Jay Gruden's reasons for optimism for the 2017 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 30, 28 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 18
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 43
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 55
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 107
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 155

Reasons for optimism?

I don’t think that Jay Gruden is on Twitter and I doubt that he listens to talk radio but he can sense the feeling of “doom and gloom” that has set in among many in the fan base. Not surprisingly, he disagrees that such a sentiment is warranted.

“I’m very optimistic,” he told reporters at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “I know it’s not great but we’ve had back-to-back winning seasons and there’s no reason for us not to be optimistic. Last year we were very close, lost 13-10 the last game of the year to get in. So, yeah, we’re excited.”

He then went through a list of reasons for the optimism. Let’s go through them and evaluate them.

We have a very good offensive line coming back, our quarterback’s coming back. I feel good about our receiving corps, our two tight ends. Niles Paul’s coming back, [Derek] Carrier’s coming back for depth at tight end.

I can go along with this for the most part. It’s a very good pass-blocking line and it’s an adequate group when it comes to run blocking. While the future is cloudy for quarterback Kirk Cousins it does look like he will be behind center in 2017. The receiving corps lost two key members in Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson but the addition of Terrelle Pryor and some production out of Josh Doctson should compensate to an extent. Jordan Reed is one of the best tight ends in the league and Vernon Davis is a solid backup.

The defensive line, we’ve addressed a bit, we’ll continue to address it. 

Well, yeah, a bit. They’re still looking for a nose tackle. All Gruden had last night was that new D-line coach Jim Tomsula will make someone into a nose tackle. Maybe he can’t do that but he is an upgrade in the coaching department and he could make more out of what they have. And, of course, there is still the draft. Despite the loss of Chris Baker the line could be better than last year but that's a low bar. 

Linebackers, [Mason] Foster, [Will] Compton, [Martrell] Spaight is going to be back. Our safety position with D.J. [Swearinger] will be upgraded. Hopefully D. Hall comes back, Su’a [Cravens] over there, should be an interesting move, see what he can do.

The inside linebackers are not feared by any means but they do some things well. And, again, they have the draft to upgrade. The safety spot has potential to be upgraded with Cravens and Swearinger but there are leaps of faith with Swearinger playing free instead of strong and Cravens moving from his hybrid linebacker spot.

Kerrigan will be back, pass rusher, Preston [Smith] is going to get better. Maybe Junior [Galette] if he comes back.

This area is iffy. Kerrigan is going to give you good production but we'll have to see if Smith can be more consistent and if Galette can stay healthy and regain the explosiveness that led to consecutive years of double-digit sacks in New Orleans. Gruden didn’t mention Trent Murphy, who got nine sacks last year but, as Gruden acknowledged, is likely to be suspended for the first four games. If things work out the edge rushers could be a very good group but that's far from something they can bank on. 

We have a lot of reasons for excitement around here. I don’t know why everyone is so doom and gloom around here. We’re excited. I know our players are going to be excited to get back to work. Kirk’s excited, I’m excited so let’s go. 

I’m not sure if there is reason for Redskins fans to be looking for tickets and cold weather gear for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. This looks like a team that should have somewhere round seven or nine wins. That’s not where fans want them to be but it hardly warrants the dread and pessimism that is heard from many corners of Redskins Nation.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins ranked as the fourth most valuable NFL franchise by Forbes

Annually, Forbes releases the worth of all professional sports franchises in the world. Once again, the Washington Redskins are sitting near the top. 

This year the Redskins are ranked the fourth most valuable NFL franchise at $3.1 billion. 

That marks a five percent worth increase from a year ago. They leapfrogged the San Francisco 49ers for a spot in the top four after placing fifth in 2017. They still trail the Dallas Cowboys ($4.8 billion), the New England Patriots ($3.7 billion), and the New York Giants ($3.3 billion).

Compared to other leagues and franchises, the Redskins jumped into the top-10. They are tied for the tenth overall value with the Golden State Warriors who are coming off of their third NBA title in four years.

From year-to-year there is never much movement from the top of the ranking. Once again, the Cowboys are the top team in the world by over $600 million. They were followed by three European soccer teams. In total four NFL teams made up the top-10, the most of any sport. 

2018 Top-10 World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams according to Forbes:

1. Dallas Cowboys, $4.8 billion (NFL)

2. Manchester United, $4.123 billion ( Soccer)

3. Real Madrid, $4.09 billion (Soccer)

4. Barcelona, $4.064 billion (Soccer)

5. New York Yankees, $4 billion (MLB)

6. New England Patriots, $3.7 billion (NFL)

7. New York Knicks, $3.6 billion (NBA)

8. Los Angeles Lakers, $3.3 billion (NBA)

8. New York Giants, $3.3 billion (NFL)

T-10. Golden State Warriors, $3.1 billion (NBA)

T-10. Washington Redskins, $3.1 billion (NFL)

Next five NFL franchises:

13. San Francisco 49ers, $3.05 billion

T-14. Los Angeles Rams, $3 billion 

17. Chicago Bears, $2.85 billion 

T-19. Houston Texans, $2.8 billion

21. New York Jets, $2.75 billion

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series