Washington heads into the season looking to defend its NFC East division title, and to be the first repeat division winner since the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles. After securing the starting job and performing well for the most part last year, QB Kirk Cousins is back with the team for another season. The Redskins have also brought in a couple players via the draft and free agency who should make significant impacts in their first year with the team.
Three biggest things to know
1. Washington boasts one of the NFL’s best receiving corps.
The Redskins return wideout Pierre Garçon, and DeSean Jackson should be at full health this season. Also in the mix is Jamison Crowder, who had a solid rookie season, and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson (TCU), who was among the top two receivers available in the draft.
2. Josh Norman deal among many positive moves to improve secondary.
Just a couple of seasons ago, Washington had arguably the worst secondary in the league. Bashaud Breeland was much improved last year, though, and will be a solid starting option at cornerback. In one of the biggest free-agency signings of the offseason, the Redskins signed former Panther Josh Norman to lock down the other cornerback position. They also parted ways with S Dashon Goldson—who had graded among the bottom-two safeties the past two seasons—moved DeAngelo Hall to safety, and signed S David Bruton in free agency.
3. QB Kirk Cousins must prove to be the best long-term option for Washington.
In his first full season as a starter, Cousins was greatly improved over what we had seen from him in limited time during the two previous years. He finished the 2015 season as our 16th-ranked quarterback and was considerably more accurate than in the past. However, he still made some terrible decisions throwing the ball, and had a couple really poor outings, such as last year’s wildcard game. He needs to be more consistent week-to-week and show the team that he’s their future at the position before the front office gives him a potential nine-figure contract.
Key arrivals and departures
Top three draft picks: WR Josh Doctson (Round 1, pick No. 22 overall, TCU), LB/S Su’a Cravens (Round 2, pick No. 53 overall, USC), CB Kendall Fuller (Round 3, pick No. 84 overall, Virginia Tech)
Signed in free agency: CB Josh Norman (Panthers), S David Bruton (Broncos), DE Kendall Reyes (Chargers)
Left via free agency: NT Terrance Knighton (Patriots), RB Alfred Morris (Cowboys)
Cut: S Dashon Goldson (UFA), QB Robert Griffin III (Browns)
Retired: DE Jason Hatcher
Rookie to watch:
Matt Ioannidis, DT, Temple (Round 5, pick No. 152 overall)
Beyond the team’s top picks, Matt Ioannidis is a player to keep an eye on. He was only a fifth-round selection, but was an extremely productive player at Temple. The former Owl is capable of playing techniques all across the defensive line, and was a productive pass-rusher even when two-gapping. Ioannidis could earn a lot of playing time for a defensive line that lacks quality depth.
Highest-graded player of 2015
Trent Williams, LT, 85.6 overall grade
Trent Williams continues to be one of the most consistent tackles in the NFL. He hasn’t played quite as well in the run game as he had a few years ago, but he’s still been a solid run blocker, and scheme changes may help him get back to an even better form. Pass protection is where he excels, ranking eighth among all NFL tackles last year in that facet of play.
Bashaud Breeland, CB
After a below-average rookie season in 2014, Breeland made big strides in improving his performance. Opponents’ completion percentage into his coverage dropped to 56.3 percent in 2015, the 26th-lowest rate out of 118 qualifying cornerbacks. He was also the second-highest graded cornerback in run defense. Still, Breeland allowed 752 receiving yards and six touchdowns, so there is certainly more room for growth. If he can cut out some of the big plays—with the added benefit of having Josh Norman on the other side of the field—Breeland could have an even better year in store.
Base defense (2015 season grades shown)
Base offense (2015 season grades shown)