With the 2016 offseason about to kick into high gear, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir are going to take one last look at 2015 in the coming days. That’s right, it’s time to hand out six awards, including: Play of the Year, Coach of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year.
Special teams Player of the Year
El-Bashir: I’m going with Tress Way, who served as unit captain in 2015 and continued to blossom into one of the NFL’s top young punters. Although Way’s average this season was more than a yard less than his league-leading 47.5 yards per in ’14, he was particularly strong during the team's playoff push and, more important, proved to be more polished player in his second NFL season. He’s still got enough leg to flip the field, but he’s now better at the details such as location. Way was rated as the eighth best punter in the game by ProFootballFocus.com, which takes into account average, hang time, return yards and punts placed inside the 20, among other factors.
Tandler: Kudos to Way for his solid season. But I’m going with the other guy who puts shoe leather into pigskin for a living, kicker Dustin Hopkins. He was signed off of the street in Week 2 and improved the place kicking position by leaps and bounds. Hopkins was in the top 10 in touchbacks, long a sore spot for Redskins’ kickers, and in net kickoff average. He booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to sent the Falcons game into overtime, the first time any Redskins kicker had made a kick like that in at least 18 years. And he was responsible for Tarik’s choice for the most important play of the year, a successful surprise onside kick in the third quarter against the Bucs, a key part of the Redskins’ record-setting comeback win.
Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.
That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved.
On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts.
- The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
- The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul.
- The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important.
- The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie.
- The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason.
There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts.
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Those who are worried about Derrius Guice's character picked up some added evidence when, on Monday night, the Redskins rookie invited a bunch of fans to watch Avengers with him in Ashburn.
Man, what is this guy's deal?
First of all, not everyone likes superheroes. So how did he know that those who joined him actually wanted to see Avengers? Did he even ask? What if they wanted to see that really successful, really funny, really well-regarded Amy Schumer comedy, instead?
Then, there's the issue of Guice buying tickets and concessions for those who showed up.
Some people enjoy buying movie tickets — which are absolutely reasonably priced these days — and, as far as the concessions, seriously? Candy? Popcorn? He could've at least offered to buy something healthier, like broccoli. All movie theaters have broccoli.
Thankfully, those who took Guice up on his invitation weren't grateful for the experience at all, which hopefully means this will be the last time he orchestrates a dastardly deed like this one:
At this point, it's a surprise Guice didn't slide even farther down in the draft, like to the 15th round. Unbelievable.