The Washington Redskins took a step back in the 2016 season, failing to build on the progress that they had made in the previous campaign after breaking into the playoffs.
Jay Gruden’s men had a fine year in 2015, rallying from a 4-12 mark to competing in the post-season with a 9-7 record.
However, they were not able to match their achievement in 2016 due to the competition in the NFC East as both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants finished ahead of them in the division.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a solid campaign, throwing for almost 5,000 yards along with 25 touchdowns as the Redskins’ offense was able to thrive under offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
Defensive issues held the club back all season, which has prompted changes across the board in the off-season, while McVay’s success was noted by the Los Angeles Rams – whisking him away to become their new head coach.
As a result, there are a host of challenges for Washington next season to get back into the post-season. We’ll now take a look back at the last campaign to see what went wrong for them and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the playoffs.
It was clear from the off that the Redskins were going to have to rely on their offense to win the contests for them in the 2016 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers ran riot against Joe Barry’s defense on the opening day, with Ben Roethlisberger carving their secondary apart with ease.
The Steelers quarterback threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while back DeAngelo Williams had a big day on the ground, rushing for 143 yards and two scores in a 38-16 victory.
Dallas inflicted more punishment on Gruden’s men, bouncing back from their opening-day defeat to the New York Giants. Washington managed to rally from an early deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but an off-season move came back to haunt the club as former running back Alfred Morris ran in for the match-clinching score for the visitors at FedEx Field.
From that point – the Redskins found their rhythm, notching their first win of the campaign in impressive fashion by beating the New York Giants on the road. Dustin Hopkins held his nerve in the fourth quarter to kick a game-winning field goal.
The Redskins then eased past the Cleveland Browns – much like every other side in the NFL in 2016 before putting in their best defensive performance of the year to stifle the Baltimore Ravens. They allowed Joe Flacco and company to put just 10 points on the board to secure a 16-10 win.
Gruden’s men claimed a second vital win in the NFC East, edging out the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20, pulling away from their rivals in the second half. However, before the bye they spurned the chance to move to 6-2, allowing the Detroit Lions to stage a comeback win before tying against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium.
If the Redskins were disappointed by their failure to close out victory over the Bengals they did not let it show against the Minnesota Vikings, despite a 20-point blitz from Mike Zimmer’s men in the second quarter. Washington remained calm and allowed Hopkins to kick them to victory.
Cousins took centre stage against the Green Bay Packers as he connected with his receivers deep several times over the course of the contest to put the NFC North side to the sword. The 28-year-old threw three touchdowns to put his side on course for a place on the playoffs.
The Cowboys waited in a crucial clash on Thanksgiving Day, and although Cousins through for 449 yards and three strikes – it was not enough to stop his side slipping to a narrow defeat.
Another setback was to come against the Arizona Cardinals as Cousins put in an underwhelming display, while Carson Palmer had his best display of the season, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, including his late strike to JJ Nelson to complete the 31-23 victory.
They managed to get their slim playoff hopes back on track with a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Eagles. Chris Thompson notched a late score to game away from their rivals, but the Redskins’ victory proved to be for very little as Gruden’s men faltered against the Carolina Panthers.
The Redskins gave themselves a glimmer of hope heading into the final day by hammering the Chicago Bears on the road, with Cousins putting in an efficient performance connecting with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon with ease. However, the Giants’ defense limited their production in the final week, resulting in a 19-10 defeat, eliminating Washington from post-season contention.
The Redskins have already endured their fair share of turmoil already this off-season. General manager Scot McCloughan was fired by the club after only two seasons. Meanwhile star wideouts Garcon and Jackson joined their offensive coordinator McVay in leaving the club, signing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers respectively.
Cousins will play under the franchise tag once again at a staggering $24m for the 2017 campaign as the two parties failed to come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The 28-year-old has reportedly asked for a trade, but has had his attempts rebuffed by the franchise.
Washington have attempted thus far to offset those losses with a move for Terrelle Pryor, who impressed for the Cleveland Browns last season. Chris Baker’s void on the defensive line has been filled by Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain, while DJ Swearinger should add a physical presence to the defense that will be coordinated by Greg Manusky following Barry’s departure.
The draft also remains crucial for the club and with two picks in the top 50 – they will be able to add quality there. Last season’s first-rounder Josh Doctson needs to fire in year two after an underwhelming rookie campaign, while there is a good class of defensive backs to pick from to bolster their secondary to feature alongside Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland.
Dallas look to be the class of the NFC East due to their star quality at quarterback and running back, and the Redskins have a huge task ahead of them to close the gap. Avoiding further turmoil is paramount for them for the rest of the year.
The current turmoil at the club is reflected in their price to win the NFC Championship with TopBet sportsbook at +2500 .
However, in the NFL a lot can change in six months and just because it seems that the Redskins are going through the motions at the moment – there is no reason why they cannot challenge for a place in the Super Bowl.
One major plus is that they have Cousins under wraps for the 2017 season. As a result, they have a quality starter at the quarterback position – something a lot of teams would kill to have.
If he can maintain the level of his form, despite the changes around him in the offense along with getting support from the defense – Gruden’s men could topple the Cowboys at the top of the NFC East.
Washington Redskins To Win NFC Conference
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