As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
The Redskins are probably the best team that has been eliminated already. Washington has road wins at the Rams and Seahawks. They almost won at the Chiefs and at the Saints. With a few more breaks, and a lot more injury luck, the Redskins could have been in the playoff mix. But the Redskins were ravaged with injuries and blowing an overtime game at New Orleans, after leading by 15 points late, put them into a tailspin.
What went right: You have to start with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has had a fantastic season despite a lot of injuries and adversity around him. At one point, practically his entire offensive line was injured. Running back Chris Thompson was having a fine season before he got hurt, then rookie Samaje Perine emerged late when he was pressed into duty. Receiver Jamison Crowder slumped early but played well in the second half, and tight end Vernon Davis had surprising success at age 33. On defense, Ryan Kerrigan continues to be a quality pass rusher and others played well around him. At full health, there was a lot to like with this Washington team.
What went wrong: Injuries really set the Redskins back at many positions. Key players like rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Mason Foster barely contributed due to injuries. Receiver Terrelle Pryor, the Redskins’ big free-agent acquisition, barely contributed because he was awful. He also went on injured reserve, after just 240 yards. The Redskins will wonder what might have been this season.
Will the coach be back?: You’d think so, because I don’t think you can lay Washington’s poor record at Jay Gruden’s feet. Gruden had two consecutive winning seasons before this. But you can never rule out owner Daniel Snyder doing something crazy.
Do they have a quarterback?: This is the question that has been hanging over the franchise for a couple years. If Washington lets Cousins out the door, it will be an indictment of how poorly it botched the whole situation. The only option might be to franchise him again at more than $34 million. That sounds crazy, yet it can’t be ruled out because Washington needs Cousins and they seem insistent on trying to get Cousins to accept a contract that’s less than what he’ll get on the open market. So we don’t know about Cousins. But let’s answer the question this way: If Cousins is elsewhere in 2018, the Redskins do not have a quarterback. They’ve done practically nothing to prepare for the possibility of him leaving.
Quick free agent fix: Obviously if Kirk Cousins leaves the Redskins might have to overpay someone who isn’t as good as Cousins. But if we ignore the quarterback quandary for a moment, safety stands out as a position of need (although D.J. Swearinger has played well). A versatile safety like Lamarcus Joyner of the Rams would be a great fit, though he might be out of the Redskins’ price range (though that might depend on how much cap space has to be committed to quarterback).
Quick draft fix: Washington doesn’t have many glaring needs, though improvements on the interior of the offensive line, safety and receiver probably are in order. If Washington could pair Josh Doctson — who is still practically an inconsistent mystery at this point — with other good outside receiver, that would help whoever is throwing them the ball next season.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: If Kirk Cousins is back, it’s possible. Again, if you can win at Seattle and at the Rams, you have some real talent. But the entire outlook changes without Cousins. I’m sure fans would talk themselves into Colt McCoy being just as good as Cousins, but he’s not. And Washington won’t make the playoffs without Cousins, and I doubt they can find a replacement who would be on his level right away.
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