Entering 2016, the Washington Redskins will prepare to face off against some of the league’s best teams – Bengals, Steelers, Vikings, and Packers. After clinching the NFC East for just the second time in the 21st century, Washington is that mysterious wild card team that could be amazing or a fluke this year. Furthermore, several Redskins are poised for breakout seasons.
First and foremost, Kirk Cousins is set up in a terrific position to succeed. He is surrounded by a talented receiving corp with depth that most coaches dream about. Some, in fact, are saying that Washington’s receivers are the best in the NFL.
When you provide a quarterback with wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and first-round draft pick Josh Doctson, and tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the result should be a dominant passing game that rips apart defenses. And that’s not even factoring in up-and-rising stars Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross, and Niles Paul.
Cousins passed for 4,166 yards in 2015, a franchise record, as well as 29 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. If the offensive line can protect Washington’s potential savior at quarterback, he should have no problem picking apart defenses with his array of weapons.
Starting running back Matt Jones is another player the Redskins are banking on to be great. Jones has some cons to his game but also an upside that his coaches are positive will shine through. Though Jones missed three games to injury, started zero games, averaged just 3.4 yards a carry, and lost four fumbles in 2015, he also ran for three touchdowns and proved to be a shifty receiving outlet.
He logged 19 receptions for an impressive 304 yards and another score. In fact, the Redskins’ longest play from scrimmage came on a screen pass against the Saints where Jones outran everyone to the end zone for 78 yards. If he can protect the ball and prove his durability as an every down back, there’s no reason why Jones’s numbers won’t skyrocket in 2016.
It goes without saying, but Jordan Reed has developed into a top three receiving tight end in the game. In Washington’s four game winning streak to close out the season, Reed was unstoppable, catching 29 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns in the three and a half games he saw action (Reed was held out in the second half in the season finale against Dallas). His only downside? Staying healthy. Reed has not played a full 16 game season in his brief three year career. But if he is on the field, expect a pro bowler at tight end.
There were questions surrounding outside linebacker Preston Smith’s work ethic last season. Early reports indicate that that is not an issue anymore. Smith lead all rookies in sacks with eight, including five in the final three games. He also tackled Aaron Rogers in the endzone for a safety in a wild card game against Green Bay.
Paired with pro bowler Ryan Kerrigan, another bright young stud, Smith should wreak havoc on defense this season. He is an every down outside linebacker that can play against the run and rush the passer, and with a solid rookie campaign under his belt, he is another Redskin poised for a great year.
If there was ever an underdog now starting on the Redskins, it’s inside linebacker Will Compton. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Compton has worked his way into the starting lineup as he enters his fourth season in Washington.
Coaches and teammates alike are now praising Compton for his leadership skills and improved play. Compton started 10 games in 2015, registering 96 tackles. He also recorded his first NFL sack in week 16 against Philadelphia and his first interception a week later against Dallas. He is quick, smart, aggressive, and energetic. It truly is looking like another playoff-bound year in our nation’s capital.